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The Big Front Yard: And Other Stories

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Tales of the unknown in which a fix-it man crosses into another dimension—and more Hiram Taine is a handyman who can fix anything. When he isn’t fiddling with his tools, he is roaming through the woods with his dog, Towser, as he has done for as long as he can remember. He likes things that he can understand. But when a new ceiling appears in his basement—a ceiling that ap Tales of the unknown in which a fix-it man crosses into another dimension—and more Hiram Taine is a handyman who can fix anything. When he isn’t fiddling with his tools, he is roaming through the woods with his dog, Towser, as he has done for as long as he can remember. He likes things that he can understand. But when a new ceiling appears in his basement—a ceiling that appears to have the ability to repair television sets so they’re better than before—he knows he has come up against a mystery that no man can solve.   Winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novelette, “The Big Front Yard” is a powerful story about what happens when an ordinary man finds reality coming apart around him. Along with the other stories in this collection, it is some of the most lyrical science fiction ever published.   Each story includes an introduction by David W. Wixon, literary executor of the Clifford D. Simak estate and editor of this ebook.


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Tales of the unknown in which a fix-it man crosses into another dimension—and more Hiram Taine is a handyman who can fix anything. When he isn’t fiddling with his tools, he is roaming through the woods with his dog, Towser, as he has done for as long as he can remember. He likes things that he can understand. But when a new ceiling appears in his basement—a ceiling that ap Tales of the unknown in which a fix-it man crosses into another dimension—and more Hiram Taine is a handyman who can fix anything. When he isn’t fiddling with his tools, he is roaming through the woods with his dog, Towser, as he has done for as long as he can remember. He likes things that he can understand. But when a new ceiling appears in his basement—a ceiling that appears to have the ability to repair television sets so they’re better than before—he knows he has come up against a mystery that no man can solve.   Winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novelette, “The Big Front Yard” is a powerful story about what happens when an ordinary man finds reality coming apart around him. Along with the other stories in this collection, it is some of the most lyrical science fiction ever published.   Each story includes an introduction by David W. Wixon, literary executor of the Clifford D. Simak estate and editor of this ebook.

30 review for The Big Front Yard: And Other Stories

  1. 4 out of 5

    Metaphorosis

    Metaphorosis Reviews 4 stars The Big Front Yard is a strong but somewhat mixed bag - mostly strong stories, some that don't feel completely thought out, and one that just doesn't work. The one fairly experimental story is the one that doesn't work, but when Simak sticks closer to familiar ground, he does very well indeed - stories about ordinary people who deal with extraordinary things without breaking a sweat. The best stories include: The Big Front Yard - A small-town handyman receives unusua Metaphorosis Reviews 4 stars The Big Front Yard is a strong but somewhat mixed bag - mostly strong stories, some that don't feel completely thought out, and one that just doesn't work. The one fairly experimental story is the one that doesn't work, but when Simak sticks closer to familiar ground, he does very well indeed - stories about ordinary people who deal with extraordinary things without breaking a sweat. The best stories include: The Big Front Yard - A small-town handyman receives unusual and generous visitors. Classic Simak - small-town doesn't mean foolish or naive. Junkyard - A human ship breaks down on a strange planet, and finds signs it's not the first to do so. The focus wanders a bit, but the overall theme is strong. Mr. Meek - Musketeer - A mild-mannered accountant finds an unexpected talent for adventure. The genius of Simak is that he doesn't transform to macho hero at the end. Neighbor - An odd neighbor moves into a small-town. Nothing startling, but a nice encapsulation of what Simak did so well. So Bright the Vision - A writer struggles to get by in a time when most creation is automated. The understanding, supportive woman could stand to be updated, but the concept is nice, and it's one of Simak's relatively few stories with pointed social commentary. A strong collection with just a few weak points.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    This is about "The Big Front Yard" only, which I read on the recommendation of my friend Irwin after a brief discussion of Daniel Dennett's reference to a pasta meme introduced in China by Marco Polo. I asked if anything substantial was contributed by the word "meme" after "pasta." Irwin replied that this reminded him of Simak's classic SF short story. Irwin: The conceit of the story, if there is one, is that the idea of something can be more powerful than the thing itself. If Marco Polo just b This is about "The Big Front Yard" only, which I read on the recommendation of my friend Irwin after a brief discussion of Daniel Dennett's reference to a pasta meme introduced in China by Marco Polo. I asked if anything substantial was contributed by the word "meme" after "pasta." Irwin replied that this reminded him of Simak's classic SF short story. Irwin: The conceit of the story, if there is one, is that the idea of something can be more powerful than the thing itself. If Marco Polo just brought back some pasta it might not have been a big deal. But infecting people with the idea of pasta changed the world (in my opinion). The story (which I immensely enjoyed) certainly strengthens the appropriateness of comparing ideas to gene-like memes.  Viewing a situation like the growing popularity of pasta does remind one of the networking action of genes.  But examining the actual details of that popularity (someone eating pasta, liking it, wanting more, recommending it to others, selling it, etc.) shows it to be made up of the individual, self-aware activities of conceptualization, recognition and communication.  Saying people have been "infected" with an idea, except as a humorous analogy, seems inappropriate. I liked the fact that "The Big Front Yard" dramatized the opposition between the initiation of force by the powers that be (self-important friends (Henry Horton), the police, world governments, the U.N.) against the civilized activity of traders (Taine and the saddled aliens. along with Beasley and Chuck).  A great defense of laissez faire capitalism!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Old classic science fiction.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Norman Cook

