seawasp (seawasp) wrote,

RIP: Sir Arthur C. Clarke


Arthur C. Clarke, probably best known to the world for the novelization of "2001: A Space Odyssey" (which unlike most novelizations was written in parallel with the script, and which was based on the idea suggested by Clarke's short story "The Sentinel"), has died.

Clarke was the last surviving member of the classic Big Three of what were considered the first modern Science Fiction authors: Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein. He was best known for writing harder-edged (though not always, strictly speaking, hard) SF stories with big ideas. While he wrote a fair number of novels, including Rendezvous With Rama, Childhood's End, The City and the Stars (possibly my favorite of his novels), and several sequels to 2001, in my opinion his very best work was in his short stories, which included the classic "The Nine Billion Names of God", "A Walk in the Dark" (one of the creepiest stories ever written), "The Star", "Summertime on Icarus", and "Sunjammer", a story of a solar-sailing race.

Clarke is credited with the concept of the geosynchronous satellite, among others, and was the first or one of the first to write stories about SF staples such as space elevators and solar sails. Like many of his era, a lot of his stories were "idea stories", in which the central point was to get across a neat idea rather than create characters; what made him one of the greats was the variety of ideas, and the clarity with which he could portray them.

An era has ended; the last of the Great Names from my childhood is now gone. There are other great SF writers out there -- no doubt of it -- but the last of the names that towered over the entirety of the SF field, the final member of the Golden Age Trinity, has passed away.

He often expressed in his writings doubts of the validity of any religion; I hope, in this case, that he's wrong and that there's a good afterlife waiting for men and women who have shaped the world as he and others have done. But at the least he will live on in his books, and in the influence he had on others. Specifically for me, Boundary was a conscious and clear attempt on my part to write a Clarkeian novel of scientific exploration, inspired to a considerable extent by Rendezvous With Rama. And I know that I am far from the only SF writer who thinks of that and other classic Clarke works when we set out to write that kind of story.

Godspeed, Sir Arthur.
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