Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Arthur C. Clarke

March is turning out to be a rough month for the nerds.

On the 4th we lost Gary Gygax, a giant of the gaming and fantasy world, and today Arthur C. Clarke, renowned writer, scientist, futurist, humanist and visionary passed away at his home in Sri Lanka.

I'm not going to attempt to offer a detailed obituary for Clarke. Most of it is well known, and anything else I know of his life is just what's on Wikipedia. I don't have much to add to that.

All I do want to say is how much this man's vision and work has touched my life.

As a child I loved his television show Mysterious World. It opened up my curiosity for science. It showed me that asking questions was the way to knowledge, and that even the strangest of phenomena could be studied and understood and explained.

As a teenager I read and loved his novels and short stories. His writing combined the very best of storytelling with his extraordinary visions of the future. These visions were at once optimistic and cautionary. He knew that mankind could achieve great things but also had the potential, if compassion were missing, to wreak havoc on itself and its world.

This compassion was the key to his storytelling genius. In every single one of Clarke's stories, he never lost sight of the need to make it about people. Technology and its impacts were only ever important to the extent that they affected people.

Clarke's philosophies, both scientific and storytelling, were perfectly crystallised in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film's theme of man's evolution, from neanderthal to star child, is mesmerising and deeply moving. The film shows us that man can reach for the stars, and that great things await him when he gets there.

At the age of 90, I guess Clarke's passing is not totally unexpected.

There will be shock and sadness as the news is announced, but I think this is because people like Clarke just seem like they could live forever.

His work and his name certainly will.


Gary said...

I thought he was already dead, but as far as humanism... what about that dumb book about the space derelict full of space robots that ended abruptly.... But i digress. Sad toi see him go -- 2001 is a great book.