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ARTHUR CHARLES CLARKE (1917-2008) - pseudonyms: Charles Willis, E.G. O'Brien


UK writer, one of the grand masters of science fiction with Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein. Apart from his literary endeavours, however, Arthur C. Clarke is remembered as the inventor of communication satellite, an idea he first expounded in a 1945 article entitled 'Extraterrestial Relays.' Clarke's professional writing career spanned over five decades.

-"Behind every man now alive stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living. Since the dawn of time, roughly a hundred billion human beings have walked the planet Earth.
--Now this is an interesting number, for by a curious coincidence there are approximately a hundred billion stars in our local universe, the Milky Way. So for every man who has ever lived, in this universe, there shines a star."
(in 2001, A Space Odyssey, 1968)

Arthur C. Clarke was born at the coast town of Minehead, the eldest of four children. His father, Charles Wright Clarke, was a Post Office engineer turned into a farmer; he died in 1931. Left with her children, Clarke's mother continued to run the farm. To augment the family income, she gave riding lessons, bred Cairn terriers, and took paying guests. "Though she must always have been short of money, I do not recall any real hardship," Clarke recalled in  Astounding Days (1989).

Clarke became interested in science in early age, devouring books by H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Rider Haggard, and others. He was also an avid reader of Astounding Stories, Magnet, Boy's Own Paper, and Meccano Magazine. His primary source of books was the Taunton Public Library, which he visited almost daily. From the Minehead Public Library he borrowed W. Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men; "no book before or since has had such an impact on my imagination," Clarke once said. While at Huish's Grammar School, Clarke started to write stories which were published in school magazines and fan magazines. After doing homework, he built transmitters and chrystal radio sets. At thirteen, Clarke constructed his first telescope.

On leaving school Clarke took the entrance examination for the Civil Service Executive Grade, scoring 100% in arithmetic. From the summer of 1936, he worked in the Exchequer and Audit Department in London, where his job involved auditing teacher pensions. Clarke's apartment became the meeting place of the British Interplanetary Society, which he had joined when he was sixteen, and in 1949 he was appointed chairman of the BIS.

In 1941, Clarke joined the Royal Air Force, specializing in radar and eventually rising to the rank of flight-lieutenant. During the service Clarke sold his first science-fiction story to John W. Campbell, editor of Astounding Science Fiction. In 1945 he wrote a technical paper that was the forerunner of communication satellites. The essay war reprinted in Ascent to Orbit, a collection of his technical writings, that he brought out after receiving the Marconi Award in 1982 for his contributions to communications technology. A short paper, 'Stationary Orbits,' was published in The Journal of the British Astronomical Association in December 1947. Clarke's non-science fiction novel, Glide Path (1963) was based on a testing program for the first blind approach radar.

After the war Clarke entered King's College, London, and took two years later his B.Sc. with honours in physics and mathematics in 1948. His first published novel, Prelude to Space, was written in three weeks during the summer of 1947. Some of his early stories Clarke wrote under the pseudonym Charles Willis, once he used the name E.G. O'Brien. From 1949 to 1951 he was an assistant editor of Physics Abstracts. The drawings of R.A. Smith, who was a member of the British Interplanetary Society, contributed greatly to Clarke's early books, The Exploration of Space (1951) and The Exploration of the Moon (1954). Since 1952 Clarke worked as a full-time writer.

In the 1950s Clarke became interested in undersea exploration. He settled in 1956 permanently in Sri Lanka, where he wrote several fiction and nonfiction books and articles about the Indian Ocean. With his friend Mike Wilson he filmed the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, from which his novel The Deep Range (1957) derives. Clarke also served as a director of Rocket Publishing, London, Underwater Safaris, Colombo, and Spaceward Corporation, New York. During his career, Clarke witnessed the development of all the major space programs, from Sputnik and Apollo to Voyager. Fortunate to see his visions turn into reality, he also appeared as commentator on CBS TV for the Apollo 11, 12 and 15 Moon missions.

