Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke 1917-2008

Anyone who grew up in the late 70s and early 80s will remember "Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World", a TV series in which Clarke fronted a series of articles investigating strange phenomena. It certainly made a deep impression on me; I was obsessed with Doctor Who (as were most small boys then) and all thing extraterrestrial, and the remarkable tales I saw presented were a huge meal for my ten-year-old imagination. I even got the big expensive tie-in book, and poured over its pages, filling my head with crystal skulls, mysterious explosions, ancient anomalous technology and alien visitors. It was also the first place I heard the name of Charles Fort, whose words currently head this blog, and whose wickedly playful philosophy has been a great influence on me.

Clarke's best known amongst the wider public, of course, for his novel and screenplay 2001: a space odyssey, and for predicting satellites with geostationary orbits, but he wrote a huge number of books, many of which I read avidly. His short stories always chimed with me most, filled with extraordinary imaginative speculation as to the future, which was nevertheless always perfectly grounded in contemporary science.

What I remember and treasure most from his stories, however, is its essential optimism. Clarke wasn't naive; he was certainly aware that human nature does not evolve as fast as our technological capability. But he always seemed to project the wonder of possibility, and the hope that for all our faults, in the end all things shall be well.

It doesn't strike me that he was the sort of person who'd want to be remembered in solemnity, and so here's something I also remember from TV relating to the great man in an entirely less serious way:

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