For many, Arthur C. Clarke brings to mind the haunting and evocative scenes of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Obviously there’s a reason why the movie is a cult favorite, it is simply spellbinding. For me though, the fascination with Sir Clarke’s works began with much lauded, but lesser famous Rendezvous with Rama. To me, that book is one of the most brilliant accomplishments of a man who was brilliant in so many different ways.
Imagine a whole story (mind-numbing and at times heart-stopping, I should add) being about a 30 mile long cylinder. It is humanity’s first contact with alien spacecraft and nothing really happens. No green aliens pop out, no one starts blasting Earth off into oblivion. A let-down of the massive kind, right?
Well, it’s not.
What is interesting that this very well could be the way we meet the first aliens or alien technology. We expect alien life would take the form of humans or other known forms on Earth, but chances are, reality will stun us.
Read the book if you haven’t already. But a word of caution, it’s only about a 30 mile long cylinder, so prepare yourself and let amazement sweep you away.
Clarke was born into an English farming family in Somerset, England in 1917. In the 1930s he joined the British Interplanetary Society (BIS) and began to write science fiction.
- Clarke served in the Royal Air Force in World War II, working with experimental radar systems. The experience would later inspire his only non-science fiction novel, Glide Path.
- In 1945, Clarke published a landmark technical paper setting out the principles of communication using satellites in geostationary orbits – a speculative technology then, made into reality 25 years later. These satellites are now used for everything from GPS, satellite TV and internet, to military applications.
- Clarke accurately predicted many things that became reality, including online banking and online shopping.
- In the 1940s, Clarke predicted that man would reach the moon by the year 2000, an idea some dismissed as nonsense. When Neil Armstrong landed on moon, the United States said Clarke had “provided the essential intellectual drive that led us to the moon.”
- For much of the later 20th century, Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein were informally known as the “Big Three” of science fiction writers.
- Starting in 1964, he worked with the film maker Stanley Kubrick on the script of a groundbreaking film – “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Based loosely on a short story Clarke had written in 1948, it has come to be regarded by many as one of the greatest films ever made.
- The Apollo 13 module was named “Odyssey” to honor Clarke and his popular “2001: a Space Odyssey.”
- In the early 1970s Clarke signed a three-book publishing deal, a record for a science-fiction writer at the time. The first of the three was Rendezvous with Rama.
- Clarke became well known to many for his television programs Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World, Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers and Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious Universe.
- He was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1986.
- Of the many things that have been named after him– there’s an asteroid, a geostationary satellite, a video game character (Dead Space’s Isaac Clarke), a dinosaur species, an award for science fiction writers, a portion of the grammar school, a diving school, and a Sri Lankan astronomy quiz.
- Clarke first visited Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon, in December 1954 and moved to the country soon after. He spent most of the rest of his life there.
- Clarke was knighted in 2000 for services in literature. Due to his health he was unable to accept it from Queen Elizabeth II and instead accepted it at a ceremony in Colombo.
- Talk about serendipity–just hours before Clarke’s death a massive gamma-ray burst (GRB) reached Earth. Known as GRB 080319B, the burst set a new record as the farthest object that could be seen from Earth with the naked eye. It occurred about 7.5 billion years ago (roughly equal to half the time since the Big Bang).
- Clarke left written instructions for a funeral that stated: “Absolutely no religious rites of any kind, relating to any religious faith, should be associated with my funeral.”
How many of these facts did you already know? Did I miss something interesting that you want to add? I’d LOVE to hear from you.