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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Comments (5)

The world was the richer for his living and the poorer for his passing. I hope and expect that Arthur C Clarke will be remembered (and still in print) for many generations. In view of Pixelkiller's comment, it is worth noting that PS Publishing have recently brought out a beautiful edition of "Tales from The White Hart".

Posted by: David G Tubby | Sunday March 23, 2008 at 11:16 AM

An excellent tribute. Clarke shaped the field of sf as we know it.

Posted by: Andy Sawyer | Thursday March 20, 2008 at 3:13 AM

What a great writer. I have a collection of paperback SF left by my uncle when I was a child--a large majority of them by Clarke. Several of them--most notably Rendevous With Rama--have become a benchmark for much of the reading I do to this day. If you are not familiar with his books and stories, I encourage you to become so. You will not regret it.

Posted by: Victoria | Wednesday March 19, 2008 at 5:28 PM

I have some more thoughts and remembrances here:

Posted by: Rand Simberg | Wednesday March 19, 2008 at 1:54 PM

"Tales from The White Hart", 1957, Ballantine Books.
Well worth the effort to find a copy... Trust me....

Posted by: Pixelkiller | Wednesday March 19, 2008 at 12:24 PM

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