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Sri Lankabhimanya Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FRAS (16 December 1917 – 19 March 2008) was a British science fiction author, inventor, and futurist, most famous for the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, written in collaboration with director Stanley Kubrick, a collaboration which also produced the film of the same name; and as a host and commentator in the British television series Mysterious World.

Clarke served in the Royal Air Force as a radar instructor and technician from 1941-1946, proposed satellite communication systems in 1945 which won him the Franklin Institutemarker Stuart Ballantine Gold Medal in 1963. He was the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society from 1947-1950 and again in 1953. Later, he helped fight for the preservation of lowland gorillas.

Clarke emigrated to Sri Lankamarker in 1956 largely to pursue his interest in scuba diving, and lived there until his death. He was knighted by the British monarchy in 1998, and was awarded Sri Lanka's highest civil honour, Sri Lankabhimanya, in 2005.

Biography

Clarke was born in Mineheadmarker, Somersetmarker, Englandmarker. As a boy he enjoyed stargazing and reading old American science fiction pulp magazines. After secondary school and studying at Huish's Grammar School, Tauntonmarker, he was unable to afford a university education and got a job as an auditor in the pensions section of the Board of Education.

During the Second World War he served in the Royal Air Force as a radar specialist and was involved in the early warning radar defence system, which contributed to the RAF's success during the Battle of Britain. Clarke spent most of his wartime service working on Ground Controlled Approach (GCA) radar as documented in the semi-autobiographical Glide Path, his only non-science-fiction novel. Although GCA did not see much practical use in the war, it proved vital to the Berlin Airlift of 1948–1949 after several years of development. Clarke initially served in the ranks, and was a Corporal instructor on radar at No 9 Radio School, RAF Yatesburymarker. He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer (Technical Branch) on 27 May 1943. He was promoted Flying Officer on 27 November 1943. He was appointed chief training instructor at RAF Honileymarker and was demobilised with the rank of Flight Lieutenant. After the war he earned a first-class degree in mathematics and physics at King's College Londonmarker.

In the postwar years, Clarke became the Chairman of the British Interplanetary Society from 1946-1947 and again from 1951-1953. Although he was not the originator of the concept of geostationary satellites, one of his most important contributions may be his idea that they would be ideal telecommunications relays. He advanced this idea in a paper privately circulated among the core technical members of the BIS in 1945. The concept was published in Wireless World in October of that year. Clarke also wrote a number of non-fiction books describing the technical details and societal implications of rocketry and space flight. The most notable of these may be The Exploration of Space (1951) and The Promise of Space (1968). In recognition of these contributions the geostationary orbit above the equator is officially recognized by the International Astronomical Union as a Clarke Orbit.

On a trip to Florida in 1953 Clarke met and quickly married Marilyn Mayfield, a 22-year-old American divorcee with a young son. They separated permanently after six months, although the divorce was not finalised until 1964. "The marriage was incompatible from the beginning", says Clarke. Clarke never remarried but was close to Leslie Ekanayake, who died in 1977. In his biography of Stanley Kubrick, John Baxter cites Clarke's homosexuality as a reason why Clarke relocated, due to more tolerant laws in regards to homosexuality in Sri Lankamarker. Journalists who inquired of Clarke whether he was gay were told, "No, merely mildly cheerful." However, Michael Moorcock has writtenMoorcook's assertion is not supported by other reports, although in an interview in the July, 1986 issue of Playboy magazine, Clarke stated "Of course. Who hasn't?" when asked if he has had bisexual experiences.

Clarke also maintained a vast collection of manuscripts and personal memoirs, maintained by his brother Fred Clarke in Taunton, Somerset, England, and referred to as the "Clarkives." Clarke has said that some of his private diaries will not be published until 30 years after his death. When asked why they were sealed up, he answered "'Well, there might be all sorts of embarrassing things in them".

