A fair assessment, I think, of Clarke. I certainly grew up reading him, and
Dennis's choice of examples is excellent. I probably haven't read the "Nine
Billion Names of God' in 60 years but I remember the last line with
clarity. Clarke's prose could range towards pedestrian, but the concepts oh


On Sun, Dec 10, 2017 at 2:35 PM, Dennis Fischer <[log in to unmask]>

> Arthur C Clarke at 100: still the king of science fiction
> 2001: A Space Odyssey, Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious
> World … one hundred years after his birth, the British writer is the
> undisputed master
> [image: Genuine sense of wonder … 2001: A Space Odyssey.]
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> Born on 16 December 1917, Arthur C Clarke
> <> lived long enough to
> see the year he and Stanley Kubrick made cinematically famous with *2001:
> A Space Odyssey*
> <>,
> and it seemed for a while as though he might see in his centenary too: he
> was physically active (he had a passion for scuba diving), non-smoking,
> teetotal and always interested in and curious about the world. But having
> survived a bout of polio in 1962, he found the disease returned as
> post-polio syndrome in the 1980s; it eventually killed him in 2008.
> For a while Clarke, Robert Heinlein
> <>
>  and Isaac Asimov <> constituted
> the “big three”, bestriding science fiction like colossi. Like many SF fans
> I grew up reading Clarke. He was, for a time, everywhere: his books
> thronging the shops, he himself popping up on telly to present *Arthur C.
> Clarke’s Mysterious World*. He was a prolific science writer and
> presenter, a rationalist and space flight advocate. But most important was
> his science fiction. With “The Nine Billion Names of God” (1953), *Childhood’s
> End* (1953) and *2001: A Space Odyssey* (1968) he has a fair claim to
> have produced the best short story, novel and screenplay in 20th-century SF.
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> What all three works share is the ability to construe moments of
> astonishing transcendence out of the careful delineation of scientific or
> technological plausibility. The amazing final line of “Nine Billion Names”
> (I won’t spoil it, if you don’t know it), the expertly paced uncovering of
> the mystery of the alien “overlords” who place Earth under benign
> dictatorship in *Childhood’s End* and the wondrous uplift of *2001* –
> this is the genuine strong black coffee of science fiction.
> Not that he lacks detractors. He was an unshowy writer, his prose
> functional rather than beautiful, his characterisation rudimentary. Some of
> his short stories are marvellous but many read like five-finger exercises,
> often aiming at a humorousness that hasn’t aged well. Towards the end of
> his life Clarke fell into the rut of producing myriad sequels to his
> earlier masterpieces rather than new work. *Rendezvous with Rama* (1973),
> about the appearance in the solar system of a mysterious alien space
> station, vast and seemingly unpiloted, won all the SF awards when it was
> published; but Clarke’s egregious three sequels, co-authored with Gentry
> Lee between 1989 and 1993, neither won nor deserved prizes.
> [image: Arthur C Clarke in 1984.]
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>  Arthur C Clarke in 1984. Photograph: c.MGM/Everett / Rex Features
> Clarke’s own novelisation of his screenplay *2001: A Space Odyssey* makes
> an interesting companion piece to the film, from which it differs in many
> respects. But once again the sequel itch struck Clarke in the 1980s: *2010:
> Odyssey Two*(1982) was followed by *2061: Odyssey Three* (1987) and when
> number four was published as *3001: The Final Odyssey* (1997) fandom
> breathed a sigh of relief.
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> We can take with a pinch of salt his claim to have invented the concept of
> geostationary satellites, where a spacecraft completes one orbit in the
> same 24 hours of the Earth’s turning, so that it occupies a fixed place in
> the sky (this is the principle behind today’s communication satellites that
> enable everything from digital TV to GPS). Clarke certainly did publish an
> article advocating it (Extra-Terrestrial Relays – Can Rocket Stations Give
> Worldwide Radio Coverage?) in Wireless World in October 1945. But Slovene
> rocket engineer Herman Potočnik proposed exactly this idea in 1928, and in
> 1942 American science fiction writer George O Smith published a novella, *QRM
> – Interplanetary*, set on a stationary “relay station” in space. I’m not
> accusing Clarke of plagiarism, yet the concept was clearly in the air in
> the 1940s.
> But none of this matters. We don’t need to advocate the whole of Clarke to
> recognise the best of him, and to acknowledge that his influence continues
> to inform the genre. His plain writing style and meticulous attention to
> detail are there not for their own sake but to provide the most effective
> platform from which to create a genuine sense of wonder.
> Not for nothing is the UK’s premier science fiction prize called the Arthur
> C Clarke award <>.
> Knighted in 2000, he is properly speaking Sir Arthur; but for the huge
> affection many in SF fandom have for him, he could almost be King Arthur.

Desert Sailor