ARTHUR C. CLARKE: THE BEST. SERIOUSLY. SERIOUSLY?

Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FRAS (16 December 1917–19 March 2008) was a British science fiction writer, science writer and futurist, inventor, undersea explorer, and television series host.

How dare he change the symbols for evil used by Christianity for hundreds of years and iconoclasticize them into order, truth, and peace?  He did dare, in a small, powerful, prescient novel published in 1953–Childhood’s End–, taking place in the year 19–.  In 1968 came 2001: A Space Odyssey–filled with myth, archetypes, rituals–and IBM and HAL.  An odyssey by the master artisan who writes a sequel to Homer’s story of the wanderer.  Then, among others, Rendezvous with Rama (1972); 2010: Odyssey Two (1982); and 3001: The Final Odyssey (1997).

Arthur C. Clarke opens up the possibilities of gaining or losing: souls or history, in speculative fiction in the spirit of Jonathan Swift.  He writes of trade-offs for survival.  He speculates upon the worlds of peace, the new/next Golden Age.

As much as Milton or Bosch, he has a vision.  But he is sometimes, not unlike Teilhard de Chardin, showing evolution continuing, not stopping with the human, which may be a missing link.  Man is moving toward the Omega Point.

One looks to Clarke–SERIOUSLY–for metamorphosis, for mysticism, for the awareness of the fragile beauty surrounding [us] earthlings.

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12 comments
  1. Arthur C. Clarke is my all-time favourite sci-fi author, closely followed by Ray Bradbury (who I love for the poetry in his prose), and Childhood’s End is without a doubt my favourite of Clarke’s books. In fact, I still have my original hard-cover copy of that book–quite a feat, given that I’m in my 70’s and have had to gird my loins and cull many, many of my beloved books over the years. Add Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy to the list, and that’s my Holy Trinity, right there.

    Oh dear, I realized I have to make my trinity a quartet; I have to add Frank Herbert to my list. I thought his original trilogy (Dune, Children of Dune, and Dune Messiah) was original and quite brilliant, at least until all hell broke loose and a truly ridiculous number of further stories appeared over the years.

    Science fiction authors? They just don’t make ’em like that any more! 🙂

    • Your testimony is well received here. And then, Stranger in a Strange Land… I cherished. BTW: Did you ever read Lost Horizon?

  2. How was Childhood’s End prescient? And why is prescience important?

    • Aha! So good to hear from a Clarke reader. Imagine yourself a high school student in 1975 reading a book about space travel, written in 1953… Or thinking how lame a book written in 1953 after living through Independence Day, 2001, and being raised with Star Trek. Prescient. Agree?

      • I find his visions visions projected from his time and not related to our future but rather a future projected from his present. (I’m a historian)

        So, perhaps prescient in the vaguest I could have come up with anything sort of position… As in, aliens haven’t arrive, we aren’t transcending!

        So of course, if you reduce it down to the most bare elements perhaps you can claim “prescience.” Reductive to say the least….

        The reason I say this is that I find “prescient” a term bandied about to claim something is valuable. Rather, it’s a good story with fascinating relevant ideas. But, it’s a product of its time and that is what makes it fascinating. How did past authors view their futures? That question is what’s so intriguing — not, what did he guess at that actually came about….

      • I am not trying to say that nothing he imagined hasn’t come about. But, it came about in ways that are so far from what he imagined that “prescience” is a usefulness qualifier. Coincidence might be better. And if we are rating authors on “coincidence,” well seems silly to me.

      • As an aside, I really am intrigued by your name…. There is something there, I’m not quite sure yet. 😎

      • WELL DONE! Intriguing and most interesting site, Mr Boaz

  3. Suze said:

    Sir Arthur and Heinlein are my favorite authors of all time.

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