X Minus One -- "Project Mastodon" by Clifford D. Simak

Saturday, 31 May 2014 16:00 Dave Truesdale

X Minus One aired "Project Mastodon" on June 5, 1956 as its 54th episode. Clifford D. Simak saw his story first published in the March 1955 issue of Galaxy. It would later be greatly rewritten and expanded into his 1978 novel Mastodonia.

"Project Mastodon" is a time travel story, and X Minus One's dramatization tells of a representative of the new nation of Mastodonia come now to the future from 50,000 years in the past, where he seeks legal recognition from the present day government for his new country. It's an interesting idea when you think about it, with many ramifications concerning land ownership and all other rights bestowed upon, or established internally by nations in the present. But not only are these considerations in question, there's a kicker the representative from Mastodonia conveniently omits and which is crucial to this clever, entertaining story.

1956 was a good year for Simak, for not only did X Minus One bring "Project Mastodon" to a much wider listening audience via radio, but he would see published no fewer than seven stories in four different science fiction magazines. Those magazine issues are showcased below, in order of appearance of Simak's stories.

Cliff Simak (1904-1988) would write war and western stories along with those in his chosen field of SF, his first sale, "The World of the Red Sun," seeing print in the December 1931 issue of Wonder Stories. He would continue to write and publish both short stories and novels well into the 1980s, with his final novel Highway to Eternity appearing in 1986.

In 1973 Cliff was honored with induction into the First Fandom Hall of Fame. 1977 saw him honored with the Science Fiction Writers of America's third Grand Master award, only Robert A. Heinlein and Jack Williamson preceding him. In 1953 he would win the International Fantasy Award for City; in 1959 he would win the Hugo award for Best Novelette for "The Big Front Yard"; 1964 would see him win another Hugo award for his novel Way Station; in 1978 he was awarded the Jupiter Award for Best Novel for A Heritage of Stars; and in 1981 he pulled off the extremely rare feat of winning the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and Analog Analytical Laboratory Award for his short story (Analog, May 1980) "The Grotto of the Dancing Deer."

In April of 1975 I interviewed Cliff at Minicon 10 in Mpls., MN and published the interview shortly thereafter in my fanzine Tangent. In May of 2011 I posted the interview online for the first time here, at Tangent Online. On May 29, 2014, with great technical assistance from Kevin B. Landreneau, the audio of the actual interview from 40 years ago was posted. The interview, and this new addition following the interview, can be found here. Thousands of SF fans and lovers of Cliff's work have read the interview, but actually to be able to hear his voice from that interview now, more than three decades after his passing, is a rare treat everyone may now enjoy for the first time.

Play Time: 23:13

{Those inspired to seek out more of Clifford D. Simak's stories after listening to "Project Mastodon" would be in luck, for 6 of his 7 stories seeing print in 1956 would appear from July to December of that year. All 7 of the magazines where Cliff's stories would appear in 1956 are shown below.}

[1. Science Fiction Stories, Mar. '56 2. Galaxy, July '56 3. Galaxy, Aug. '56 4. Fantastic Universe, Aug. '56]


[1. Science Fiction Stories, Sept. '56 2. Galaxy, Oct. '56 3. Future Science Fiction #31, Dec. '56]


Mastodonia, 1978