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March 18, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008
Posted by Patrick at 09:08 PM * 180 comments

I’ve just got off the phone with NPR’s Morning Edition. I suppose I’ll find out tomorrow if I made any sense.

Things I tried to say:

He was the last, really the last, of the heroic age of twentieth-century science fiction writers. Everyone knows the trinity: Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke.

Despite polio, and post-polio syndrome, and an increasing number of infirmities late in his very long life, he seems to have managed to live very much on his own terms. He had a reputation for self-regard—his nickname in 1930s and ’40s London-area SF fandom was “Ego” Clarke—and on the one occasion when I met him, his method of making conversation was to take Tom Doherty and me on a tour of his file of recent press clips. But good grief. He was Arthur C. Clarke. He invented the geosynchronous satellite and wrote Against the Fall of Night. He wrote 2001 in the Chelsea Hotel and co-broadcasted moon landings with Walter Cronkite. A tenth of his achievements would justify a healthy pride.

Like Heinlein, and unlike Asimov, in Clarke a practical science-and-engineering outlook coexisted with a mystical streak a mile wide. Indeed, much of his work establishes the basic template for one of modern science fiction’s most evergreen effects: the numinous explosion of mystical awe that’s carefully built up to, step by rational step. So much of Clarke’s best work is about that moment when the universe reveals its true vastness to human observers. And unlike many other writers who’ve wrestled with that wrenching frame shift, for Clarke it was rarely terrifying, rarely an engine of alienation and despair. He was all about the transformational reframe, the cosmic perspective, that step off into the great shining dark. He believed it would improve us. He rejoiced to live in a gigantic universe of unencompassable scale, and he thought the rest of us should rejoice, too.

UPDATE: NPR has the Morning Edition segment here. It’s at the top of the page, above the big boxed All Things Considered segment.

Comments on Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008:
#1 ::: Wirelizard ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 09:50 PM:

that step off into the great shining dark

Well, Arthur just made his step off, I guess. Damn.

Godspeed, Sir Arthur, and may you find it's full of stars.

#2 ::: Jvstin ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 09:54 PM:

Rest in Peace, Mr. Clarke.

#3 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 10:08 PM:

My LJ friends list and email box have been full of tributes to him
as the man who opened up the universe/science/science fiction to the
writer and changed their life forever. He had an enormous impact on the
world and I'm sad. He was the last of the giants my generation grew up
on. Well, there's still Bradbury I guess. But he doesn't seem in the
same league with Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein, Williamson. And Fred Pohl's in very bad health...

MKK

#4 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 10:15 PM:

Without any fuss, another star just went out.

#5 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 10:17 PM:

He rejoiced to live in a gigantic universe of unencompassable scale, and he thought the rest of us should rejoice, too.

Yes. And his work showed me that it was glorious to look out into that gigantic universe. It changed me.

#6 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 10:20 PM:

it's a sad day. He was a giant in our industry and a wonderful
weaver of words and worlds. He was among the first SF authors I read,
before I was even in Junior High.

Alas.

#7 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 10:21 PM:

That's a wonderful expression of his work.

#8 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 10:33 PM:

I just checked to see if the SciFI channel had bothered to interrupt programming, and they're running a hideous wrestling show.

#9 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 10:41 PM:

Clarke was an amazing writer, and an amazing person. He will be sorely missed.

Earl, SciFi should probably change its name, right after BSG is
over, to something like "The Dumbass Cheese Channel." But they don't
actually have any announcement staff. They can put up a crawl, but they
don't have a news department. I turned to them on 9/11 because they
were the only channel that wasn't covering it, and I was tired of
hearing the same thing over and over.

#10 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 10:48 PM:

"My God, it's full of stars!"

#11 ::: jmnlman ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 10:49 PM:

Well said. One of the first science fiction movies I can remember
watching was 2001. I have the massive collected short stories I know
what I'll be reading tonight.

#12 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 10:50 PM:

"There's a Hilton in the sky

For all the good fen when they die

The panels never start till three

No one disturbs you when you're sleeping

All the filk songs rhyme

And you're guaranteed a real good time

That just goes on and on

If you're good enough to go to Heaven-Con."

- Words and music © Kathy Mar

Welcome to the Con at the End of the Universe, Sir Arthur.

