Today we mark what would have been the 97th birthday of the great Arthur C. Clarke. Often credited with making fantastic predictions in his science fiction that actually came true, Clarke is among the most recognized and celebrated authors of the previous century. Perhaps the hardest of “hard science fiction” writers, Clarke was the authority on futurism and concepts both mind-bending and fascinatingly plausible. Known best for the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey and the epic film of the same name, Arthur C. Clarke is probably the writer most responsible for making futuristic space travel look realistic in our mind’s eye.
2001 was initially based on Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel,” but at the urging of film director Stanley Kubrick, a collaborative novel was written instead, which released after the film. Clarke continued to write sequels to 2001, the last of which was 3001: The Final Odyssey, a novel which employed retroactive continuity, like all of its predecessors. According to Clarke, though each book in the Odyssey Series takes place in subsequent years, they all take place in their own individual parallel universes. No one was going to catch Clarke with inconsistencies!
Equally as renowned and imaginative is Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama, about a giant alien spaceship which the people of the Earth initially believe to be a killer asteroid. This one incorporated the now-famous “sling-shot-around the sun” maneuver so wildly employed in popular science fiction ever since. Clarke’s science non-fiction writing was also cutting edge, and even more eerily prophetic. In 1945, in an issue of Wireless Magazine (a periodical about radio) he even postulated that global satellites could facilitate world wide communication. Now, of course, we simply take that for granted!
Arthur C. Clarke didn’t just write about the future—his imagination truly lived and thrived there.
This post originally ran on December 16, 2012