Due to a severe attack of polio in 1962, Clarke became completely paralyzed. As his farewell to the sea he wrote Dolphin Island. After recovering Clarke started his cooperation with the director Stanley Kubrick. Later he accompanied his friend Mike Wilson on an underwater adventure six miles off the coast of Sri Lanka, which was depicted in The Treasure of the Great Reef  (1964). However, Clarke still spent over six months out of his beloved island because of tax laws. His home was was surrounded by a high wall and an electric fence. In 1975 the Indian government presented him with a satellite dish, with which he was able to receive programs broadcast from experimental satellite ATS6.

"The island of Ceylon is a small universe; it contains as many variations of culture, scenery, and climate as some countries a dozen times its size. What you get from it depends on what you bring; if you never stray from your hotel bar or the dusty streets of westernized Colombo, you could perish of fulminating boredom in a week, and it would serve you right. But if you are interested in people, history, nature, and art - the things that really matter - you may find, as I have, that a lifetime is not enough." (Clarke in The View from Serendip, 1977)

In the 1980s Clarke was a presenter of the television series Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World (1980) and World of Strange Powers (1985). He lectured widely in Britain and in the United States. In 1980 he was Vikram Sarabhai Professor at Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad, India. Until 1982 Clarke had written his books with a typewriter, but after the arrival of his first computer – 5 MB of memory – he used only his word processor.

Clarke's best known works include the short story The Sentinel (1951), about man's contact with sentient life. In the spring of 1964, Clarke retired to Hotel Chelsea in New York and began to write a novel about a space travel. His illustrious acquaintances during this period included Arhur Miller, Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, and Norman Mailer. Clarke's story was the basis of the novel and film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), for which Clarke wrote the script with Stanley Kubrick. The novel was based on the original screenplay.

In 2001 a mysterious monolith is found buried beneath the surface of the moon. It send's a signal towards Jupiter. To solve the mystery astronauts are sent to Jupiter with the help of the "infallible" super-computer HAL 9000, voiced in the film by the Canadian actor Douglas Rain. With the amazing machine Clarke presents one of the basic philosophical questions: can there be intelligence without consciousness? After a series of accidents and HAL's operations, one of the astronauts, David Bowman, is left alone as the ship reaches the planet. There he embarks on the final step in humankind's next developmental stage and at the end, as a fetus, symbolizes the birth of the Übermensch. "If anyone understands it on the first viewing, we've failed in our intention", Clarke said of the film. Clarke continued the Odyssey Saga in three sequels, 2010: Odyssey Two (1982), 2061: Odyssey Three (1988), and 3001: The Final Odyssey (1996).

Childhood's End (1953) told about the beginning of the age of Humankind after Overlods have eliminated ignorance, disease and poverty. A Fall of Moondust (1961) was a tale of marooned moon schooner, and in Rendezvous with Rama (1973) a research team is sent to investigate a cylindrical object hurtling through the solar system. Although Clarke announced that The Fountains of Paradise  (1979) would be his last work of fiction, he continued his literary activity. With Gentry Lee, the chief engineer on Project Galileo, Clarke wrote Cradle (1988), originally conceived as a movie project, and Rama II (1989). Clarke's catastrophe novel The Hammer of God (1993) about an asteroid hurtling toward Earth, anticipated such films as Deep Impact (1998) and Armageddon (1998). Clarke's Venus Prime series was franchised to Paul Preuss.

The Kubrick/Clarke vision from 1968 of computers and space programs at the turn of the century did not came true. In an interview Clarke acknowledged: "We science-fiction writers never attempt to predict. In fact, it's the exact opposite. As my friend Ray Bradbury said, 'We do this not to predict the future but to prevent it.'"(Newsweek, December 2000-February 2001, special edition)

Clarke was fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and recipient of many awards for his science fiction. He was the guest of honour at the 1956 World Science Fiction Convention, when he won a Hugo for his story 'The Star.' Rendezvous with Rama won the Nebula and Hugo Awards, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Clarke also received the Franklin Gold Medal, and in 1962 the UNESCO-Kalinga Prize for popularizing science. Clarke was made a knight in 1998.

