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GOODBYE TO AN IDOL: Sir Arthur C. Clarke - Scientist, Author, Visionary, Dec. 16, 1917 - March 19, 2008
Photo from The Arthur C. Clarke Foundation
(Clarke died in his adopted home of Sri Lanka, which is on the opposite side of the International Date Line, at 1:30 a.m. - therefore the date of the 19th as opposed to the 18th.)
Today I am saddened by the death of one of my favorite writers of all time, Arthur C. Clarke. A best selling science fiction author and acclaimed scientist, Clarke was credited with the concept of communication satellites in 1945. In fact, geosynchronous orbits are called Clarke orbits in his honor. One of his short stories, "Dial F for Frankenstein", inspired the world wide web.
Though Clarke is best known as the co-author of "2001- A Space Odyssey" with Stanley Kubrick, and later "2010, Odyssey Two", he has published over 20 novels of fiction beginning in 1951 to his last in 2007. He also wrote a number of short stories and compilations and numerous non-fiction and scientific publications. You may also remember him as a commentator, with Walter Cronkite, during the Apollo moonshots in the late sixties.
I read every sci-fi book Arthur Clarke ever wrote and even some of his non-fiction. The book that affected me most was "Childhood's End", an eerie look into the future of man's evolution and the end of the world as we know it. Though I read that book in the very early 70s, it's impact on me was so profound that I remember even individual paragraphs to this day.
Written nine years before John Glenn first orbited the Earth, the novel is a frightening concept of a humanity that is given Utopia by the supposedly benevolent Overlords. The end is a jarring take on the future of current humanity. Is it possible than mankind could evolve into an entirely new species? To quote Clarke himself, "The truth, as always, will be far stranger."
Though Clarke rewrote the prologue in 1991, after the end of the cold war and the space race, I prefer the original version. It is a book that can be viewed from many perspectives - political, philosophical, biological and even metaphysical. If you haven't read "Childhood's End" I recommend you do. If you have read it then read it again, I plan to do so myself in honor of Arthur Clarke's illustrious and prolific career.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" - One of Arthur Clarke's Three Laws