He never grew up; but he never stopped growing
Published by John Torvi on March 20, 2008

I'm sometimes asked how I would like to be remembered. I've had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer, space promoter and science populariser. Of all these, I want to be remembered most as a writer one who entertained readers, and, hopefully, stretched their imagination as well.
- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

If you have been keeping yourself occupied with the latest Barack Obama speech (don't get me wrong - you should), you might have missed the fact that Arthur C. Clarke passed on this last week.

A major force in the genre of science fiction, he wrote over 100 novels in his lifetime.  While some of his early contemporaries concerned themselves with ray guns and giant monsters from outer space, Arthur, a scientist himself, concerned his writing with the larger questions of humanity, the universe and technology.  An individual of many talents, his accomplishments speak to the passions that he had for those things that he felt were important.

A short (very short, I will miss some here) list, in no particular order:

  • An essay postulating the concept of geostationary satellites as telecommunications relays.  Written in 1945.
  • Numerous awards for his writing
  • Foresaw man reaching the moon before the year 2000
  • Knighted in 2000
  • Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994  
  • Nominated for an Oscar with Stanley Kubrick for their work on the motion picture film 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Appeared in a early multimedia cd-rom game called "Rama" by Sierra Interactive
  • A motion picture starring Morgan Freeman and directed by David Fincher is supposed to be in the works, based on his novel "Rendevous with Rama"
Clarke's written work came at a time when the modern mechanized age was still in its infancy.  Early computers took up many rooms, and could only perform simple mathematical operations by today's standards.  Modern airlines had only been around for 20 years, and space travel was not even on anyone's practical radar screen.  But with the growing popularity of genre, it was evident that people were curious about the future and how it might look.

Clarke contributed to what would later be refered to as hard science fiction; that is to say that much of his fictional written work had some basis in science.  His stories (the ones that I've read) were written with the mind of a skeptic combined with curious nature of an explorer.  His writing always maintained a link with solid ground, yet it didn't shy away from pondering the nature of the universe.

I don't think that humanity will be able to reproduce another Arthur C. Clarke.  He came at a time when the science fiction genre was still relatively small and unexplored, and spacecraft were relegated to the realms of one's imagination.  The new century is far from what SF writers had predicted, and the rate at which technologies change and die has grown rapidly.  The underlying wonder for humanity's exploration of space in Clarke's books remains something still worth reflecting upon, even today.   

2001: A Space Odyssey Original UK Theatrical Program

Arthur Clarke's 2001 Diary

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