It seems to be a really bad few weeks for the science fiction and comics medium, with yet another reminder that my generation is in “mortality country” (as Alan Moore describes it). Today comes the news of the passing of writer Arthur C Clarke, perhaps best known for his novel 2001: A Space Odyssey but whose credits encompass much more than that, who has died aged 90.
Clarke, who was born in Minehead, Devon in 1917 and was a radar specialist in the Royal Air Force during World War Two, said he wanted to be remembered as a writer “who entertained readers and hopefully stretched their imaginations as well” when he celebrated his 90th birthday in December, died at home in Sri Lanka, where he had lived for 20 years. Indeed he will.
As his official biography on the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation rightly states, his achievements, unique among his peers, bridge the arts and sciences. His works and his authorship have ranged from scientific discovery to science fiction, from technical application to entertainment, and have made a global impact on the lives of present and future generations.
Along with Ray Bradbury, E.E. Doc Smith, John Wyndham, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Poul Anderson, he was one of just many SF authors I read avidly as I grew up but his work was among the stories that I think most memorable. A Fall of Moondust, (also made into a radio serial, recently released on CD), Childhood’s End and Rendezvous with Rama are the most memorable, to me, of his some 30 novels (he wrote over 100 books in total, fiction and non). My father and I were among the many bemused but enthralled by the film of 2001: A Space Odyssey when it was re-released in the early 1970s, a story which takes readers from the dawn of man to the rebirth of an astronaut as a star child in the future (yes, that’s what it was about…).
“He was a great visionary, a brilliant science fiction writer and a great forecaster,” British astronomer Patrick Moore told The Guardian. “He foresaw communications satellites, a nationwide network of computers, interplanetary travel; he said there would be a man on the moon by 1970, while I said 1980 – and he was right.”
“I think he was probably the first science fiction writer to break out of the science fiction ghetto,” Terry Pratchett told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning. “He became a national treasure.”
Tribtutes and Obituaries
• Scientists and authors pay tribute (Guardian, 19 March 2008)
• BBC Obituary
Sadly, the BBC has seen fit to repeat allegations of abuse made against Mr Clarke in its obituary, which were proven totally false. The Sunday Mirror, which made them, was forced to apologize for their baseless reports. Quite why the BBC repeats them now, when the organisation has itself published a report on the wrongful nature of the allegations back in 1998, is a mystery.
• The Guardian by Anthony Tucker
• The Chicago Tribune
• The New York Times
• The Washington Post
• Wired Magazine
• The Arthur C. Clarke Foundation
• NNDB Entry
• Wikipedia Entry
• Guardian Arthur C. Clarke Author Page
• Buy Arthur C. Clarke: The Authorized Biography by Neil McAleer
Clarke’s Three Laws
- “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”
- “The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”
- “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”