Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008

The world lost a great writer today as Arthur C. Clarke has died at the age of 90. He is best known for his novel 2001: A Space Odyssey and the film based on it. He is one of my favorite writers and I hope no one minds that I pay my respects on this history blog.

Clarke was born in England in 1917. He could not afford to go to college after finishing his secondary education although he did so later. He served in the Royal Air Force during World War Two as a radar specialist. Radar played an important role during the Battle of Britain.

He went on after the war to become one of the Great Three of Science Fiction writers with Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. He published numerous short stories and novels. He has also been credited as being one of the originators of the idea of communication satellites and the idea of the space elevator.

Although he may always be known for 2001, my favorite Clarke novel is the Songs of Distant Earth. Published in 1986, it tells the tale of the survivors of an apocalyptic Earth arriving at the human colony world of Thalassa. The novel really fired my imagination as a teenager and I still read it on a regular basis. Even if the Sun goes nova, the human race can survive. We just have to figure out a way to get out of this solar system. Our civilization has advanced in ways unimaginable just a few millenia ago. What can we do in a few more? I think the odds are in our favor.

Rest in peace Mr. Clarke. And thank you.

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