We all lost another one of the great minds of the world today as Arthur C. Clarke died in Sri Lanka at the age of 90. Clarke held a very special place in my reading life, as he was one of those writers that got me interested not just in science fiction, but in science as well. While many recognize Clarke as the author of such SF classics as 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequels, 2010, 2061, and 3001: The Final Odyssey (apparently he wasn’t that good at writing titles for sequels), Clarke was also recognized as a visionary thinker. In fact, Clarke is often credited with coming up with the idea for communications satellites and the geo-synchronous orbit – no cell phones without them.
I remember reading Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey the same summer that all my friends kept going back for another showing of Star Wars (1977 where did you go?). In my still burgeoning passive aggressive fashion, I never did go see Luke and Obi Won battle the dark side and Vader for universal supremacy.
Instead, after I finished 2001, I found and read Rendezvous with Rama, and Childhood’s End, and The City and the Stars, and then 2001 again. Unlike all the lasers and spaceships and other special effects (and fighting, of course) that my friends came home from the movies raving about, Clarke’s stories were not about shiny instruments and fancy computers, but about people. The central characters were people who just happened to live in a far off future; but they were still searching for answers to such universal questions as, “who are we”, “how did we get here”, and “where are we going”?
One of the other underlying themes in much of Clarke’s popular writing is the idea that some day, given enough time and/or technological assistance, humans will evolve to a higher form, like the Star-Child at the end of 2001. If Clarke’s disembodied consciousness (his soul, spirit, what have you) is now travelling through some other plane of reality, I am sure he is echoing David Bowman’s closing lines; “it goes on forever — and — oh my God! — it’s full of stars!” Rest in Peace, Arthur C.
© 2008 henry toromoreno