Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Farewell, Sir Arthur

Arthur C. Clarke died today (actually "tomorrow" in Sri Lanka where he has lived for 52 years). Strangely I was wondering only this past week if he was still about but the departure of the man who predicted geosynchronous satellites twenty years before the 1965 launch of Early Bird (Intelsat I) and who collaborated with Stanley Kubrick on 2001: A Space Odyssey was unlikely to be a small ripple. A quick glance at my bookshelf tells me I own about twenty books of Clarke's but I think more remain on the "to follow" shelf in my family's house in Ireland.

Although most renowned for The Sentinel/2001, Childhood's End and Against The Fall Of Night, I would urge someone who has never read Clarke to seek out first his short stories in collections like The Other Side of the Sky, The Wind From The Sun and Tales From Ten Worlds. He had a few weaker works, particularly his later collaborations such as Cradle which I felt were a vehicle more for his co-authors than representative of the solo writing of earlier times, and the 2001 series dwindled with the last two volumes in particular.

For how many years will people shudder at the thought of man's interference with one of Jupiter's moons - "all these worlds are yours - except Europa. Attempt no landings there" and how fascinated were so many of us with the Eye of Iapetus which Voyager 1 blurrily hinted at until Cassini laid it finally to rest with its superior images.

Here is Clarke's 90th birthday broadcast, where at the end he quotes Kipling:

"If I have given you delight with all that I have done, let me lie quiet in that night which shall be yours anon. And for the little, little span the dead are borne in mind, seek not to question other than the books I leave behind."
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