Thursday, March 20, 2008

Thank You, Sir Arthur

Photo Credit: Arthur C Clarke Foundation

The irony was inescapable. When I heard that Arthur C Clarke was no more on the radio, I had in my hand "Time's Eye" his 2004 novel.
There have been some brilliant science fiction writers but Arthur was one of those elite few who not only came up with ingenious ideas and plots, foretold the future through his stories, wrote really, really well but most importantly, got people interested in this unique genre of fiction.
I read "Rendezvous with Rama" when I was in my 11th class. Life was never the same. That one book got me hooked to science fiction, an interest that still lasts. That was when I discovered all the other masters - Douglas Adams, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Philip K Dick, Ray Bradbury...
But I never forgot Arthur. His name would keep popping up in the news every few days for something that he had predicted 20 years ago would actually have been happening right then. Like his novel "The Hammer of God" about knocking off asteroids that stray too close to Earth (also the 'inspiration' behind the hit movie 'Aramageddon'). More well known is how Arthur wrote an article “Extra-Terrestrial Relays” for Wireless World in 1945. The article envisioned a communications satellite system that would relay radio and television signals throughout the world; this system finally came into operation two decades later. In his preface to the book 'Venus Prime' he refers to his story "Breaking Strain" which almost eerily predicted the near fatal experience of the Apollo 13 space shuttle in 1970. He writes "I still have
hanging up on my wall the first page of the mission summary, on which NASA Administrator Tom Paine has written: ‘‘Just as you always said it would be, Arthur.’’

One of his most famous collaborations, and probably the only time people who didn't read science fiction heard of him was the film adaptation of his 1951 story 'The Sentinel' into '2001: A Space Odyssey' with Stanley Kubrick. That film is still ranked among the list of 'top ten films ever made' by any reviewer.
He spent most of his later life in Colombo, Sri Lanka where he developed a great interest in the sea and later even campaigned for saving the mountain gorillas in Africa. On his 90th birthday, he expressed three wishes - for Extraterrestrials to contact us, for mankind to stop relying on oil and for peace in Sri Lanka. He also predicted that commercial space travel would become commonplace. Going by Arthur's track record, you can be sure thats exactly whats going to happen!

Thank you, Sir Arthur Charles Clark.

2 comments:

Ken Davidson said...

I'm not sure if Sir Arthur was religious, atheist or agnostic - someone might be able to enlighten me - but his lifelong friend Sir Patrick Moore believes there's a good chance of a human afterlife. He promises that after he dies he's going to try to haunt someone to finally prove it! If he's correct (and who but the most hardened cynic would not secretly desire him to be?) then I would love to bear witness to the "told you so" conversation between him and Sir Arthur...

Best regards.

aditya said...

He surely seemed to be non religious, he did not want any kind of religious rites after death. As for atheist or agnostic, I am not sure, but here is an interesting quote from him that merits attention (As ACC always does).

" I do not believe in God, but I am definitely interested in her"