According to the New York Times, Arthur C. Clarke died today. The above is a quote from one of the best authors of his or any generation, and as you can probably guess, one of my favorite authors. And I don’t mean one of the best authors of science fiction; I think that praise deserves no qualifier or caveat. [tag]Arthur C. Clarke[/tag] was that skilled as a writer, particularly in his later years. I’ve read every short story he ever wrote, and most of his novels. While he was 90 years old, and he was certainly very prolific, his death nevertheless saddens me. So much so that I feel compelled to mark it here, for the little cold comfort that it provides.
The quote needs no context. Indeed, the future often is more stranger than we anticipate–and frequently more mundane, unfortunately. But this quote comes from a man who arguably could see into the future. He foresaw communications satellites and how they could be used to revolutionize communication on a global scale–before anyone else did. In fact he is credited with having come up with the idea of communications satellites in the first place. Of course, he imagined large, permanently inhabited space stations in high earth orbit–you’d need a lot of people to monitor and switch out all those vacuum tubes (Ole Arthur didn’t see the semiconductor coming, but then no one else did at the time, either)–but his concepts were the same as what we utilize today. A specific type of geostationary orbit is called a Clarke orbit, named after him–going back to his original ideas he first envisioned and proposed in 1945.
And this is only one of several examples. It makes one wonder what else he wrote about in his fiction–which tends to fall into the “hard” [tag]science fiction[/tag] category–and nonfiction will one day be fact. I can only hope that I live long enough to see more examples …
One other quote of his comes to mind:
“Somewhere in me is a curiosity sensor. I want to know what’s over the next hill. You know, people can live longer without food than without information. Without information, you’d go crazy.”
Well, Arthur, you have embarked on a journey over that next hill, that one we all must cross eventually. And you will be missed by those of us who have yet to cross, and our world is a slightly lesser place with you not in it. I’ll take comfort in the fact that though our paths never crossed personally, I discovered your writing at a young age, and my life has been influenced and enriched all for the better having done so.
P.S. Where have I been? Around. Never rains but it pours, and other such cliches. Needless to say, the period of much goofing off and little work has come to an end. I miss being a man of leisure and idleness. But on the other hand, I enjoy eating, sleeping indoors and bathing daily, too.