March 18, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke

The three greats of the golden age of science fiction were Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke. Clarke didn't write as much as the others, I think, and it's also not really correct to say his stuff was more imaginative. But I think that there was a quality to his work that made it stand apart. His stories were, how to put this, further away than Heinlein and Asimov. Books like The City and the Stars and Childhood's End stay with me as images in my mind in a way that nothing written by Asimov or Heinlein ever did. Childhood's End, in particular, is quite haunting.

I just noticed an alert on the CNN website that said that Clarke has died at age 90. He had a long and full life; it's hard to feel as if death at age 90 is any kind of tragedy. But it means the giants are all gone now.

Clarke was an odd one for other reasons. I know he was born in the UK, but he chose to spend most of his life living in Sri Lanka. And he never sounded like a Brit to me. I think he may have been from Cornwall; he pronounced his R's even more strongly than Americans do.

Nope, just checked Wikipedia. Someone's already put in his date-of-death. And it says he's from Somerset, which is next to Cornwall. I knew that accent was from the SW of England, so I was part right.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Weird World at 02:09 PM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
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1 The first science fiction I read was The City and the Stars.  I was 10 years old, and spending the night with my father (a private forester) in a US Forest Service barracks in Parsons, WV.  This was in the 1950s.  They had a nice facility (compared to the local hotels (if there were any) at the time), including a small library, and this remarkable book.  It had an astounding effect on me.

Posted by: conrad at March 18, 2008 03:16 PM (MDfbw)

2 The year I was 14 there were three authors I read - Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein.  That was long enough ago that all three were alive and writing at the time.  We lost Bob first, and then Isaac, but while Arthur was around, even though he wasn't writing much, it still felt like that connection remained.

And now he's gone too.  The end of an era.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at March 18, 2008 05:04 PM (PiXy!)

3 Clarke was one of the writers that got me into science fiction. He will be missed.

Posted by: EvilOtto at March 18, 2008 05:29 PM (08dnm)

4 When I was younger I was much more into Asimov than anyone else, but I'll never forget when I read 2001 and thought to myself "So that's what the movie was about!" (even though it's still one of my favorite movies). Rendesvous With Rama was another of my favorites (though the sequels were bleh). He was certainly a great one and will be missed.

Posted by: Mark at March 18, 2008 07:41 PM (2cMUJ)

5 A legend, one of the Three Giants of the genre.

And, I'll admit, my least favorite of the Heinlein/Asimov/Clarke triumvirate.  But then, Childhood's End and Rendevous at Rama are two of my favorite SF novels ever, too.  And being third to Heinlein and Asimov ain't exactly chopped liver...

As pointed out, he was 90, and it's hardly a shock that he's passed, but it's a dark day, nevertheless.

Posted by: Wonderduck at March 18, 2008 07:45 PM (AW3EJ)

6 Not all the giants are gone now; Ray Bradbury is still around.  "Ah, but he wasn't science fiction," you might say.  Perhaps not, but he was the best kind of fantasy.

Posted by: BeckoningChasm at March 19, 2008 05:52 PM (fnoZ9)

7 Bradbury started writing in the 1950's, after the golden age to which I was referring.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at March 19, 2008 06:09 PM (+rSRq)


He actually started in the 40's but I take your point. 

The Golden Age is commonly thought to begin with the publication of A.E. Van Vogt's "Black Destroyer" in 1939, but now I'm just being nitpicky and I'll stop now.

Posted by: BeckoningChasm at March 20, 2008 12:31 PM (kLWtB)

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