Writing career

While Clarke had a few stories published in fanzines, between 1937 and 1945, his first professional sales appeared in Astounding Science Fiction in 1946: "Loophole" was published in April, while "Rescue Party", his first sale, was published in May. Along with his writing Clarke briefly worked as Assistant Editor of Science Abstracts (1949) before devoting himself to writing full-time from 1951 onward. Clarke also contributed to the Dan Dare series published in Eagle, and his first three published novels were written for children.

Clarke corresponded with C. S. Lewis in the 1940s and 1950s and they once met in an Oxford pub, The Eastgatemarker, to discuss science fiction and space travel. Clarke, after Lewis's death, voiced great praise for him, saying the Ransom Trilogy was one of the few works of science fiction that could be considered literature.

In 1948 he wrote "The Sentinel" for a BBC competition. Though the story was rejected it changed the course of Clarke's career. Not only was it the basis for A Space Odyssey, but "The Sentinel" also introduced a more mystical and cosmic element to Clarke's work. Many of Clarke's later works feature a technologically advanced but still-prejudiced mankind being confronted by a superior alien intelligence. In the cases of The City and the Stars (and its original version, Against the Fall of Night), Childhood's End, and the 2001 series, this encounter produces a conceptual breakthrough that accelerates humanity into the next stage of its evolution. In Clarke's authorized biography, Neil McAleer writes that: "many readers and critics still consider [Childhood's End] Arthur C. Clarke's best novel."

Clarke lived in Sri Lankamarker from 1956 until his death in 2008, having emigrated there when it was still called Ceylonmarker, first in Unawatunamarker on the south coast, and then in Colombomarker. Clarke held citizenship of both the UKmarker and Sri Lankamarker. He was an avid scuba diver and a member of the Underwater Explorers Club. Living in Sri Lanka afforded him the opportunity to visit the ocean year-round. It also inspired the locale for his novel The Fountains of Paradise in which he described a space elevator. This, he believed, ultimately will be his legacy, more so than geostationary satellites, once space elevators make rocket based access to space obsolete.

His many predictions culminated in 1958 when he began a series of essays in various magazines that eventually became Profiles of the Future published in book form in 1962. A timetable up to the year 2100 describes inventions and ideas including such things as a "global library" for 2005.

Later years

In the early 1970s Clarke signed a three-book publishing deal, a record for a science-fiction writer at the time. The first of the three was Rendezvous with Rama in 1973, which won him all the main genre awards and has spawned sequels that, along with the 2001 series, formed the backbone of his later career.

In 1975 Clarke's short story "The Star" was not included in a new high school English textbook in Sri Lankamarker because of concerns that it might offend Roman Catholics even though it had already been selected. The same textbook also caused controversy because it replaced Shakespeare's work with that of Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Isaac Asimov.

In the 1980s Clarke became well known to many for his television programmes Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World, Arthur C. Clarke's World of Strange Powers and Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious Universe. In 1986 he was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America. In 1988 he was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome, having originally contracted polio in 1959, and needed to use a wheelchair most of the time thereafter. Sir Arthur C Clarke was for many years a Vice Patron of the British Polio Fellowship.

In the 1989 Queen's Birthday Honours Clarke was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) "for services to British cultural interests in Sri Lanka". The same year he became the first Chancellor of the International Space Universitymarker, serving from 1989 to 2004 and he also served as Chancellor of Moratuwa University in Sri Lankamarker from 1979 to 2002.

In 1994, Clarke appeared in a science fiction film; he portrayed himself in the telefilm Without Warning, an American production about an apocalyptic alien first contact scenario presented in the form of a faux newscast.

On 26 May 2000 he was made a Knight Bachelor "for services to literature" at a ceremony in Colombo. The award of a knighthood had been announced in the 1998 New Year Honours, but investiture with the award had been delayed, at Clarke's request, because of an accusation, by the British tabloid The Sunday Mirror, of paedophilia. The charge was subsequently found to be baseless by the Sri Lankan police. According to The Daily Telegraph (London), the Mirror subsequently published an apology, and Clarke chose not to sue for defamation. Clarke was then duly knighted.

