Arthur C Clarke

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Sir Arthur C. Clarke

Sir Arthur Charles Clarke (born 16 December 1917) is a British author and inventor, most famous for his science-fiction novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, and for collaborating with director Stanley Kubrick on the film of the same name. Clarke is considered one of the Big Three of science fiction, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov.

2001: A Space Odyssey was written concurrently with the film version by Stanley Kubrick. It was loosely inspired by Clarke's short story "The Sentinel", but became its own novel while he was collaborating on a screenplay with Kubrick. Kubrick approached Clarke about writing a novel for the express purpose of making "the proverbial good science-fiction movie", and the novel was still being written while the film was being made. This resulted in one of the truly unique collaborations in media history.

Clarke has written numerous other books, including the Rama novels and several sequels to 2001, and many short stories, including "The Star", about a Jesuit priest's spiritual dilemma.

There is an asteroid named in his honour, 4923 Clarke, as well as a species of Ceratopsian dinosaur, Serendipaceratops arthurcclarkei, discovered in Inverloch in Australia. The 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter also is named in honor of his works.

He lives in Sri Lanka, and survived the tsunamis of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, but lost his diving school on Hikkaduwa ([1] [2]).


Clarke was born in Minehead in Somerset, and as a boy enjoyed stargazing and enthusiastically read old American science-fiction magazines (many of which made their way to England as ballast in ships). After secondary school, and studying at Richard Huish College, Taunton he was unable to afford a university education and consequently acquired a job as an auditor in the pensions section of the Board of Education.

During the Second World War, he served in the Royal Air Force as a radar specialist and was involved in the early warning radar defense system which contributed to the RAF's success during the Battle of Britain. After the war, he obtained a first class degree in mathematics and physics at King's College, London.

His most important contribution may be the idea that geostationary satellites would be ideal telecommunications relays. He proposed this concept in a paper titled "Extra-Terrestrial Relays - Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?", published in Wireless World in October 1945. The geostationary orbit is now sometimes known as the Clarke orbit in his honour. However, it is not clear that his article was actually the inspiration for modern telecommunications satellites. John R. Pierce, of Bell Labs, arrived at the idea independently in 1954, and he was actually involved in the Echo satellite and Telstar projects. Pierce felt that the idea was "in the air" at the time, so he may have picked it up indirectly from Clarke.

Clarke's first professional sale was in 1946 to Astounding Science Fiction, the still memorable short story "Rescue Party". Along with his writing, Clarke worked briefly as Assistant Editor of Science Abstracts before devoting himself to writing full-time from 1951. Clarke also contributed to the Dan Dare series and his first three published novels were for a juvenile audience. He has been chairman of the British Interplanetary Society and a member of the Underwater Explorers Club. His work is marked by its optimistic view of science empowering mankind's exploration of the solar system and an obvious influence was the work of Olaf Stapledon.

In 1951 he wrote The Sentinel for a BBC competition. Though the story was rejected, it changed the course of Clarke's career. Not only the basis for 2001, The Sentinel introduced a more mystical and cosmic element to Clarke's work. Many of Clarke's later works feature a technologically advanced but prejudiced mankind being confronted by a superior alien intelligence. In the cases of The City and the Stars, Childhood's End, and the 2001 series, this encounter produces a conceptual breakthrough that accelerates humanity into the next stage of its evolution.

He has lived Sri Lanka since 1956, immigrating when it was still called Ceylon, first in Unawatuna on the south coast, and then in Colombo. This inspired the locale for his novel The Fountains of Paradise, in which he describes a space elevator. This, he figures, will ultimately be his legacy, more so than geostationary satellites, once space elevators make space shuttles obsolete.

Early in his career, Clarke had a fascination with the paranormal, and has stated that it was part of the inspiration for his novel Childhood's End. He has also said that he was one of several who were fooled by a Uri Geller demonstration at Birkbeck College. Although he has long since dismissed and distanced himself from nearly all pseudoscience, he still advocates for research into purported instances of psychokinesis and other similar phenomena.

Following the release of 2001, Clarke became much in demand as a commentator on science and technology, especially at the time of the Apollo space program . He also signed a record three-book publishing deal for a science fiction writer, the first of which Rendezvous with Rama in 1973 won him all the main genre awards and has spawned sequels that, along with the 2001 series, formed the backbone of Clarke's later career.

Clarke is also well known to many for his television programmes Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World (1981) and Arthur C. Clarke's World of Strange Powers (1984).

In 1988, he was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome and has since needed to use a wheelchair.

His knighthood was first announced in 1998, but then the British tabloid The Sunday Mirror published accusations of paedophilia against him ([3]). While living in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) in the 1960's young boys frequented his abode, and it was an open secret to those who knew him that he fully indulged. The award was delayed while the allegations were investigated, although by 2000 the BBC reported that he had been cleared ([4]). Clarke's health did not allow him to travel to London to receive the honour personally from the Queen, so the UK High Commissioner to Sri Lanka awarded him the title of Knight Bachelor at a ceremony in Colombo.

He is currently the Honorary Board Chair of the Institute for Cooperation in Space, founded by Carol Rosin and on the Board of Governors of the National Space Society, a space advocacy organization originally founded by Dr. Wernher von Braun.

