Arthur C. Clarke: An Appreciation of a Life Well-Lived

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Arthur C. Clarke led at least three different, extremely successful lives. As a scientist, his work with satellites led to the coining of the term a "Clarke orbit." As a visionary award-winning science fiction author he influenced several generations of writers, became an icon of the SF subculture, and had an award named after him. And, in his collaboration with Stanley Kubrick on the classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey, Clarke also became part of movie and pop culture history.

Over his lifetime, Clarke received many honors, including being knighted and having the Apollo 13 Command Module and the Mars Orbiter both named "Odyssey" in appreciation of his work. Clarke remained a vital force up until his death. He authored books, made appearances via videophone from his home in Sri Lanka, and continued to deny the polio that had kept him mostly wheelchair-bound for two decades.

Chris Schluep, Clarke's editor at Del Rey for his last few books, was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when he heard the news: "It's a very, very sad, and a strange place to find out about Sir Arthur's passing. I can't help but think that without his ground-breaking work on satellite technology, it wouldn't even be possible to have heard the news and provide such an immediate reaction. Somehow, I know he would have twisted a joke out of that. He was a very nice man with a wonderful sense of humor."

Arthur C. Clarke's fiction embodied a fundamental optimism about the future, tempered by a healthy skepticism about the human condition and an ongoing fascination with certain forms of spirituality. Unlikely to indulge in dystopic visions, but rarely sentimental or unrealistic, Clarke was, quite simply, curious about the world.

Schluep met Clarke on his last visit to New York City, a decade ago, and remembers that curiosity vividly. "He was staying in the Chelsea Hotel, where he wrote 2001 with Stanley Kubrick, and...the first thing that struck me was how excited he seemed about everything. People he had encountered on his trip, books, various meetings he'd had about issues he thought were important. Despite the fact that he was already in his eighties and wheelchair-bound, he glowed with optimism. I remember thinking that he seemed like a man from another era."

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