One of the giants has flared out.
Arthur C. Clarke, often listed as one of the two or three greatest science fiction writers ever, died Wednesday morning in his adopted country, Sri Lanka. Clarke was perhaps best known for the book and film adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Others may know him for Childhood’s End or his fantastic short stories. My personal favorite is Rendezvous with Rama, a haunting book that reminds readers that if we ever do make first contact, what we find may seem like magic to our minds. Rama won the Hugo, Nebula, Campbell, and Jupiter Awards: quite a coup for one book! In over one hundred books and story collections, Clarke makes readers aware that space is a mighty big place while helping bring it a little closer to earth.
But Clarke had impact far beyond fiction. A species of dinosaur is named after him. An asteroid is named after him. Britain’s highest awards for both science fiction novels and achievement in space science bear his name as well. These are not just honorary titles, Clarke chaired the British Interplanetary Society for many years. Many remember him for serving as the expert commentator with Walter Cronkite as the Apollo missions were broadcast. The ideas he contributed regarding geostationary satellites revolutionized communications and weather forecasting. His advocacy of space elevators will influence space science long after his passing.
Although he was made a Knight by the U.K. in 2000, and remained a dual citizen of that country, Clarke’s heart was won by Sri Lanka, where he moved in 1956 to pursue a love of underwater exploration. Clarke loved the water, and ran a diving school, which helped him in his lifelong battle against post-polio myelitis. He made the news again by surviving the tsunamis in 2004.
The next time your eyes turn to the night skies, think about Arthur Clarke, and in his honor, think about space. I’d like to think he’s just traveled on, continuing his exploration.