100 years ago today, in a small town in England, Arthur Clarke was born.
Perhaps he’ll always be best known by the public at large for 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is certainly how I was first introduced to his work. Later, when I had a chance to delve deeper into my Dad’s collection of 50s paperbacks, I came across Childhood’s End and later still, “The Star” — a very short story that nevertheless haunts me every time I read it (spoiler alert: I’ve linked to the actual story, so you should avoid reading it if you want a holly, jolly Christmas).
Clarke’s work is endless inventive and, at times, as distant as some of the objects in space he describes with ease. But as cold as he might seem to his individual characters, his work often shows a warmth and optimism about the human spirit. I suppose this conflict comes because while we see his characters such as Heywood Floyd or Robert Singh struggle mightily to do good, Clarke makes sure we never forget they are mortal with finite, mortal lifespans. Nevertheless, I always find myself drawn into his work.
I will plan to update this posts with remembrances that will surely come today. You can also hear what he had to say 10 years ago in celebration of his 90th birthday.
UPDATE (later that same centennial):
- The Guardian has a nice piece examining the whole multitudinous man (“We don’t need to advocate the whole of Clarke to recognise the best of him”).
- Science understandably focuses on what he did in terms of making people focus on the future of human civilization.
- The Verge does something similar, though noting how Clarke paved the way for his science fiction successors.