Patrick O'Brian Discussion Forum

Arthur C Clarke at 100: still the king of science fiction

Mon Dec 11

‘2001: A Space Odyssey, Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World … one hundred years after his birth, the British writer is the undisputed master. Born on 16 December 1917, Arthur C Clarke lived long enough to see the year he and Stanley Kubrick made cinematically famous with 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it seemed for a while as though he might see in his centenary too: he was physically active (he had a passion for scuba diving), non-smoking, teetotal and always interested in and curious about the world. But having survived a bout of polio in 1962, he found the disease returned as post-polio syndrome in the 1980s; it eventually killed him in 2008 . . ‘
' . . Chuck didn’t reply, so George swung round in his saddle. He could just see Chuck’s face, a white oval turned toward the sky. “Look,” whispered Chuck, and George lifted his eyes to heaven (there is always a last time for everything) . . ‘
Apart from his huge output of fiction and scientific books, Clarke left us his Three Laws. These are touched by the kind of eternal practicality which make his science fiction so effective and reveal his inner convictions:

1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

2. The limits of the possible can only be found by going beyond them into the impossible.

3. Any sufficiently advanced technology may, at first, be indistinguishable from magic.

Certainly, Clarke's imagination was magical, carrying him beyond the limits of possibility: his greatness was and remains that, from his almost Olympian heights, he could see more than ordinary men will ever see. Moreover, he possessed the power to carry anyone who wished to join him on these great heights of mystery and clarity. If the world believes the clarity to be deceptive, it is not the fault of Arthur C Clarke.

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