Arthur C. Clarke died today, a lively old geezer at the age of 90. I was never as heavy a reader of Clarke as I was of Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov (The Big Three early SciFi writers), but there’s no questioning his influence. His paper on geosynchronous orbit of satellites in 1945 eventually inspired some engineers to actually go out and invent satellites (He said he only clarified already extant ideas) so we can maybe thank him for our modern telecom world. His fiction gave Gene Roddenberry the courage to create Star Trek, which in turn lead to Star Wars, and, eventually, Firefly.
I do rather hope this “Dying in Threes” rule doesn’t stay in genres, because now we’ve lost Gary Gygax and Clarke in relatively quick succession. Bradbury may want to go get a medical checkup.
In the meantime, a couple of choice quotes from the New York Times obituary, which I thought the best.
But as a science fiction writer, he couldn’t resist drawing up timelines for what he called “possible futures.” Far from displaying uncanny prescience, these conjectures mainly demonstrated his lifelong, and often disappointed, optimism about the peaceful uses of technology — from his calculation in 1945 that atomic-fueled rockets could be no more than 20 years away to his conviction in 1999 that “clean, safe power” from “cold fusion” would be commercially available in the first years of the new millennium.
Mr. Clarke reveled in his fame. One whole room in his house — which he referred to as the Ego Chamber — was filled with photos and other memorabilia of his career, including pictures of him with Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, and Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.
Mr. Clarke’s standard answer when journalists asked him outright if he was gay was, “No, merely mildly cheerful.”