This morning, when my three-year-old son, Grady, came stumbling sleep-eyed into our bedroom, he said something interesting: “Dad, I dreamed about space last night.” How could he have possibly known that while he slept, Arthur C. Clarke, the man who taught the world to dream about space, passed away?
If you’re not into science fiction, then you probably at least know him as the guy who wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey. If you are into science fiction, then you just know him. Period. Along with probably Isaac Asimov and Robert Hienlein (and maybe Ray Bradbury), Clarke is the backbone of that genre, and a few others as well.
If you use GPS in your car today, watch satellite TV, or listen to XM Radio, say thanks to Sir Arthur, who first came up with the ideas that made these technologies possible.
Clarke was a hardcore scientist, a champion of undersea exploration, and a peacemaker. But above all he was a writer, and one who inspired much of my own writing and ideas about science fiction. I’m compelled to offer a summary of my indebtedness to him in my own writing:
- Space Academy: My young-adult novel (unfinished) uses Clarke’s brilliant (and quite possibly prophetic) idea of a space elevator to transport people off the planet.
- Twelve: My short-story involving human memory backup/restore — Clark explored this idea as far back as in 1948 with his novel The City and the Stars.
- Catching Christopher: My attempt at a children’s short-story in a sub-genre that Clarke helped pioneer with his work for the British science fiction comic, Dan Dare.
And here’s Arthur C. Clarke in some of his own profound words:
- Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic
- If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run — and often in the short one — the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative
- As our own species is in the process of proving, one cannot have superior science and inferior morals. The combination is unstable and self-destroying.
- I’m sure the universe is full of intelligent life. It’s just been too intelligent to come here.
- I don’t believe in God but I’m very interested in her.
- I want to see lasting and meaningful peace achieved in Sri Lanka as early as possible. But I am aware that peace cannot just be wished; it involves hard work, courage and persistence.
- Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.
But perhaps the best words to end with are those I began with — the words of my son, who will grow up in the world Clarke helped to create: “Dad, I dreamed about space last night.”