On this day, in 2008, we lost one of our greats. The last of The Big Three. The man who conceived the telecommunications satellite. The creator of one of the only two novels whose dates have become cultural touchstones. The writer whose ‘Third Law‘ is amongst the most quoted (and most misattributed!) in all of modern culture.
Sir Arthur C. Clarke was one of my heroes, growing up, and the first author whose work I set out to read systematically, in its entirety. His work is the first I think of when I hear the term ‘Sense of Wonder’ and his stories are still the gold standard for twist-in-the-tail endings, as far as I’m concerned. And for me, the year 2001, no matter how far it recedes into the past, will always be The Future.
Here are some thoughts I put together on the fifth anniversary of Arthur C. Clarke’s death; as my feelings are unchanged, so I’ve left the words as I wrote them, two years ago . . .
Upon hearing the news of Sir Arthur C. Clarke‘s passing, half a decade ago, my first reaction was a kind of numbness. I knew he was 90 years old, I knew he was not in the rudest of health and I knew of course that, to be blunt, people die. But this was different; this was the writer who flipped the switch in my head and opened my eyes to the wonders of science fiction. In many ways, and with all due respect to some wonderful teachers I’ve been lucky enough to learn from over the years, it was Arthur C. Clarke who taught me to think. I devoured his novels and short stories – like we all do when we discover a new favourite – but with Clarke that wasn’t enough; I had to hunt down and read his non-fiction, too: the likes of Profiles of the Future, The View from Serendip, The Lost Worlds of 2001 and Report on Planet Three.