#13 ::: KateThe(Ex?)Lurker ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 10:51 PM:

I remember in my early days of finding this very blog, I came across a thread in which a contributor identified themselves as "Arthur C Clarke" (I believe in my heart it was he).

I tell you, a frisson (or what ever a really big frisson is called) of fangirl squeeful excitement went through me at the time.

Ad Astra Sir Arthur

#14 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 11:03 PM:

It is odd to see all the stars of my childhood going out one by one.
There's a part of me who will always be the little girl sitting under
the lemon tree reading stories full of wonder...

#15 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 11:16 PM:

Sad news. I think I'll go and re-read one of his novels as an
admittedly minor tribute to someone whose impact went beyond what most
major media outlets will attribute to him.

#16 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 11:17 PM:

Like Heinlein, and unlike Asimov, in Clarke a practical science-and-engineering outlook coexisted with a mystical streak a mile wide.

Yeah, but Clarke was better than Heinlein at engineering big with known science, without letting the mystical streak get in the way. Consider The Fountains of Paradise, among others....

Anyway, that's another of the Great Names fallen to the reaper.... :-(

#17 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 11:21 PM:

Kate, #13: Alas, that comment (in the "Namarie Sue" thread) wasn't
by the real ACC, it was from someone clowning around in response to a
comment signed "Neil Gaiman" that was obviously not actually posted by
the real Neil. We made people knock it off, IIRC.

#18 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 11:30 PM:

"someone whose impact went beyond what most major media outlets will attribute to him"

I dunno--his very respectful New York Times obituary
is on the front page of their web site right now, and CNN ran one of
their top-of-page "BREAKING NEWS" banners on their front page when word
first hit. From here it certainly looks like the major media are
treating him as a cultural figure of unquestioned importance, and his
death as a big story.

And, you know, rightly so. But we inside the SF subculture, we
really do need to get over that reflexive assumption that the "major
media" will trivialize or misrepresent what's important to us. It's
2008, not 1988 or 1968 or 1948. For all my criticisms of the modern
media, I suspect that lots and lots and lots of the decision-makers at the modern New York Times or NBC or the Telegraph grew up reading Arthur C. Clarke. It's just not that esoteric to read SF any more.

#19 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 11:35 PM:

I have no religious beliefs, but I think I have an even chance --
after I die -- of traveling the Cosmos in some ethereal form and
discovering not so much all of its secrets, but rather that there are
even more secrets than a puny human corporeal mind can imagine. I have
no reason to believe that. I just do, is all.

I'm not sad today. I mean, I'm sorry he's gone, but I'm not sad. I think he's out there in Arthur C. Clarke Heaven. I hope he's enjoying the hell out of the Universe. In fact, I'm sure he is. He enjoyed it plenty enough when he was still just one of us, after all.

#20 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 11:40 PM:

I discovered Arthur C. Clarke
and Isaac Asimov in grade 6. It is easy to be sure of where and when it
was, because I was in a different school the next year. I remember the
school library where I first read them. I was 11; it was 1965. Over the
next few years I inhaled everything they wrote, rereading when I
couldn't find new material. Every so often I'd throw a Heinlein or
Simak or someone else into the mix, but they never reached me the way
those two did. Together they shaped who I became. Asimov was likely the
greater influence on me, because I never connected with Clarke's
mystical streak. But Clarke
was the more beautiful writer, and painted the images that shaped my
imagination, from falls of moondust to his signature image of the stars
going out.

I feel orphaned tonight.

#21 ::: Bill Burns ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 11:41 PM:

NPR's All Things Considered had a short interview with ACC's American agent Russell Galen on Tuesday.

#22 ::: Carrie V. ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 11:44 PM:

Arthur C. Clarke was my first favorite SF writer.

It's for exactly the reason you said (more eloquently than I could):
his optimism. Boundless optimism. His belief that humanity would
persevere.

As a pre-teen in the early 1980's, I needed that.

#24 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 11:46 PM:

He rejoiced to live in a gigantic universe of unencompassable scale, and he thought the rest of us should rejoice, too.

There's an enviable obituary. Good night, Mr. Clarke. Rest among the stars.

#25 ::: Tehanu ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 11:46 PM:

Read Childhood's End when I was, oh, 7 or 8 ... it had a huge
effect on me -- opened up the vastness and wonder of the universe, and
taught me not to take everything at face value. Sir Arthur: Ave atque vale.