    The Big Front Yard (Astounding Science Fiction, October 1958 - novella - Hugo Award winner) 5 Stars A wonderful tale of exotic aliens juxtaposed with the commonplace environment of rural America, and how one man is able to avert an interstellar war. The Observer (Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, May 1972 - short story) 4 Stars This story of an entity (whose identity is only revealed at the end) who wakes up with no memory, but begins to piece together its history bit by bit. The modern style of t The Big Front Yard (Astounding Science Fiction, October 1958 - novella - Hugo Award winner) 5 Stars A wonderful tale of exotic aliens juxtaposed with the commonplace environment of rural America, and how one man is able to avert an interstellar war. The Observer (Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, May 1972 - short story) 4 Stars This story of an entity (whose identity is only revealed at the end) who wakes up with no memory, but begins to piece together its history bit by bit. The modern style of this story shows that Simak was able to evolve his writing style over time. Trail City's Hot-Lead Crusaders (New Western Magazine, September 1944 - novelette) 4 Stars This is a pure Western that reminded me of Shane, in this case where a small-town newspaper publisher goes against a ruthless gang of conspirators. The gang is truly evil, murdering innocent people and destroying town property simply to intimidate the residents. Junkyard (Galaxy Science Fiction, May 1953 - novelette) 4 Stars This is a problem story that was popular in the 1950s. Humans encounter strange events on an alien planet and must figure out the truth before all is lost. The solution is interesting and different, perhaps even ingenious. Mr. Meek – Musketeer (Planet Stories, Summer 1944 - novelette) 3 Stars This is a Western set in space, with humorous elements. A milquetoast (Mr. Meek, get it?) accidentally fights off some crooks while just wanting to do some sightseeing on exotic worlds. As a result, he gets embroiled in conflict that he would rather not be a part of. Neighbor (Astounding Science Fiction, June 1954 - novelette) 4 Stars This is the type of story that The Twilight Zone loved. An alien family disguised as humans comes to backwater middle America and assimilates with the natives, who suspect something's amiss, but are too polite to say anything. When an East Coast reporter comes to investigate, the aliens make sure their secret stays safe, but in a gentle way apropos of the gentle folk around them. Shadow World (Galaxy Science Fiction, September 1957 - novelette) 4 Stars A human exploration team is surveying an alien planet, but are shadowed by mysterious beings who don't seem to be alive. The problems escalate when aliens arrive, but fortunately one of the crew has a prohibited piece of equipment that can be used against them, if used correctly. So Bright the Vision (Fantastic Universe, August 1956 - novelette) 4 Stars This is a fun vision of how writing could change with the advent of AI machines that can produce any kind of story. It's a tale that subtly criticizes the literary establishment and the publishing industry. In the end, an alien "life blanket" holds the key for writers to break out of their writing ruts.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joe Stack

    This is a wonderful collection of stories. They’re entertaining and fun and masterly written. Based on these stories, I regret I had not read anything by Simak before reading this collection. But now I look forward to him on my go to list of authors. If you’re like me and haven’t read Simak, do so for you’re in for a treat. I was hoping to pick one or two stories that stand out, but I enjoyed them all. The last story in the collection, “So Bright the Vision,” about yarn writing machines that repl This is a wonderful collection of stories. They’re entertaining and fun and masterly written. Based on these stories, I regret I had not read anything by Simak before reading this collection. But now I look forward to him on my go to list of authors. If you’re like me and haven’t read Simak, do so for you’re in for a treat. I was hoping to pick one or two stories that stand out, but I enjoyed them all. The last story in the collection, “So Bright the Vision,” about yarn writing machines that replace the imagination of writers is, as the editor comments, a criticism of sci-fi in the 1950s, but I think the story is relevant to our growing reliance on computerization and AI, especially AI. The story’s main character asks, “Was this the end and all of Man—the moving gear, the clever glass and metal, the adroit electronics?” This is a question pertinent to our current advances in technology and AI, and I imagine it will apply for a long time. Simak’s tale is fun, and a hopeful perspective.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Karen A. Wyle