In 1954 he married Marilyn Mayfield, a 22-year-old American, whom he had met on a trip to Florida; they separated after a few months and divorced officially in 1964. A British tabloid, the Sunday Mirror, claimed in 1998 that he had paid young boys for sex. After an investigation by the Sri Lankan police and Interpol, Clarke was cleared of accusations; he did not sue the newspaper. For the last two decades of his life, Clarke suffered from post-polio syndrome. Clarke died in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on March 19, 2008.

"Nevertheless, it is vital to remember that information – in the sense of raw data – is not knowledge; that knowledge is not wisdom; and that wisdom is not foresight. But information is the first essential step to all of these." (in 'Is There Life After Television' in Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds!, 1999)

A central theme in Clarke's fiction was the "spiritual" rebirth and the search for man's place in the universe. In Rendezvous with Rama the discussions of a research team form an allegory for the great question of the meaning of life. 2001 traces the evolution of man and humanity's quest for existential answers, symbolized by the unearthly monolith. In the sequels technological progress allows to reveal some of the secrets behind the monolith.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic", Clarke once said. The technological details of his books were flawless, and often Clarke guessed right new advances in science, but not always. In an article from 1999, 'The Twentieth-First Century: A (Very) Brief History,' he predicted that the last coal mine is closed in 2006, a city in a third world country is devastated in 2009 by the accidental explosion of an A-bomb in its armory, and in 2014 starts the construction of Hilton Orbiter Hotel. A step forwaard with the idea of a space elevator, as dramatized in The Fountains of Paradise, was taken up in the early 2000s. NASA's Institute for Advaced Concepts program funded Bradley C. Edwards' and Eric A. Wrestling's study The Space Elevator (Spaego, San Francisco, 2003). Colin McInnes and Chris Davis published in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society (vol. 59, 2006) a study of the use of space elevators as energy-free "orbital siphons".

For further reading: Arthur C. Clarke: A Critical Companion by Robin Anne Reid (1997); World Authors 1900-1950, Vol. 1, ed. M. Seymour-Smith and A.C. Kimmens (1996); Arthur C. Clarke: The Authorized Biography by Neil McAleer (1992); Clarke's Odysseys by Peter Stockill (1990); Arthur C. Clarke: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography by David N. Samuelson (1984); Against the Night, the Stars by J. Hollow (1983, rev. ed. 1987); Arthur C. Clarke by E.S. Rabkin (1979; 2nd ed,, 2008); The Space Odysseys of Arthur C. Clarke by G.E. Slusser (1978); Arthur C.Clarke, ed. J.D. Olander and M.H. Greenberg (1977). "Arthur and I share similar views on science fiction, on science, on social questions, and on politics. I have never had an occasion to disagree with him on any of these things, which is a credit to his clear-thinking intelligence." (Isaac Asimov in I. Asimov: A Memoir, 1994)

Selected works:

