24. City


A lifelong newspaperman, Clifford Donald Simak’s name first appears in newspaper databases in 1927, before his 23rd birthday. Simak (1904-1988) joined the Minneapolis Tribune (later Star-Tribune) in 1939 and remained there until 1976, a news editor who also wrote a regular book review column. Naturally, the paper turned the table on him when he burst out with five books in the early 1950s. The June 27, 1952, article noted that City starts with a man in the far future lazily watching his automatic lawnmower cut the grass but that exactly such an invention had been front-page news the previous week. “Simak was somewhat chagrined…. [S]cience-fictioneers, he feels, really should be more than eight years ahead of developments.”

City won the 1953 International Fantasy Award, then the leading award in the field, over C. M. Kornbluth’s Takeoff and Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano. City’s reviews were mainly hosannas. It’s been reprinted endlessly, both in the United States and in numerous foreign editions. Although the book seems complete, Simak was persuaded to write an additional story, “Epilog,” for the 1973 Astounding: John W. Campbell Memorial Anthology. “Epilog” was finally incorporated in the City saga in the Ace Books paperback edition of 1981, along with an essay explaining his decision to do so. Later editions by Ace and others may or may not include it.

Gnome Notes

City is another “novel” created from a series of short stories. (When John W. Campbell finally allowed a robot cover on Astounding, he chose to do it for a City story, not any of Asimov’s.)

cover art by Alejandro

Novels sold better so not only was the utterly false designation “A New Science Fiction Novel of the future [sic]” added to the dust jacket front, but Simak added an “Editor’s Preface” as well as “Notes” to each of the eight “Tales,” a frame that made a story that could be passed off as a single work of art. That was normal behavior for the time; so was Gnome’s getting the count wrong. The copyright page states that “City is based on material…” followed by seven titles. Somehow, they missed the 1944 story “Desertion,” the fourth tale.

To compound the agony, someone at Gnome also managed to typo cover artist Frank Kelly Freas as Frank Kelly Frease. Gnome’s sloppiness in small things should be obvious by now, but the aftermath is unfathomable. It would continue to spell Freas as Frease four more times over the next year until finally correcting it for The Coming of Conan. Did nobody notice? Did no one complain? Freas was not a familiar name yet, to be sure. His three 1952 Gnome covers were his first and he had only a handful of other published pieces in the field. Nor did he give much evidence that he was embarking on a 50-year career as one of the top artists in genre. Damon Knight’s review of the book ended succinctly with “Burn the jacket.”

Kirkus Reviews gave the expected publication date as May 28, 1952.


Basil Davenport, The New York Times Book Review, September 14, 1952
Each of these stories is satisfying; together they have a good deal more depth than most science fiction. … “City” is not only satisfying, it is stimulating.

August Derleth, Madison Capital Times, October 2, 1952
[A] truly novel concept, imaginative and most readable, and so well written that CITY ought to take rank among the best works of decade in science-fiction.

Contents and original publications

• “Editor’s Preface” (original to this volume).
• “Notes on the First Tale” (original to this volume).
• “City” (Astounding Science Fiction, May 1944).
• “Notes on the Second Tale” (original to this volume)
• “Huddling Place” (Astounding Science Fiction, July 1944).
• “Notes on the Third Tale” (original to this volume).
• “Census” (Astounding Science Fiction, September 1944).
• “Notes on the Fourth Tale” (original to this volume).
• “Desertion” (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1944).
• “Notes on the Fifth Tale” (original to this volume).
• “Paradise” (Astounding Science Fiction, June 1946).
• “Notes on the Sixth Tale” (original to this volume).
• “Hobbies” (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1946).
• “Notes on the Seventh Tale” (original to this volume).
• “Aesop” (Astounding Science Fiction, December 1947).
• “Notes on the Eighth Tale” (original to this volume).
• “The Simple Way” (Fantastic Adventures, January 1951 as “The Trouble with Ants”).

Bibliographic Information

City, by Clifford D. Simak, 1952, copyright registration 15May52, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number not given [retroactively 52-10460], title #24, back panel #20, 224 pages, $2.75. 5000 copies printed. Hardback, green boards, spine lettered in dark blue. Jacket Design by Frank Kelly Frease [typo for Freas]. “First Edition” on copyright page. Printer: H. Wolff. Manufactured in the U. S. A. Back panel: 4 titles. Gnome Press address given as 80 East 11th Street, New York 3.


None known.


City, light green boards, black lettering