    I'm rounding up a bit, but not much. I'm loving this collection of Clifford D. Simak's short fiction, being doled out one volume at a time. Volume II has some of Simak's best stories, not all of which I'd read. There was one whose ending didn't work well for me (and which had apparently been rewritten after a rejection), but all in all, this is a don't-miss-it collection for fans of classic science fiction. I'm rounding up a bit, but not much. I'm loving this collection of Clifford D. Simak's short fiction, being doled out one volume at a time. Volume II has some of Simak's best stories, not all of which I'd read. There was one whose ending didn't work well for me (and which had apparently been rewritten after a rejection), but all in all, this is a don't-miss-it collection for fans of classic science fiction.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Hollis

    Whoever wrote the explanation of what “The Big Front Yard” is about, “what happens when an ordinary man finds reality coming apart around him,” is completely incorrect! I know this for a fact because I wrote him, in December 1985, what I thought this story is about. He wrote me back, in February 1986, and told me this: “Your analysis of the thrust of The Big Front Yard is a welcome surprise to me. I knew, of course, what I was writing about, and I thought I’d spelled it out sufficiently for anyon Whoever wrote the explanation of what “The Big Front Yard” is about, “what happens when an ordinary man finds reality coming apart around him,” is completely incorrect! I know this for a fact because I wrote him, in December 1985, what I thought this story is about. He wrote me back, in February 1986, and told me this: “Your analysis of the thrust of The Big Front Yard is a welcome surprise to me. I knew, of course, what I was writing about, and I thought I’d spelled it out sufficiently for anyone to understand. But of all the comments that have been made of it, all the words that have been written of it by critics and science fiction historians, you are the first and only one who has put an unerring finger on what I tried so hard to say. Thank God for you. I think that in other stories I may have said or tried to say much the same thing, but less directly and with less emphasis.” — Clifford D. Simak, February 28, 1986. “The Big Front Yard” is a story about the importance of ideas. What is the most important thing in the world? “What did the world need the most, to not only survive, but to improve? … Ideas,” I wrote. “… no culture can progress without ideas. Money can buy anything, but money cannot buy an original idea, a creative thought. … money came into being as a tool used by Man with which to trade. Barter, if you will. Money is an intermediary, not an end. Ideas are the beginning AND the end. If Men let themselves believe that money is the end, they trap themselves, they limit themselves. … And doom themselves … to a bleak, mechanistic and uninspiring future.” — Hollis Ramsey (née Weiner), December 8, 1985 Hiram Taine is a trader, an expert dickerer. Along with Beasley and Towser, Hiram uses his skill to barter ideas. So the explanation written by anyone who doesn’t emphasize the importance of ideas in the works of Mr. Simak is missing the most important part of his intent. “The Big Front Yard” is about so much more than “reality coming apart.” I can’t write about the other stories in this compilation because I don’t know what other stories are included in this Volume 2.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Roger

    A great collection of eight classic short stories from Clifford D Simak, including a western. These mostly SF stories are good old-fashioned tales of possible futures, aliens, spaceships and far-off worlds. They reflect CDS's typical old-world charm and fondness for interesting and down-to-earth characters, and I for one enjoy them immensely. This compilation is the second of twelve volumes, and I shall be working my way hopefully through them all. The stories are as follows: 1) The Big Front Yar A great collection of eight classic short stories from Clifford D Simak, including a western. These mostly SF stories are good old-fashioned tales of possible futures, aliens, spaceships and far-off worlds. They reflect CDS's typical old-world charm and fondness for interesting and down-to-earth characters, and I for one enjoy them immensely. This compilation is the second of twelve volumes, and I shall be working my way hopefully through them all. The stories are as follows: 1) The Big Front Yard. Hiram Taine finds a group of aliens have moved into his basement and started fixing things up. But these favours are just a prelude to a much larger plan. 2) The Observer. A creature is sent out to explore the universe and report back its findings, but the comms link is lost. 3) Trail City's Hot Lead Crusaders. A western in which a newspaper man goes up against a corrupt but powerful man. A superb story. 4) Junkyard. A spaceship from Earth lands on a new planet and discovers why there is so much junk left behind by other species. 5) Mr Meek - Musketeer. A mild-mannered clerk finds a new calling in a western-type mining town far out in space. 6) Neighbour. A wonderful story about what happens when an alien family take up farming within a close-knit community that looks after its own. 7) Shadow World. On a strange new world, a spaceship crew try to understand the intentions of the mute aliens that literally shadow all their efforts to colonise the planet. 8) So Bright the Vision. A writer, hundreds of years in the future, struggles to make a living from his machine-made stories.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    What's fun about Simak's science fiction stories is the way they portray ordinary people confronting alien reality. In the title story, a repairman and junk dealer with a knack for "dickering" finds himself as the go between between humans and aliens who have made their connection to earth through his house. Other stories are similar: a small town grows to welcome visitors from another world, a bookkeeper saves his money and heads off for the asteroids, etc. What's fun about Simak's science fiction stories is the way they portray ordinary people confronting alien reality. In the title story, a repairman and junk dealer with a knack for "dickering" finds himself as the go between between humans and aliens who have made their connection to earth through his house. Other stories are similar: a small town grows to welcome visitors from another world, a bookkeeper saves his money and heads off for the asteroids, etc.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Peter Browne