  • Interplanetary Flight: An Introduction to Astronautics, 1950
  • The Exploration of Space, 1951
  • Prelude to Space: A Compellingly Realistic Novel of Interplanetary Flight, 1953
  • The Sands of Mars, 1951
    - Marsin aamunkoitto (suom. Anja Toivonen, 1980)
  • Islands in the Sky, 1952
    - Ilmojen saaret (suom. Hugo L. Mäkinen, 1954)
  • Childhood's End, 1953
    - Lapsuuden loppu (suom. Matti Kannosto, 1973) 
  • Expedition to Earth: Eleven Science-Fiction Stories, 1953 (includes the short story The Sentinel)
  • Going into Space, 1954
  • The Exploration of the Moon, 1954 (illustrations by R.A. Smith)
  • The Young Traveller in Space, 1954 (as The Scottie Book of Space Travel, 1957)
  • Earthlight, 1955
    - Maan valo (suom. Eila Salminen, 1985)
  • The Coast of Choral, 1956 (with sixty-four photographs in colour and black-and-white by Mike Wilson)
  • The City and the Stars, 1956
    - Kadonnut menneisyys (suom. Anja Toivonen, 1982)
  • The Deep Range, 1957
  • The Making of a Moon: The Story of the Earth Satellite Program, 1957
  • The Reefs of Tabrobane: Underwater Adventures around Ceylon, 1957 (with photos. by Mike Wilson)
  • Tales from the White Hart, 1957
  • Boy Beneath the Sea, 1958 (by Mike Wilson; text by Arthur C. Clarke)
  • Voice Across the Sea, 1958
  • Across the Sea of Stars, 1959 (an omnibus containing the complete novels of Childhood’s End and Earthlight and eighteen short stories; introd. by Clifton Fadiman)
  • The Challenge of the Sea, 1960 (illustrated by Alex Schomburg; introd. by Wernher von Braun)
  • The Challenge of the Spaceship: Previews of Tomorrow's World, 1960
  • The First Five Fathoms, 1960
  • Expedition to Earth. Eleven Science-Fiction Stories, 1961
  • The Other Side of the Sky. Twenty-Four Science Fiction Short Stories, 1961
  • A Fall of Moondust, 1961
    - Selene I (suom. Matti Kannosto, 1976)
  • From the Ocean, from the Stars, 1962 (an omnibus containing the complete novels: The Deep Range and The City and the Stars, and twenty-four short stories)
  • Reach for Tomorrow, 1962
  • Tales of Ten Worlds, 1962
  • Indian Ocean Adventure, 1962 (photographs by Mike Wilson)
  • Profiles of the Future, 1962
  • Dolphin Island: A Story of the People of the Sea, 1963
  • Glide Path, 1963
  • The Treasure of the Great Reef, 1964 (with Mike Wilson)
  • Man and Space, 1964 (by Arthur C. Clarke and the editors of Life)
    - Ulos avaruuteen (suom. Pertti Jotuni, 1972)
  • Voices from the Sky: Previews of the Coming Space Age, 1965
  • Prelude to Mars, 1965 (an omnibus containing the complete novels Prelude to Space and The Sands of Mars and sixteen short stories)
  • The Nine Billion Names of God, 1967
  • An Arthur Clarke Omnibus, 1967
  • The Coming of the Space Age: Famous Accounts of Man’s Probing of the Universe, 1967 (selected and edited by Arthur C. Clarke)
  • Time Probe: The Sciences in Science Fiction, 1967 (collected and with an introduction by Arthur C. Clarke)
  • The Nine Billion Names of God; the Best Short Stories of Arthur C. Clarke, 1967
  • A Second Arthur C. Clarke Omnibus, 1968
  • The Promise of the Sky, 1968
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968 (based on the screenplay by Arthur C. Clarke & Stanley Kubrick) 
    2001 avaruusseikkailu (suom. Sakari Ahlbäck, 1969)
    - Film 1968, prod. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Stanley Kubrick Productions, dir. by Stanley Kubrick, screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, starring Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Daniel Richter, Leonard Rossiter, Margaret Tyzack
  • The Lion of Comarre & Against the Fall of the Night, 1970
  • First on the Moon, 1970
  • A Meeting with Medusa, 1971
  • Of Time and Stars: The Worlds  of Arthur C. Clarke, 1972 (with an introduction by J. B. Priestley)