#26 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 11:49 PM:

@PNH - I hadn't seen those yet. I did hear a BBC radio piece about
two hours ago that spent a lot of time on his later years and not so
much on why he really was important, and I extrapolated on that single
data point.

#27 ::: Tehanu ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 11:50 PM:

Patrick, I forgot to say: your post is great. What a beautiful epitaph.

#28 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 11:51 PM:

I'm glad someone mentioned Frederick Pohl, who I think belongs up there.

Like jmnlman, "2001" was one of the first SF movies I went to.
(During the first theatrical run, a few days after my parents saw it
under the influence of, um, enhanced brownies . . . my father had a
co-worker who was sure this would lead to Enlightenment.) It really set
the course for my life; once I knew what science fiction was I wanted
more, more, more.

I was delighted when I found the novel and the "making
of" and the "lost worlds" book a few years later. I'm sure I read
everything that ACC wrote until he started partnering up with others.

* * *

Like Freeman Dyson, Clarke seems to have been deeply affected by Olaf Stapledon's writing.

#29 ::: Nina A ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 11:53 PM:

Go gently, and may your night be full of stars.

#30 ::: Yatima ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 11:54 PM:

His was the first science fiction I ever read. "My God, it's full of stars" was my initiation in sensawunda.

I am sad.

#31 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 11:55 PM:

He was. But unlike Stapledon, Clarke
rarely lost track of the human POV. There's a posthuman chilliness to
Stapledon, and it's what makes him great in his own way. Clarke is all about the circuit between cosmic vastness and us, here in the quotidian land of us, and that's what makes him greater.

#32 ::: Eric ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 12:04 AM:

It's not my memory, but something Sarah Zettel wrote on LiveJournal seems like a truly touching eulogy:

"So there I was at the New Orleans Nebula Award ceremony. Connie
Willis was the MC, and she decided that we needed a montage, like they
do of movie clips at the Oscars. So, she read a montage of SF lines and
concepts.

"I know where I came from -- but where did all you zombies come
from"..."First Law: A robot may not injure a human being or through
inaction cause a human being to come to harm..." We sat and listened,
but when she got to "Overhead, without any fuss..." a banquet room full
of science fiction authors was all murmuring along "the stars were
going out."

It was the only line the whole room spoke, and that said a great deal."

http://filkertom.livejournal.com/788725.html?thread=13379061

#33 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 12:10 AM:

I believe that Childhood's End, The City and The Stars, and More Than Human were the first SF novels I read. Sense of wonder, yes. Dear God, yes.

There were giants in the earth in those days.

Godspeed, Sir Arthur. May the road rise to you, the wind be at your back, and may God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

#34 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 12:15 AM:

I don't think Stapledon lost track of the human POV. It didn't especially interest him. In fact, the only character
in all of his writing that I can remember is Sirius, a dog. Stapledon
is like one of the first kids in a huge amusement park. He raced from
one incredible ride to the next, trying them all. Scoping out the
territory for those who followed. I adore Stapledon's imagination, and
love the incongruity between what he wrote about and his Victorian
writing style.

One measure of Clarke's ability as a writer: I actually read one of
his books about exploring the waters around Sri Lanka all the way
through. And enjoyed it. I dislike swimming quite intensely,
and can't imagine any other writer who could inspire me to read a book
on the topic. But it was the only Clarke book I could get that I hadn't read, so...

#35 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 12:16 AM:

Re: notice taken in the media -- I note that the story is currently "above the fold" on Google News.

#36 ::: KateTheExLurker ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 12:17 AM:

Patrick, now I am doubly bereft.

p.s. My replacement illusion will be that you particled the Joss
Whedon Musical based on my comment in the open thread. Please don't
disillusion me on that one.

#37 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 12:39 AM:

I met him when I was 15. I was volunteering as a runner/messenger at
a science symposium in San Antonio in 1968, and he gave a talk there.
To a teenaged science-fiction fan, it was nothing less than thrilling
to talk briefly with the man whose books gave me so much pleasure and
opened my mind to an incredible universe.

I will miss him.

#38 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 12:44 AM:

Thanks for those comments about Clarke -- they deal well with his Greatness, whereas I fear that most media coverage will concentrate overmuch on his Fame.

