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:
- 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.
- The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
- Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
(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.