Sir Arthur C. Clarke

by / Monday, 08 March 2010 / Published in Blog - Space Log

Dear Friends of Janet’s Planet:

It is written that Sir Arthur C. Clarke was a stargazer as a very young child.

The 19th of March 2010 mark the 2nd year death anniversary of late Sir Arthur Clarke. It’s hard to imagine we have already made two orbits around the Sun without his presence. Of course his contributions still lives on and will continue to do so.

Here is some information about his writing career and life.

While Clarke had a few stories published in fanzines, between 1937 and 1945, his first professional sales appeared in Astounding Science Fiction in 1946: “Loophole” was published in April, while “Rescue Party”, his first sale, was published in May. Along with his writing Clarke briefly worked as Assistant Editor of Science Abstracts (1949) before devoting himself to writing full-time from 1951 onward. Clarke also contributed to the Dan Dare series published in Eagle, and his first three published novels were written for children.

Clarke corresponded with C. S. Lewis in the 1940s and 1950s and they once met in an Oxford pub, The Eastgate, to discuss science fiction and space travel. Clarke, after Lewis’s death, voiced great praise for him, saying the Ransom Trilogy was one of the few works of science fiction that could be considered literature.

In 1948 he wrote “The Sentinel” for a BBC competition. Though the story was rejected, it changed the course of Clarke’s career. Not only was it the basis for A Space Odyssey, but “The Sentinel” also introduced a more mystical and cosmic element to Clarke’s work. Many of Clarke’s later works feature a technologically advanced but still-prejudiced mankind being confronted by a superior alien intelligence. In the cases of The City and the Stars (and its original version, Against the Fall of Night), Childhood’s End, and the 2001 series, this encounter produces a conceptual breakthrough that accelerates humanity into the next stage of its evolution. In Clarke’s authorized biography, Neil McAleer writes that: “many readers and critics still consider [Childhood’s End] Arthur C. Clarke’s best novel.”[24]

Clarke lived in Sri Lanka from 1956 until his death in 2008, having emigrated there when it was still called Ceylon, first in Unawatuna on the south coast, and then in Colombo.[26] Clarke held citizenship of both the UK and Sri Lanka.[31] He was an avid scuba diver and a member of the Underwater Explorers Club. In addition to writing, Clarke and business partner, Mike Wilson set up several diving-related ventures. In 1961, while filming off Great Basses Reef, Wilson found a wreck and retrieved silver coins. Plans to dive on the wreck the following year were stopped when Clarke developed paralysis, ultimately diagnosed as polio. A year later, Clarke observed the salvage from the shore and the surface. The ship, ultimately identified as belonging to the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, yielded fused bags of silver rupees, cannons, and other artifacts, carefully documented, became the basis for The Treasure of the Great Reef.[24][32] Living in Sri Lanka and learning its history also inspired the backdrop for his novel The Fountains of Paradise in which he described a space elevator. This, he believed, would make rocket based access to space obsolete and, more so than geostationary satellites, would ultimately be his scientific legacy.[33]

His many predictions culminated in 1958 when he began a series of essays in various magazines that eventually became Profiles of the Future published in book form in 1962. A timetable[34] up to the year 2100 describes inventions and ideas including such things as a “global library” for 2005. The same work also contained “Clarke’s First Law” and text which would become Clarke’s three laws in later editions.[24] [edit] Later years

In the early 1970s Clarke signed a three-book publishing deal, a record for a science-fiction writer at the time. The first of the three was Rendezvous with Rama in 1973, which won him all the main genre awards and has spawned sequels that, along with the 2001 series, formed the backbone of his later career.

In 1975 Clarke’s short story “The Star” was not included in a new high school English textbook in Sri Lanka because of concerns that it might offend Roman Catholics even though it had already been selected. The same textbook also caused controversy because it replaced Shakespeare’s work with that of Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Isaac Asimov.

In the 1980s Clarke became well known to many for his television programmes Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World, Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers and Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious Universe. In 1986 he was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America.[35] In 1988 he was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome, having originally contracted polio in 1962, and needed to use a wheelchair most of the time thereafter.[26] Sir Arthur C Clarke was for many years a Vice Patron of the British Polio Fellowship.[36]

In the 1989 Queen’s Birthday Honours Clarke was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) “for services to British cultural interests in Sri Lanka”.[37] The same year he became the first Chancellor of the International Space University, serving from 1989 to 2004 and he also served as Chancellor of Moratuwa University in Sri Lanka from 1979 to 2002.

In 1994, Clarke appeared in a science fiction film; he portrayed himself in the telefilm Without Warning, an American production about an apocalyptic alien first contact scenario presented in the form of a faux newscast.

On 26 May 2000 he was made a Knight Bachelor “for services to literature” at a ceremony in Colombo.[12][38] The award of a knighthood had been announced in the 1998 New Year Honours,[11][39] but investiture with the award had been delayed, at Clarke’s request, because of an accusation, by the British tabloid The Sunday Mirror, of paedophilia.[40][41] The charge was subsequently found to be baseless by the Sri Lankan police.[42][43] According to The Daily Telegraph (London), the Mirror subsequently published an apology, and Clarke chose not to sue for defamation.[44][45] Clarke was then duly knighted.

Although he and his home were unharmed by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake tsunami, his “Arthur C. Clarke Diving School” at Hikkaduwa was destroyed. He made humanitarian appeals, and the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation worked towards a better disaster notification systems.[46] The school has since been rebuilt.

In September 2007, he provided a video greeting for NASA’s Cassini probe’s flyby of Iapetus (which plays an important role in 2001: A Space Odyssey).[47] In December 2007 on his 90th birthday, Clarke recorded a video message to his friends and fans bidding them good-bye.[48]

Clarke died in Sri Lanka on 19 March 2008 after suffering from breathing problems, according to Rohan de Silva, one of his aides.[26][49][50][51] His aide described the cause as respiratory complications and heart failure stemming from post-polio syndrome.[52]

Only a few days before he died, he had reviewed the manuscript of his final work, The Last Theorem, on which he had collaborated by e-mail with his contemporary Frederik Pohl.[53] The book was published after Clarke’s death.[54] Clarke was buried in Colombo in traditional Sri Lankan fashion on 22 March. His younger brother, Fred Clarke, and his Sri Lankan adoptive family were among the thousands in attendance.[55] [edit] The Big Three

Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein became known as the “Big Three” of science fiction.[4] Clarke and Heinlein began writing to each other after The Exploration of Space was published in 1951, and first met in person the following year. They remained on cordial terms for many years, including visits in the United States and Sri Lanka. During a 1984 meeting at the home of Larry Niven in California, however, Heinlein attacked Clarke verbally over his views on United States foreign and space policy (especially the Strategic Defense Initiative). Although the two reconciled, formally, they remained distant until Heinlein’s death in 1988.[24]

Clarke and Asimov first met in New York City in 1973, and they traded friendly insults and jabs for decades. They established a verbal agreement, the “Clarke–Asimov Treaty”, that when asked who was best, the two would say Clarke was the best science fiction writer and Asimov was the best science writer. In 1972, Clarke put the “treaty” on paper in his dedication to Report on Planet Three and Other Speculations.[24][56]

As a tribute to him, Sri Lanka Astronomical Association in partnership with Arthur C Clarke Estate and the British Council has organized an event on March 17th.

Be heroic yourselves. Dare to do what is in your heart to do.

Cosmic Peace,

Janet from Janet’s Planet