City

Clifford D. Simak

Dystopia / Poetry

Some philosophers say that, of all the earthly animals, man is the only animal perpetually unhappy, -perpetually despairing of his condition, of his incapacity to grasp the happiness and simplicity of life.

Formulated thus, this thought is very attractive.
But alas… wrong again.
It is enough to have animals at home to see immediately that an animal, housed, fed, heated, without concern for its survival, also starts to experience a variety of feelings and minor problems that have become major: my place in such and such a sofa, the place of such and such a person in my place, etc… Without getting into anthropocentrism and sticking our human feelings on them, it is factual that animals protected from the wild life experience feelings – I don’t know about the others.

This led me to remember this immense author that I had almost forgotten: Clifford D. Simak.

The book I’m interested in has – in my opinion – a better title in French: Tomorrow, the dogs, instead of City. Hmm…well… okay, I shut up.

Everything is interesting from the point of view of adaptation to the stage.

The format: these are 8 short stories – so easy to adapt and even better, easy to spread over one or two seasons.

First story: end of the city – extinction of the city and rather quickly of the civilization. Not because of a catastrophe, no – thanks to technical progress. Mr. Webster, the hero, tries to make the few who are fighting against history understand this evolution of humanity. In vain, of course.

Second story: the den – 5 generations later, and in spite of more and more fabulous technical progress… the earthly humanity finds itself facing the fear of the other – of the world – of the city.
It will be Jerome Webster, the doctor who could have saved his friend the philosopher – but who was afraid to leave his domain. Assisted by the droid Jenkins, he needs no more outside help – nothing at all. And the philosopher will not be saved.

Third story: time moves on, the Websters stay.
This one will allow dogs to access articulated speech, so as to give them access to the same levels of consciousness, exchange and reflection as humans.
The world has changed. There are strange mutants – including one who is interested in ants.
He has created a ‘universe’ for them where they have no vital needs – no more fear for survival.

And so the story goes, from short story to short story –
Humans discover that they are so much happier when they give up the human form
Dogs take over, along with robots
But the dogs will also find it more pleasant to abandon the earth.

So in the end, in the end, it is the ants that will stay there – ants that will have as a statue the one of a foot – the one of the mutant who, bored by seeing them idle, gave a big kick to the anthill and provoked the rise of their civilization.

We come out of the stories told by Simak with a rather strange feeling.
A whole world of questions that we never ask ourselves fall on us – progress, civilization, science, our relations with other humans, why this fear? why this mistrust, can we really make a society by hating all the rest of society? what do we need to live happily?
is it a service to no longer fear for our survival?

A whole world of questions – to which everyone will bring – or not – his personal answer.
Given the state of our contemporary world, questioning oneself seems essential and salutary, no?

And of course, how can we neglect this major fact that all these themes are declined, in one way or another, in a large part of the video game universe?
Associating them is obvious.
Inviting the composers is even more so.
Inviting the graphic artists, the designers, the scriptwriters – and the gamers – to close a season dedicated to Simak’s worlds and to the drifts of the misunderstood “good”.
I’m being kind – I’m avoiding the very French and famous: science without conscience is but the ruin of the soul. Although … it would also be welcome Mr. Rabelais, for a program on the theme.

As for the poetry – it is obvious from the first lines.
It is not necessary to write verses to touch poetry

It is enough to have heart – which is not so frequent in the end

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