#39 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 12:45 AM:

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Go gently into the great beyond, and return with magic, indistinguishable from technology.

#40 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 01:21 AM:

#38: I second Don Fitch's sentiment. I have been posting here and there about Stuff He Did, but the real heart of our love for Clarke lies in the effect his writing has on us.

#34: Greg, your thumbnail summary of Stapledon is wonderful.

#28: Stefan, Clarke recently completed a novel in collaboration with Fred Pohl. It's in the pipeline, so far as I know. I'm intrigued.

#41 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 02:03 AM:

This really is the end of an era, isn't it? Clarke
was the last of the Big Three to survive and as long as he was alive
there was still a link with the beginnings of science fiction. Now
that's no longer the case; science fiction has been around too long to
still be encompassed by a single human lifespan.

That's how it feels to me.

On a more personal level, it was largely Clarke
and Asimov who got me twentyfive years or so ago into science fiction
when I discovered them in the children stacks of the local library.

#42 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 02:45 AM:

Thank you, Patrick, for words worthy of the man and his words. Clarke
was my introduction and inspiration for a view of the universe as a
vast and complex place of wonders and marvels, a view that's been
central to my relationship with the world ever since. I was lucky; I
was 9. He got to me early, and his words held on to a part of my heart
and my mind from then on. He will be deeply missed.

#43 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 02:58 AM:

Thank you, Patrick, for words worthy of the man and his words. Clarke
was my introduction and inspiration for a view of the universe as a
vast and complex place of wonders and marvels, a view that's been
central to my relationship with the world ever since. I was lucky; I
was 9. He got to me early, and his words held on to a part of my heart
and my mind from then on. He will be deeply missed.

#44 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 03:01 AM:

Sorry for the double post. There was a Server Internal Error page up
when I came back to the tab I posted in; I think the second post was
just a burp of the webserver.

#45 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 03:05 AM:

Xeger @ 39: Go gently into the great beyond, and return with magic, indistinguishable from technology.

Tonight, if it's not overcast, go out somewhere you can see the sky
clearly. Look up for long enough and you'll be bound to see one or more
of the points of light moving. It's full of stars and, my god, we put some of them there.

Then take the phone from your pocket and call someone who lives on the other side of the planet.

There is magic here already and it's in no small way because of him that we have it.

#46 ::: Firebyrd ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 03:13 AM:

What a beautiful tribute to a great man, Patrick. What a loss to the world, both our little corner of it and in general.

#47 ::: Wirelizard ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 03:41 AM:

Paul Duncanson@45: It's full of stars and, my god, we put some of them there.

We take so much of our tech for granted, don't we?

Thank you - you just gave me one of those "This really is the
Future, sometimes" moments. Any minute I shall begin mourning the lack
of flying cars.

#48 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 03:54 AM:

I see the way you feel

And I know that your life is real

Pioneer searcher refugee

I follow you and you follow me ....

You know - a starship circlin in the sky - it ought to be ready by 1990

You gotta ride said the Doktor of space

I have lived here once before

The lites in the nite are a village of stars

Of stars that I have explored

Sunrise

Surprise

Civilized Man

You were keeper to me

Now your animal is free

you're free to die

Have You Seen The Stars Tonight?

Do you know

We could go?

We are free

Anyplace you can think of

We could be

I thank Arthur Clarke for all his brilliant common sense along the way, even if I could never make myself read much that he wrote after about 1975.

The land is green and you make it grow

And you gotta let go you know

You gotta let go you know

You gotta let go you know

Or else you stay ....

(The last link is to my favorite Clarke
work. For me, the stfnal era of the Big Three ended years ago. But the
greatness of their writing is alive in the work of a few contemporary
s-f authors who I won't embarrass by naming.)



#49 ::: Jvstin ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 05:39 AM:

Only one line of your interview made it into the NPR story this morning, Patrick. But you did make sense. :)

#50 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 06:07 AM:

Paul Duncan @ 45, Wirelizard @ 47 -

XKCD - We are in the future.

Good bye, Arthur. Thank you.

All the rest of you - stop dying. Just for a while. Please?

#51 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 06:26 AM:

Patrick @18 -- ...I suspect that lots and lots and lots
of the decision-makers at the modern New York Times or NBC or the
Telegraph grew up reading Arthur C. Clarke. It's just not that esoteric to read SF any more.