Although he and his home were unharmed by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquakemarker tsunami, his "Arthur C. Clarke Diving School" at Hikkaduwamarker was destroyed. He made humanitarian appeals, and the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation worked towards a better disaster notification systems. The school has since been rebuilt.

In September 2007, he provided a video greeting for NASAmarker's Cassini probe's flyby of Iapetus (which plays an important role in 2001: A Space Odyssey). In December 2007 on his 90th birthday, Clarke recorded a video message to his friends and fans bidding them good-bye.

Clarke died in Sri Lanka on 19 March 2008 after suffering from breathing problems, according to Rohan de Silva, one of his aides.

Only a few days before he died, he had reviewed the manuscript of his final work, The Last Theorem, on which he had collaborated by e-mail with his contemporary Frederik Pohl. The book was published after Clarke's death.

Clarke was buried in Colombomarker in traditional Sri Lankan fashion on 22 March. His younger brother, Fred Clarke, and his Sri Lankan adoptive family were among the thousands in attendance.

Position on religion

Themes of religion and spirituality appear in much of Clarke's writing, though his position on "Religion" is ultimately somewhat complicated. Although his oeuvre was not explicitly religious — “Any path to knowledge is a path to God — or Reality, whichever word one prefers to use”, he said — he did give Man’s journey a mystical significance and a quasi-religious intensity, and described himself as 'fascinated by the concept of God'. When he entered the RAF, he insisted that his dog tags be marked "pantheist" rather than the default, Church of England. In 2000, Clarke told the Sri Lankan newspaper, The Island, "I don't believe in God or an afterlife," and he identifies himself as an atheist. He was honoured as a Humanist Laureate in the International Academy of Humanism. He has also described himself as a "crypto-Buddhist", insisting that Buddhism is not a religion. He displayed little interest about religion early in his life, for example, only discovering a few months after marrying his wife, that she had strong Presbyterian beliefs.

In a three-day "dialogue on man and his world" with Alan Watts, Clarke stated that he was biased against religion and said that he could not forgive religions for what he perceived as their inability to prevent atrocities and wars over time.

In a reflection of the dialogue where he more broadly stated "mankind", his introduction to the penultimate episode of Mysterious World, entitled, Strange Skies, Clarke said, "I sometimes think that the universe is a machine designed for the perpetual astonishment of astronomers."

Near the very end of that same episode, the last segment of which covered the Star of Bethlehem, he stated that his favourite theory was that it might be a pulsar. Given that pulsars were discovered in the interval between his writing the short story, The Star (1955), and making Mysterious World (1980), and given the more recent discovery of pulsar PSR B1913+16, he said, "How romantic, if even now, we can hear the dying voice of a star, which heralded the Christian era."

Clarke left written instructions for a funeral that stated: "Absolutely no religious rites of any kind, relating to any religious faith, should be associated with my funeral."

A famous quote of Clarke's is often cited: "One of the great tragedies of mankind is that morality has been hijacked by religion."

Views on paranormal phenomena

Early in his career, Clarke had a fascination with the paranormal and stated that it was part of the inspiration for his novel Childhood's End. Citing the numerous promising paranormal claims that were shown to be fraudulent, Clarke described his earlier openness to the paranormal having turned to being "an almost total skeptic" by the time of his 1992 biography. During interviews, both in 1993 and 2004–2005, he stated that he did not believe in reincarnation, citing that there was no mechanism to make it possible, though he stated "I'm always paraphrasing J. B. S. Haldane: 'The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we can imagine.'" (He loved quoting Haldane.) He described the idea of reincarnation as fascinating, but favored a finite existence.

