Wednesday, March 19, 2008

RIP Arthur C. Clarke

The "favorite science fiction authors to die within the past year" trifecta has come to pass with the passing of Arthur C. Clarke yesterday (the first two were, of course, Kurt Vonnegut and Madeline L'Engle). Clarke is of course best known for 2001: A Space Odyssey but was also a prolific writer of short stories, and was the guy who thought up the concept of geostationary orbit for a satellite.

Clarke is tied with Ray Bradbury as my favorite science fiction writer not as much for the 2001 series but rather because of the short stories. I discovered them in high school and happily spent weeks working through the telephone-book thickness of The Collected Short Stories of Arthur C. Clarke. I loved the originality and complexity conveyed in just a few short pages for each miniature masterpiece, but most of all the hope and fancifulness of science fiction really made it all a lot more fun. I mean hey, we were going to find obelisks on the Moon and life on Jupiter V and survive the sun going nova on us and all sorts of things! No wonder space travel in actuality came as a disappointment.

I confess one thing though: I might have read every single thing he read, but with the notable exception of Rama (and the subsequent trilogy) I never fell in love with Clarke's longer works. He lost direction easily, and towards the end of the 2001 series he started just explaining things away by saying "well there were new advances in physics in the future that makes this freaky levitation possible! yay!" and what not. I will also further confess that I never actually did see all of 2001 the movie- I was in elementary school when my dad rented it once, but decided it was boring about 10 minutes in and never got a chance to watch it again. I'll have to get on that.

So if you've a moment, get yourself a drink and page through a few of the old stories. A master writer does not leave this Earth without leaving a long-reaching record behind.

"He was now master of the world, and he was not sure what to do next. But he would think of something..."


The Quantum Poet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Quantum Poet said...

He was one of my most beloved science-fiction writers. I still remember the thrill I got after reading "Rendezvous with Rama." He will be missed a lot.