He was the first Chancellor of the International Space University, serving from 1989 to 2004 and Chancellor of Moratuwa University, Sri Lanka, from 1979 to 2002.

In 1986 he lent his name to the first ever annual Arthur C. Clarke Award - dubbed "the Oscars for Space". His brother attended the awards ceremony, and presented an award specially chosen by Arthur (and not by the panel of judges who chose the other awards).


A partial list of his (some co-authored) fiction books in chronological order:

Apart from his fiction, Clarke has written two autobiographies. Ascent to Orbit is what he calls his scientific autobiography and Astounding Days his science-fictional autobiography. Since Clarke has led a very full and interesting life, both books contain much of interest.

Themes, style, and influence

Clarke's early published stories would usually feature the extrapolation of a technological innovation or scientific breakthrough that assists the resolution of a human dilemma. The first manned mission to the moon (Prelude to Space), the colonization of Mars (The Sands of Mars) and life aboard a space station (Islands in the Sky) were all genre SF mainstays. Clarke's background as a technical writer showed in the early novels as a deliberate documentary style and his characters reflect Clarke's experience being mostly military or civil service types. Despite this, Clarke's style was open to humour and a degree of whimsy as salting their propagandist tone of scientific advancement with a sting in the tail.

A recurring type of character is found in The Lion of Comarre, The City and the Stars, The Road to the Sea, and other works. A young man in a superficially utopian society becomes dissatisfied and restless and seeks to expand his horizons, thereby discovering the underlying decadence of his own society.

The Sentinel introduced a religious theme to Clarke's work. His interest in the paranormal was influenced by Charles Fort and embraced the belief that mankind may be the property of an ancient alien civilisation. Surprisingly for a writer who is often held up as an example of hard science fiction's obsession with technology, three of Clarke's novels have this as a theme.

The adapted screenplays of Arthur C. Clarke

2001: A Space Odyssey

Clarke's first venture into film was the Stanley Kubrick-directed 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick and Clarke had met in 1964 to discuss the possibility of a collaborative film project. As the idea developed, it was decided that the story for the film was to be loosely based on Clarke's short story "The Sentinel", written in 1948 as an entry in a BBC short story competition. Originally, Clarke was going to write the screenplay for the film, but this proved to be more tedious than he had estimated. Instead, Kubrick and Clarke decided it would be best to write a novel first and then adapt it for the film upon its completion. However, as Clarke was finishing the book, the screenplay was also being written simultaneously.

Due to the hectic schedule of the film's production, Kubrick and Clarke had difficulty collaborating on the book. Clarke completed a draft of the novel at the end of 1964 with the plan to publish the novel in 1965 in advance of the film's release in 1966. After many delays the film was released in the spring of 1968, before the book that was credited to Clarke alone "Based on a Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke". Clarke later complained that this had the effect of making the book into a novelisation, that Kubrick had manipulated circumstances to downplay his authorship. For these and other reasons, the details of the story differ slightly from the book to the movie. The film is a bold artistic piece with little explanation for the events taking place. Clarke, on the other hand, wrote thorough explanations of "cause and effect" for the events in the novel. Despite their differences, both film and novel were well received. [5] [6] [7]

In 1972 Clarke published The Lost Worlds of 2001, which included his account of the production and alternate versions of key scenes. The "special edition" of the novel A Space Odyssey (released in 1999) contains an introduction by Clarke, documenting his account of the events leading to the release of the novel and film.

2010: The Year We Make Contact

In 1982 Clarke continued the 2001 epic with a sequel, 2010: Odyssey Two. This novel was also made into a film, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, directed by Peter Hyams for release in 1984. Due to the political environment in America in the 1980s, the novel and film present a Cold War theme, with the looming tensions of nuclear war. The film was not considered to be as revolutionary or artistic as 2001, but the reviews were still positive and it has earned over 40 million dollars since its release in North America. [8]

Clarke's email correspondence with Hyams was published in 1984. Titled The Odyssey File: The Making of 2010, and co-authored with Hyams, it illustrates his fascination with the then-pioneering medium and its use for them to communicate on an almost daily basis at the time of planning and production of the film. The book also includes Clarke's list of the best science-fiction films ever made.

Rendezvous with Rama

Early in the millennium, actor Morgan Freeman expressed his desire to produce a film based on Arthur C. Clarke's novel Rendezvous with Rama. The film was to be produced by Freeman's production company, Revelations Entertainment.[9] Freeman has not given up on the project, but claims that funding for a movie of this type is hard to procure. A popular science-fiction web site (Sci Fi Wire) posted an interview with Freeman about his troubles with the production. [10]

Essays and short stories

Most of Clarke's essays (between 1934 to 1998) can be found in the book Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! (2000). Most of his short stories can be found in the book The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke (2001). They make a good collection of Clarke's non-fiction and fiction works, even for those who already have most of his books. Another collection of early essays were published in The View from Serendip (1977), which also included one short piece of fiction, "When the Twerms Came". He has also written short stories under the pseudonyms of E. G. O'Brien and Charles Willis.

See also


External links

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