No, but I think it's still a minority who continue to read SF past adolescence and let themselves be fascinated and awed throughout their lives. And for me, Arthur C. Clarke was one of the people who pointed me on the way. Thank you, Sir Arthur, and Godspeed.

#52 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 06:48 AM:

He was a visionary, and one of the first sci-fi authors I read. 2001 and Childhood's End are still favorites of mine.

Good night, Mr. Clarke; may your future be full of stars.

#53 ::: Janet Kegg ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 06:53 AM:

Well said, Patrick.

Last night, saddened by the news, I dug out my copy of Against the Fall of Night to read again. This copy (Ace, 1953, 35 cents) is one of a small number of SF paperbacks that I've keep for 50 years.

#54 ::: Oliver ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 07:40 AM:

From Profiles of the Future (and later incorporated into an essay
called Credo) -- here's both Stapledon, and the wonder of the child on
the sea shore in the face of the endless, and a hole lot of what what
Patrick said:

One thing seems certain. Our galaxy is now in the brief springtime of its life—a springtime made glorious by such brilliant blue-white stars as Vega and Sirius, and, on a more humble scale, our own Sun. Not until all these have flamed through their incandescent youth, in a few fleeting billions of years, will the real history of the universe begin. It will be a history illuminated only by the reds and infrareds of dully glowing stars that would be almost invisible to our eyes; yet the sombre hues of that all-but-eternal universe may be full of colour and beauty to whatever strange beings have adapted to it. They will know that before them lie, not the millions of years in which we measure eras of geology, nor the billions of years which span the past lives of the stars, but years to be counted literally in the trillions.

They will have time enough, in those endless aeons, to attempt all
things, and to gather all knowledge. They will be like gods, because no
gods imagined by our minds have ever possessed the powers they will
command. But for all that, they may envy us, basking in the bright
afterglow of creation; for we knew the universe when it was young.

#55 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 07:41 AM:

#49 Jvstin: Only one line of your interview made it into the NPR story this morning, Patrick...

Yahbut, he had Strauss's Giant Space Baby Music rising underneath him.

#56 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 07:42 AM:

Patrick is on NPR right now. As he speaks about Clarke's
writing and the moment when the reader hits the "remote, almost
unencompassable universe," they play Also Sprach Zarathustra behind him. How's that?

(I'm sure the Morning Edition clip will be available for download in a day or so.)

#57 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 07:44 AM:

Patrick, you sounded great on NPR (if not for very long).

I read "The Nine Billion Names of God" when I was a wee girl, and I
still remember the 'whoa! - my mind has just been blown' feeling I got
at the end. It must have been one of the first pieces of science
fiction that I read.

#58 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 08:06 AM:

Debbie @ 51:

It may be a minority who continue to read science fiction--a lot of
adults rarely if ever read fiction at all, though they do read and they
do watch fiction on screen--but people who grew up reading people like Clarke don't suddenly come to scorn him the day they're old enough to drink legally.

And if they needed to, to justify major attention here, they can
point not just to Clarke's fiction, but to the Apollo broadcast and the
invention of the telecommunicatiosn satellite.

#59 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 08:15 AM:

My mother knew ACC's physics teacher.

ACC was one of those who attended the first SF convention to be organised.

#60 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 08:21 AM:

The book of Clarke's I remember most isn't a work of fiction. Interplanetary Flight,
written about 1950 IIRC, is a serious look at the possibilities of,
well, interplanetary flight. (Including Earth-Moon, which Clarke correctly predicted would be the easiest and first.) The physics haven't changed much, although I think the engineering has.

Clarke
explains what orbital and escape velocities are (and how to calculate
them), the principles of multi-stage rocketry, why orbital refueling is
good for long missions, why takeoff and landing are so little of the
time but so much of the fuel, how to plan the most efficient orbit to
reach another planet, and lots more. Much of the book correctly
anticipates the next several decades of space flight.

Lots of people can write good fiction, and even make you not notice if their science doesn't quite add up. But Clarke could also write good science, and make it interesting too.

#61 ::: Claire ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 08:42 AM:

I'd like to think his presence was requested by Robert and the good
Sir kindly obliged. Now, there's a mind to keep Robert engaged and busy
for eternity, eh?

