Thursday, March 20, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke: The Wired Words



Arthur C. Clarke, the award-winning sci-fi writer and futurist most famous for his novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, died Wednesday in Sri Lanka. He was 90.

His writing, both fiction and nonfiction, established Clarke as a visionary during the last half of the 20th century. In a paper titled "Extra-Terrestrial Relays: Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?" published in 1945, Clarke floated the idea of using geosynchronous satellites for communications long before such technology changed our world. (Geostationary orbit is now sometimes known as the Clarke orbit.)

That's just one of the many innovative concepts Clark is credited with unleashing. From the electrosecretary transcription machine to the space elevator, Clarke laid out his visionary ideas in more than 100 fiction and nonfiction books.

Despite his track record as a futurist, Clarke remained humble about his work when he was interviewed for a 1993 Q&A with Wired magazine. Over the years, the writer and his bold ideas were featured several times in the publication.

"I've never predicted the future," Clarke said in that first interview. "Or hardly ever. I extrapolate. Look, I've written six stories about the end of the Earth; they can't all be true!"

Clarke picked his book The Songs of Distant Earth as his most memorable piece of writing, saying, "It's got everything in it that I ever wanted to say."

In one of the writer's last published works, a submission to Wired magazine's six-word story project in 2006, Clarke bent the rules a bit and refused to trim his 10-word piece ("God said, 'Cancel Program GENESIS.' The universe ceased to exist.")

Clarke's writing won him Nebula and Hugo awards, and in 1986 he was named a Grand Master of the Science Fiction Writers of America.

When asked by Wired in 1993 if he had put any thought into what he would want on his epitaph, Clarke said he had.

"Oh, yes," he said. "I've often quoted it: 'He never grew up; but he never stopped growing.'"

Photo: Arthur C. Clarke holds a copy of his book Exploration of Space at a home in Washington, D.C., in this 1952 AP file photo.

See also:

  • Arthur C. Clarke on Life
  • Letter From Sri Lanka
  • 2001 Double Take: I Was a Teenage Centenarian
  • Clarke's Odyssey to 2036
  • The Intelligence Behind AI

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