Arthur C. Clarke

Like many geeks my age, I went through a heavy science fiction phase in my youth. The big three writers were Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke. When I was feeling slightly more literary, I'd throw in some Ray Bradbury as well.

Heinlein and Asimov are long gone, and the news tonight is that Arthur C. Clarke has passed away.

In his prime writing years, Clarke's story ideas were unmatched. His characters were less memorable. In trying to think of any off the top of my head, I can only bring up the ones from 2001, and only because of the movie.

So, for example, I remember Rama, the mysterious hollow asteroid-sized spaceship passing through the Solar System, and its awe-inspiring exploration. Couldn't tell you anything about the human explorers, though.

Clarke was also a pretty good non-fiction writer, and I remember reading his Profiles of the Future when I was a lad, which was all about technogical prognostication. He came up with his three "laws" of prediction:

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Number three was especially perceptive, I think. From the perspective of 1962, iPods, DVDs, and the Web would all seem pretty magical.

(OK, so we didn't have anything like 2001's HAL in real-life 2001. We're not even very close in 2008.)

A movie version of Rendezvous with Rama is planned for next year. Can't wait.

Since Clarke was a hardcore atheist, it would seem inappropriate to say "rest in peace" or similar sentiment. And I haven't read anything by him for many years, so saying "he will be missed" also misses the mark. But I deeply appreciate the entertainment and education he provided.

URLs du Jour


  • One hundred fifty-five words, plus an eighty-two word correction. Read the whole thing and adjust your next shopping list accordingly. (Via Prof Bainbridge, who calls it, accurately, "a little gem.")

  • A number of bloggers (e.g., Shawn Macomber and Patterico) have pointed out this NYT article profiling Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., pastor to Senator Barack Obama from April 2007. Final paragraph:
    "If Barack gets past the primary, he might have to publicly distance himself from me," Mr. Wright said with a shrug. "I said it to Barack personally, and he said yeah, that might have to happen."
    Rich Lowry also quotes it in his syndicated column. And it's risen to the attention of ABC reporter Jake Tapper.

    This, to put it mildly, puts in doubt Obama's recent claim that Pastor Wright's batshit remarks "were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation." If he wasn't aware of Wright's bonkeritude back then, why did he say he might have to "distance himself"?

    Now, in one sense, this is not a huge deal: Obama's still got a ways to go before his truth-shading and cynical posturing approaches Clintonian levels. But he was supposed to be Special and Different, that's his thing! How much air will go out of his campaign when his followers, trying to reach out and touch the hem of his garment, find out that it's mostly polyester?

  • Another sign of scales dropping from MSM eyes: AP reporter Ron Fournier opines that Obama is "bordering on arrogance"; he "can be a bit too cocky for his own good"; he and his wife "ooze a sense of entitlement"; he "can be aloof and ungracious".

    Ouch. At least Fournier didn't describe Obama as "uppity". And, to be fair, Fournier says that Obama's arrogance is still measured in the milliClinton range. But he's supposed to be Better Than That.

  • Thomas Sowell has it right:
    Senator Barack Obama’s political success thus far has been a blow for equality. But equality has its down side.

    Equality means that a black demagogue who has been exposed as a phony deserves exactly the same treatment as a white demagogue who has been exposed as a phony.