He probably requested Clarke purely to settle a matter of arcane SF reference he was arguing LeGaultian style with Heinlein & Asimov. Likely, Clarke is -- as I write -- backing Robert's take.

I can hear Robert now: "Err, weelll... let's just ask Arthur, why don't we?" With that smile of his that just broadcasts that he already knows he's right...

#62 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 08:45 AM:

The thing of Clarke's that most vividly sticks in my memory is a passage early in Earthlight. The hero is traveling on the Moon's surface, as I recall, and sees a beam of light shining up from somewhere beyond his horizon. Then he realizes that he wouldn't actually be able to see a beam of light
rise, and that int he almost-vacuum of the lunar surface he wouldn't be
able to see a beam at all unless some remarkable accumulation of dust
or something created scattering. His working out what it actually was
plays a significant part in driving the story forward.

#63 ::: Claire ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 08:46 AM:

I'd like to think his presence was requested by Robert and the good
Sir kindly obliged. Now, there's a mind to keep Robert engaged and busy
for eternity, eh?

He probably requested Clarke purely to settle a matter of arcane SF reference he was arguing LeGaultian style with Heinlein & Asimov. Likely, Clarke is -- as I write -- backing Robert's take.

I can hear Robert now: "Err, weelll... let's just ask Arthur, why don't we?" With that smile of his that just broadcasts that he already knows he's right...

#64 ::: Claire ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 08:55 AM:

Arrgh. Sorry for the double post - there was a server denial and when I refreshed there were two.

#65 ::: Jim Kiley ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 08:59 AM:

Patrick,

You sounded great, and if I am remembering correctly, they ran a bit
of Also Sprach Zarathustra under your last few words, which was a very
nice effect.

If I'd had someone else in the car with me I'm sure I would have been embarrassingly nerdy about it.

About Clarke: I distinctly remember eventually breaking through and masking-taping the binding of his essay collection Report on Planet Three
when I was in 8th grade or so. He was immensely knowledgeable yet never
seemed like he was talking down to the reader -- I got the sense from
his work that he was just as awestruck by the universe as I was.

#66 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 09:01 AM:

I was going to post to say that I heard PNH -- nice leadup to 2001, but I see others have posted that.

At least I can add that NPR.com now has the segment online @ http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=88552259

#67 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 09:35 AM:

My grandmother told me the story of the Nine Billion Names of God. I
was startled when I found the book, which I did, in her basement where
my uncle had left his boxes of sf novels. I still have the books of
Clarke's short stories I snagged when the basement was cleaned out. I'm
still fond of Tales from the White Hart.

#69 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 10:20 AM:

Heard you this morning, Patrick. Never knew that you were Canadian...

Last of the Big Three, yes, if you're talking hard-science fiction. But Bradbury is still with us.

#70 ::: Trey ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 10:32 AM:

This is sad. Tales From The White Hart remains one of my favorite
collections of stories ever. I remember reading everything of his I
could get my hands on when I was in my early teens and being blown
away. It was wild.

He will be missed.

#71 ::: JKRichard ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 10:35 AM:

I think I'm going to head to the local Brick 'n Mortar to sit and stare for a bit...

Thank you Patrick and Godspeed Sir Arthur.

#73 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 11:26 AM:

I was just, this morning, writing about reading Imperial Earth.

The book of his that had the most impact on me was the collection Of Time and Stars.
I bought it from a spinning wire rack of the kind they don't have any
more, in a sweetshop in Amroth when I was nine. It was the second
science fiction book I ever bought, the first was Amabel Williams
Ellis's Tales of the Galaxies which I'd bought from the same
wire rack the day before. I can remember sitting in the back of the car
by the sea in the rain while my grandparents dozed off in the front and
the windows slowly steamed up, reading "The Star" and "The Nine Billion
Names of God" and "If I forget thee, O Earth" and having the top of my
head blow off again and again.

#74 ::: James Davis Nicoll ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 11:37 AM:

69: It's the Maple Syrup Rule. If someone is in some way notable in
a positive way and they have ever seen a bottle of Maple Syrup [1],
they count as Canadian.

Actually having been resident in Canada counts too.

1: Most maple syrup and all good maple syrup comes from Canada,
usually Quebec (Note that one of the conditions required for maple
syrup to be good is for it to have been produced in Canada and not some
unstable break-away nation).