    A classic primer Old style, dates and still fabulous. Worth the price for the title story and 'Neighbour' alone. Simak wrote stories that felt like they were from the earth, the heartland, even when they were set far out in the universe. His ideas are still startling. Open, and enjoy. A classic primer Old style, dates and still fabulous. Worth the price for the title story and 'Neighbour' alone. Simak wrote stories that felt like they were from the earth, the heartland, even when they were set far out in the universe. His ideas are still startling. Open, and enjoy.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kay

    A nice collection of C D Simak stories of which I only recognise So Bright The Vision. I cannot believe that I have, until now, never read The Big Front Yard before. Classic Simak. This collection includes a western story and a western style story set near Jupiter. A must for fans of this wonderful writer. Ray Smillie

  12. 4 out of 5

    susan serventi Serventi

    Very interesting reading. Had not read a book of short stories before for our book club. This was a good choice as it doubled the experience in illuminating the 1950's era of sci-fi in manageable bites. I loved it. Brought back so many memories of the times. Very interesting reading. Had not read a book of short stories before for our book club. This was a good choice as it doubled the experience in illuminating the 1950's era of sci-fi in manageable bites. I loved it. Brought back so many memories of the times.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    Author Clifford Simak was one of the science fiction greats. This small sampling of his short stories is a wonderful example of the range of his imagination. The stories are now well over half a century old, but they hold up well to the passage of time. An easy, quick, and enjoyable read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chris Peckover

    Several very interesting stories (The Big Front Yard and The Junkyard) and a lot of average ones. Many stories suffer from the usual sci-fi writer issues of bland characterization, so it lives or dies by the idea.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lawrence

    http://gnomeship.blogspot.com/2017/09... http://gnomeship.blogspot.com/2017/09...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    Ah - the golden age of SF - the 1950s western (misogyny, xenophobia, alcohol, and baccy) transposed into space (...or not in one case in this anthology). Guiltily enjoyable C-movie stuff.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jack Randall

    A great collection of SciFi yarns. Simak was a great writer with a down to earth touch.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Michael Buck

    Interesting stories from a sci-fi writer from the 50s and one of the stories is a western. Very nice.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Durandana

    4/5 - The Big Front Yard 3/5 - The Observer 2/5 - Trail City's Hot-Lead Crusaders 5/5 - Junkyard 3/5 - Mr Meek - Musketeer 3/5 - Neighbor 4/5 - Shadow World 5/5 - So Bright the Vision 4/5 - The Big Front Yard 3/5 - The Observer 2/5 - Trail City's Hot-Lead Crusaders 5/5 - Junkyard 3/5 - Mr Meek - Musketeer 3/5 - Neighbor 4/5 - Shadow World 5/5 - So Bright the Vision

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

    I have always enjoyed Simak's stories! One of my favorites. Thankful for this collection. I have always enjoyed Simak's stories! One of my favorites. Thankful for this collection.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Harry Gordon

    Simak was a masterful SciFi Grandmaster whose stories hold up well, even today. Some great stories in this book, and a good way to get acquainted with this author if you haven't read him. Simak was a masterful SciFi Grandmaster whose stories hold up well, even today. Some great stories in this book, and a good way to get acquainted with this author if you haven't read him.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Marion

    So wonderful! I just finished and the imagination is marvelous. On to request the next book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    Not as good as the first or the third in this collection series, but still better than most.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jeppe Larsen

  25. 4 out of 5

    Neil Kimber

  26. 5 out of 5

    raymond st-jean

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gregory

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bob

  29. 5 out of 5

    Starmender

  30. 5 out of 5

    Suz

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