Clarke was well known for his television series investigating paranormal phenomena Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World, Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious Universe and Arthur C. Clarke's World of Strange Powers, enough to be parodied in an episode of The Goodies in which his show is canceled after it is claimed he does not exist.

Themes, style, and influences

Clarke's work is marked by an optimistic view of science empowering mankind's exploration of the Solar System, and the world's oceans. Clarke's images of the future often feature a Utopian setting with highly developed technology, ecology, and society, based on the author's ideals.His early published stories would usually feature the extrapolation of a technological innovation or scientific breakthrough into the underlying decadence of his own society.

"The Sentinel" (1948) introduced a religious theme to Clarke's work, a theme that he later explored more deeply in The City and the Stars (and its earlier version, Against the Fall of Night). Surprisingly for a writer who is often held up as an example of hard science fiction's obsession with technology, three of Clarke's novels have this as a theme. Another theme of "The Sentinel" was the notion that the evolution of an intelligent species would eventually make them something close to gods, which was also explored in his 1953 novel Childhood's End. He also briefly touched upon this idea in his novel Imperial Earth. This idea of transcendence through evolution seems to have been influenced by Olaf Stapledon, who wrote a number of books dealing with this theme. Clarke has said of Stapledon's 1930 book Last and First Men that "No other book had a greater influence on my life ... [It] and its successor Star Maker (1937) are the twin summits of [Stapledon's] literary career".

Clarke also took a major interest in "Inner Space", which can be seen in his stories, Big Game Hunt, The Deep Range and The Shining Ones, as well as Dolphin Island.

Adapted screenplays

2001: A Space Odyssey

Clarke's first venture into film was the Stanley Kubrick directed 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick and Clarke had met in New York Citymarker in 1964 to discuss the possibility of a collaborative film project. As the idea developed, it was decided that the story for the film was to be loosely based on Clarke's short story "The Sentinel", written in 1948 as an entry in a BBC short story competition. Originally, Clarke was going to write the screenplay for the film, but Kubrick suggested during one of their brainstorming meetings that before beginning on the actual script, they should let their imaginations soar free by writing a novel first, which the film would be based on upon its completion. "This is more or less the way it worked out, though toward the end, novel and screenplay were being written simultaneously, with feedback in both directions. Thus I rewrote some sections after seeing the movie rushes -- a rather expensive method of literary creation, which few other authors can have enjoyed." The novel ended up being published a few months after the release of the movie.

Due to the hectic schedule of the film's production, Kubrick and Clarke had difficulty collaborating on the book. Clarke completed a draft of the novel at the end of 1964 with the plan to publish in 1965 in advance of the film's release in 1966. After many delays the film was released in the spring of 1968, before the book was completed. The book was credited to Clarke alone. Clarke later complained that this had the effect of making the book into a novelisation, that Kubrick had manipulated circumstances to downplay Clarke's authorship. For these and other reasons, the details of the story differ slightly from the book to the movie. The film contains little explanation for the events taking place. Clarke, on the other hand, wrote thorough explanations of "cause and effect" for the events in the novel. James Randi later recounted that upon seeing 2001 for the first time, Clarke left the movie theatre during the first break crying because he was so upset about how the movie had turned out. Despite their differences, both film and novel were well received.

In 1972, Clarke published The Lost Worlds of 2001, which included his accounts of the production, and alternate versions, of key scenes. The "special edition" of the novel A Space Odyssey (released in 1999) contains an introduction by Clarke in which he documents the events leading to the release of the novel and film.

2010

In 1982 Clarke continued the 2001 epic with a sequel, 2010: Odyssey Two. This novel was also made into a film, 2010, directed by Peter Hyams for release in 1984. Due to the political environment in America in the 1980s, the film presents a Cold War theme, with the looming tensions of nuclear warfare not featured in the novel. The film was not considered to be as revolutionary or artistic as 2001, but the reviews were still positive.

