Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke, RIP

My wife returned home from work today and informed me that she had heard that Arthur C. Clarke, one of our favorite authors, had died at age 90. His New York Times obituary is here. There are multiple copies of some of his books around our house, as we are both fans.

Though I never met the man --- having never traveled to Sri Lanka, where he had lived since before I was born --- I feel as though I have lost an old and trusted friend.

The word "visionary" is probably overused. It seems an understatement when applied to Clarke. He was a good writer with incredible foresight, two requirements for a great science fiction writer. It is a combination too rare in the genre. He conceptualized communications satellites in geosynchronous orbit in a 1945 paper, but failed to patent the idea.

Nevertheless, it is a measure of the esteem in which he was held that some of the things he imagined (a space elevator, for instance) are staples in other writers' works. It is difficult to believe --- as the NYT obituary stated --- that his worldwide sales were only around $25 million. His contributions to science, culture, and the intersection of science and culture may well be several orders of magnitude greater than that number.

Indeed, though his name has, for some time, been associated with giants like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, it may well be that he will be remembered as the greatest among these giants. No small feat when one considers that Isaac Asimov was a contemporary.


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