#75 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 11:37 AM:

PNH @ #72: What, I misheard that "aboot"?

#76 ::: mac ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 11:38 AM:

It's so odd -- I don't feel sad or like something has been taken away from me/us/the world.

I feel like that bit where you have the standing ovation at the end of a magnificent performance.

#77 ::: straight ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 12:00 PM:

A great tribute, Patrick. Thanks.

Also, that anecdote about Clarke
and C.S. Lewis is awesome. What I wouldn't give to have heard *that*
conversation. (I wonder if any of the letters they exchanged have been
published?)

#78 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 12:03 PM:

A last message from Arthur Clarke.

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=4db_1205893786&p=1

ACC Video

#79 ::: straight ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 12:04 PM:

Shoulda googled before I made that last post. Lewis and Clarke's
correspondence has been published under the title "From Narnia to a
Space Odyssey" - thanks so much for pointing me toward this, Patrick!

#80 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 12:16 PM:

Like so many others, I was brought up on Asimov and Clarke
- others, of course, I was raiding my father's SF collection, but those
are the first names to spring to mind. I discovered Heinlein on my own
later on.

I can't find any words to describe his writing that haven't already
been spoken far better than I can manage, but I'll add this - his work
on radar in WWII helped save a lot of lives, and his visionary writings
about geostationary satellites were cited as prior art in patent
rulings.

Because of him, nobody can control the steel stars that keep us all in contact.

Another of the nine billion names of God has been spoken.

#81 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 12:22 PM:

Lewis' correspondence has recently been published (a three-volume set), though I don't recall offhand if letters to Clarke were in the collection. The real meat of the matter gets covered in their fiction, anyway (compare Perelandra with Childhood's End).

I remember reading Rendezvous with Rama and being blown
away. And, so, too, with many of the short stories (which I think were
Clarke's best form; it's hard to wrap an entire novel around an
engineering problem.)

In honor of Sir Arthur, let us all go out and watch something broadcast by a geosynchronous communication satellite tonight.

#82 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 12:51 PM:

Lis Riba (#66): Thanks for the link to the NPR segment, which was
very good. But it suffers from an unfortunate lack of Nielsen Hayden.

#83 ::: Madison Guy ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 01:19 PM:

Beautiful expression of Sir Arthur's unique blend of hard science, poetry and optimism. Childhood's End and Against the Fall of Night
affected my life profoundly. After a wonderful, long rich life he has
left us, but he is not really gone. I'm reminded of Auden's lines about
another great explorer, "to us he is no more a person/ now but a whole
climate of opinion/ under whom we conduct our different lives." Except
with Clarke, it's more than a climate. We literally conduct our lives under his orbit -- the Clarke
Orbit, the IAU's official designation for the geostationary orbit where
all the satellites that bind us together into one world are parked.

#84 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 01:22 PM:

Like Patrick, I only met Clarke
once. I said to him not the most important things I thought about him,
only the most recent: did he feel his writing had changed after 2001?
I felt the transitions in "A Meeting with Medusa" were more like film
edits than the old "meanwhile"s and "later"s, and I wondered if he'd
picked anything else up from working on the film. He said nothing at
all had changed, and turned away.

It may have been a disappointing encounter, but it didn't lessen my
opinion of him at all. Nothing, not even the mediocre collaborations,
ever has.

#85 ::: Chris Turkel ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 01:26 PM:

Don't forget Ray Bradbury. He's the last one of his class left.

#86 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 01:43 PM:

Kit notes over at DreamCafe that when he was young and reading Childhood's End, he refused to go to the beach so he could finish reading it.

I didn't go quite that far--or was it further? I was just turning ten, and took the whole omnibus collection that contained Childhood's End
to the beach *with* me. And kept coming out of the water, drying off
minimally, and reading some more. And read in the car all the way back
home. I did turn down an invite to come out and play hopscotch or
kickball the next day in favor of finishing, though.

The thing that always struck me about his work, at least up to about
1975, aside from the great glowing transcendence of the best of it, was
a dry, understated, totally Brit sense of humor, that I had never
encountered before. Totally captivating. Of the Big Three, he certainly
had the best sense of literary style.