Clarke's email correspondence with Hyams was published in 1984. Titled The Odyssey File: The Making of 2010, and co-authored with Hyams, it illustrates his fascination with the then-pioneering medium of email and its use for them to communicate on an almost daily basis at the time of planning and production of the film while living on different continents. The book also includes Clarke's list of the best science-fiction films ever made.

Clarke appeared in the film, first as the man feeding the pigeons while Dr. Heywood Floyd is engaged in a conversation in front of the White House. Later, in the hospital scene with David Bowman's mother, an image of the cover of Time portrays Clarke as the American President and Kubrick as the Russian Premier.

Rendezvous with Rama

Clarke's award-winning 1972 novel Rendezvous with Rama was optioned many years ago, but is currently in "development hell". Director David Fincher is attached to the project, together with actor Morgan Freeman.

Beyond 2001

2001: A Space Odyssey, Clarke's most famous work, goes well beyond the 1968 movie. Its 1984 sequel, 2010 was based on Clarke's 1982 novel, 2010: Odyssey Two. There were two further sequels that have not been adapted to the cinema: 2061: Odyssey Three and 3001: The Final Odyssey.

In 2061, Halley's Comet swings back to nearby Earth, and Clarke uses the event as an excuse to take an aged Dr. Heywood Floyd on a romp through the solar system, visiting the comet before crash-landing on Europa, where he discovers the fates of Dave Bowman, HAL 9000, and the Europan life-forms which have been protected by the Monoliths.

With 3001: The Final Odyssey, Clarke returns to examine the character of astronaut Frank Poole, who was killed outside Discovery by HAL in the original novel and film, but whose body was revived in the year 3001.

Essays and short stories

Most of Clarke's essays (from 1934 to 1998) can be found in the book Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! (2000). Most of his short stories can be found in the book The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke (2001). Another collection of early essays was published in The View from Serendip (1977), which also included one short piece of fiction, "When the Twerms Came". He wrote short stories under the pseudonyms of E. G. O'Brien and Charles Willis.

Concept of the geostationary communications satellite



Clarke's most important scientific contribution may be his idea that geostationary satellites would be ideal telecommunications relays. He described this concept in a paper titled Extra-Terrestrial Relays — Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?, published in Wireless World in October 1945. The geostationary orbit is now sometimes known as the Clarke Orbit or the Clarke Belt in his honour.

However, it is not clear that this article was actually the inspiration for the modern telecommunications satellite. John R. Pierce, of Bell Labsmarker, arrived at the idea independently in 1954 and he was actually involved in the Echo satellite and Telstar projects. Moreover, Pierce stated that the idea was "in the air" at the time and certain to be developed regardless of Clarke's publication. In an interview given shortly before his death, Clarke was asked whether he thought communications satellites would become important; he replied

Though different from Clarke's idea of telecom relay, the idea of communicating with satellites in geostationary orbit itself had been described earlier. For example, the concept of geostationary satellites was described in Hermann Oberth's 1923 book Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen (The Rocket into Interplanetary Space) and then the idea of radio communication with those satellites in Herman Potočnik's (written under the pseudonym Hermann Noordung) 1928 book Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums — der Raketen-Motor ( The Problem of Space Travel — The Rocket Motor) sections: Providing for Long Distance Communications and Safety and (possibly referring to the idea of relaying messages via satellite, but not that 3 would be optimal) Observing and Researching the Earth's Surface published in Berlinmarker. Clarke acknowledged the earlier concept in his book Profiles of the Future.

Awards, honours and other recognition



Partial bibliography

Select Novels



Short story collections



Non-fiction

  • The Exploration of Space. New York: Harper, 1951
  • Voices from the Sky: Previews of the Coming Space Age. New York: Harper & Row, 1965
  • Astounding Days: A Science Fictional Autobiography. London: Gollancz, 1989
  • Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! : Collected Works 1934-1998. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999
  • 1977


See also



Cited references

External links




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