Thursday, 20 March 2008

R.I.P. Arthur C. Clarke

On one of our last nights of vacation in Florida (with my parents in Siesta Key - just South of Sarasota), I had just finished reading to my son before bedtime when my wife came into the room and mentioned the sudden death of Anthony Minghella. She paused and then added "And Arthur C. Clarke passed away as well".

Minghella's passing is obviously quite sad. At 54, he was still young and had many years of creativity left. Clarke was 90 and had a remarkable life and string of achievements. But Arthur C. Clarke was a giant for me.

His 1972 novel "Rendezvous With Rama" is still my favourite book of all time. It was the first thing I ever read (short of perhaps "Encyclopedia Brown" when I was a boy) that I literally could not put down. Every page had something new and usually jaw dropping on it and (along with the books of John Wyndham) it opened up the world of sci-fi to me. Of course the rest of Clarke's other books followed - some great ("2010" was another favourite with its central plot point that Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, contained life...and that it was being guarded) and others not so much (diminishing returns on every subsequent Rama book). His imagination, his ability to tie in real science and plausible theories into his stories (solar wind sailors for example) and his encouragement of rational logical thought were all things that I greatly respected about the man.

So later on the same evening I heard of his death, after returning from a short errand, I walked out to the beach on Siesta Key and soaked in a bit of the pounding Gulf of Mexico surf and late night breeze. Straight out over the ocean was the constellation of Orion and behind me an almost full moon blotting out all the other stars but gleaming so bright that it cast my shadow ahead of me. It put me in mind of Clarke's early book "Childhood's End" and I half expected small children to begin walking out of the water...I suppose that should be creepy, but it brought a big smile to my face.

Thank you Mr. Clarke. Thank you very, very much.

1 comment:

James McNally said...

Yeah, Clarke was a biggie for me, too. My dad had an enormous library of science fiction from the 60s and 70s when I was growing up and once I'd read Childhood's End, I was hooked. I loved Clarke's "hard" science fiction more than the Star Trek kind of stuff that some of my friends read, and it helped me to discover similar authors (Larry Niven, Joe Haldeman) who carried me through my teen years. I'll have to go back and give some of those books another reading now...