    - Tähtiaika (suom. Matti Kannosto, 1975)
  • The Wind from the Sun, 1972
    - Tuuli auringosta (suom. Ilkka Äärelä, 1996)
  • Beyond Jupiter: The Worlds of Tomorrow, 1972 (paintings by Chesley Bonestell)
  • Indian Ocean Treasure, 1972 (with Mike Wilson; illustrated with photographs and maps)
  • Into Space, 1972
  • The Lost Worlds of 2001, 1972
  • Report on Planet Three, and Other Speculations, 1972
  • Rendezvous with Rama, 1973
    - Uhka avaruudesta (suom. Matti Kannosto, 1974)
    - Film 2013 (announced), prod. Morgan Freeman, Lori McCreary, dir. David Fincher, screenplay Scott Brick, Andrew Kahng, Stel Pavlou
  • The Best of Arthur C. Clarke, 1973 (edited by Angus Wells)
  • Imperial Earth: A Fantasy of Love and Discord, 1975
  • The View from Serendip, 1977
  • The Fountains of Paradise, 1979
    - Paratiisin suihkulähteet (suom. Matti Kannosto, 1981)
  • Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World, 1980 (by Simon Welfare & John Fairley)
  • 2010: Odyssey Two, 1980
    2010 Avaruusodysseia (suom. Matti Kannosto, 1983)
    - Film 1984, prod. by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), dir. by Peter Hyams, screenplay by Peter Hyams, starring Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, Bob Balaban, Keir Dullea
  • The Sentinel: Masterworks of Science Fiction and Fantasy, 1983 (illustrated by Lebbeus Woods)
  • Ascent to Orbit: A Scientific Autobiography, 1984
  • Arthur C. Clarke's World of Strange Powers, 1985 (with Simon Welfare and John Fairley)
  • The Odyssey File, 1985 (with Peter Hyams)
  • Selected Works, 1985
  • Arthur C. Clarke's July 20, 2019: Life in the 21st Century, 1986 (ed.)
  • The Songs of Distant Earth, 1986
    - Kaukaisen maan laulut (suom. Matti Kannosto, 1987)
  • 2061: Odyssey Three, 1987
    - Odysseia 2061 (suom. Matti Kannosto, 1988)
  • Arthur C. Clarke's Chronicles of the Strange and Mysterious, 1987 (by John Fairley and Simon Welfare) 
  • Cradle, 1988 (with Gentry Lee)
    - Kehto (suom. Matti Kannosto, 1990)
  • Rama II, 1989 (with Gentry Lee)
    - Rama II (suom. Pekka Markkula, 1991)
  • Tales from Planet Earth, 1989
  • Astounding Days: A Science Fictional Autobiography, 1989
  • The Ghost from the Grand Banks, 1990
  • Project Solar Sail, 1990 (ed.)
  • The Garden of Rama, 1991 (with Gentry Lee)
  • The Fantastic Muse, 1992
  • How the World Was One: Beyond the Global Village, 1992
  • By Space Possessed, 1993
  • The Hammer of God, 1993
  • Rama Revealed, 1993
  • First Men in the Moon by H.G. Wells, 1993 (ed.)
  • War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, 1993 (ed.)
  • Arthur C.Clarke's A-Z of Mysteries: From Atlantis to Zombies, 1994 (by Simon Welfare and John Fairley; with a foreword by Arthur C. Clarke)
    - Tieteen kuvalehden suuri kirja (suom. Jarmo Hakanen, Jere Hakanen, 1996)
  • 3001: The Final Odyssey, 1996
  • Richter 10, 1996 (with Mike McQuay)
  • Childhood Ends: The Earliest Writings of Arthur C. Clarke, 1996 (edited by David Aronovitz)
  • Arthur C. Clarke & Lord Dunsany: A Correspondence, 1998 (edited by Keith Allen Daniels)
  • Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds!: A Vision of the 20th Century as It Happened, 1999 (edited by Ian MacAuley; US title: Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds!: Collected Essays, 1934-1998, 1999)
  • The Light of Other Days, 2000 (with Stephen Baxter)
  • The Trigger, 2000 (with Michael Kube-McDowell)
  • The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke, 2001
  • Time's Eye: A Time Odyssey: 1, 2004 (with Stephen Baxter)
  • Sunstorm: A Time Odyssey: 2, 2005 (with Stephen Baxter)
  • Firstborn: A Time Odyssey: 3, 2007 (with Stephen Baxter)
  • Tales from the White Hart, 2007 (introduction by Stephen Baxter)
  • The Last Theorem, 2008 (with Frederik Pohl)

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