Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke's Final Orbit

SF great (and last of the Big Three writers) Sir Arthur C. Clarke passed away yesterday. He turned 90 this past December, marking the day with a video message. It is interesting that this visionary, father of the geosynchronous communications satellite, said, "...I never expected to see so much happen in the span of a few decades...." At 90, more than half his life had been lived during the Space Age.

While his politics diverge rather widely from mine, Clarke's fiction often emphasized the importance of tolerance and compassion rather than sappy forced acceptance. I will always remember fondly the madly assorted cast and warmly-drawn of characters -- writers and tech geeks, mostly -- to be found in the amusing collection of related yarns, Tales From The White Hart.

Harry Purvis and gang aside, Arthur Clarke's fiction tended to be quieter and more introspective than the work of the other members of SF's triumvirate, Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov; his grasp of the engineering involved was solid and his treatment of characters no less so. (I've not read a lot of his recent, collaborative work; what I have read struck me as less Clarke and more collaborator. Can't fault that, it says so right on the cover).

...Other writers will pay more attention to 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is a noble effort, especially for the time. I prefer 2010, as good a hard-SF film as I've seen.

The Big Three gave our culture a mighty push Up and Out. When those now young turn 90, will they have seen as much forward progress?

None of the Big Three were able to buy a real passenger ticket to orbit. But one of them, at least, saw passenger tickets to space become reality.

Bon voyage, Sir Arthur!


LabRat said...

I will love you FOREVER for mentioning Tales From The White Hart over friggin' 2001. I was beginning to think I was the only person who'd read it.

Shane said...

Sir Arthur's short story "Reunion" was only about a page and a half but the last line killed me. "If any of you are still white, we can cure you."

BobG said...

Most of his stuff that I read was in the late fifties and early sixties. I liked a lot of his early stuff the best.

Roberta X said...

I agree, Bob G, though Glide Path, though not, strictly speaking, SF, was as good as any of his early work

Lin M. said...

I have his three "laws" of prediction: written and taped on the inside of my flight bag.

1. 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.
(2)The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
(3)Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

I found this really neat little used bookstore on Main Street in Brownsburg by the DMV that had a whole BUNCH of his work in hardcover, it's like Christmas.