#87 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 01:58 PM:

James Davis Nicoll @ 74:

"Most maple syrup and all good maple syrup comes from Canada, usually Quebec"

I am currently involved in a debate with Canadian friends of mine
(who claim that I'm an honourary Canadian now) about exactly who makes
the best maple syrup. I grew up in a small town along the Mid-Hudson
Valley where maple sugaring still happens, and I am bringing some
home-style Putnam Valley syrup to my friends next week. We'll have a
syrup showdown.

As an honourary Canadian, I can't lose, eh?

(And according to the Maple Syrup Rule, I qualify as Canadian anyway
-- I lived in Guelph for a semester of vet school, under a work permit.)

#88 ::: sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 01:59 PM:

I remember performing "The Nine Billion Names of God" along with
"The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas" for speech and debate (Prose, long
form)*. He made us think...

Though I bet my most enduring memory of him will always be of
Saturday mornings or late weekday nights long after my bed time when I
watched this funny old man talk about the impossible in foreign places.



*it was such a cheerful set.

#89 ::: r@d@r ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 02:15 PM:

sigh. the trinity. you could start a million flame wars over that
one. i almost did, but then i checked myself before i wrecked myself.

#90 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 02:19 PM:

More on the forthcoming novel by Pohl and Clarke: It's The Last Theorem.

Plot summarized here.

Its Amazon sales rank is #9,837, not bad for a book that won't be published before December 2008.

#91 ::: Yatima ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 02:21 PM:

Sorry if this has been linked already, but here's his last message to the world.

I feel like Samwise Gamgee watching the last of the Elves on their
way to the Gray Havens. All the Olympians, a thing never known again.

#92 ::: Lin D ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 02:26 PM:

I'm an SF addict. So was my father. My mother was not interested...
except for Clarke's Tales From The White Hart. She even re-read them on
occassion.

Hearing of his death, I had a gleeful image:

Arthur found out who cranks the stars! And now he gets to play with the
crank. Keep your eyes on the skies, because some cool things should
happen in the next year.

#93 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 02:50 PM:

This may be Sir Arthur's final interview, with Saswato Das for IEEE Spectrum, in the hospital on 8 March.

Das's article here.

#94 ::: James Davis Nicoll ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 03:44 PM:

87: Did you ever make over to Elmira for the Maple Syrup Festival
(which as it happens is one of my earliest memories from Canada)?

#95 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 03:59 PM:

James @ 94: No, I never got there for the festival. Now that I know about it, though..

#96 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 04:21 PM:

Interesting that people have such good memories about Of Time and Stars.
I only read that a couple of years ago when my partner was in hospital
and it's probably the only book that could've held my attention in such
a situation, where you're waiting for news.

#97 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 04:23 PM:

Freshly boiled maple syrup being poured on snow... Yummy, in spite of what Frank Zappa had to say about yellow snow.

#98 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 05:41 PM:

Sir Arthur C. Clarke 1917-2008

A giant rose from the Somerset coal,

A mind at home far out in the night,

or in the tides of the Center's light;

he lifted us up towards that cosmic goal.

He wrote of the fire the Titan stole,

future earth, alien air, the sight

of shapes in water in luminous flight,

and always the road to space and its toll.

He knew our path to be fraught and far,

filled with wonder and horror as well,

yet he never uttered a word of despair.

He found awe in the storms of a star,

in the well of life at the heart of a cell,

and showed us a starry road to fare.



#99 ::: Tim Kyger ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 06:00 PM:

I think the second most important thing Arthur C. Clarke ever did
with his life is going completely uncommented on. At least *I* haven't
seen any real mention of it yet.

First, of course, is his paper in "Wireless World" on geocomsats.
That was seminal, and ultimately changed the world for the better. An
*incredibly* positive change too (IMHO anyway). As Clarke himself has
it as the title of one of his books of non-fiction, "How The World Was
One."

But second, and mayhap just as important, was his proselytizing for
space throughout the 1950s. His book *Interplanetary Flight* was a Book
of the Month Club selection in 1950, and was the greatest sales job for
astronautics to that date reaching thousands of people who previously
had dismissed space travel as "just science fiction" (this sales job
was only eclipsed two years later by the von Braun articles in
*Colliers* magazine in 1952). He continued to write articles on
astronautics throughout the 1950s, placing them as well as he could in
magazines like "Holiday," "Harper's," and even "Seventeen" (!). (And
yes, I know that the sales to "Holiday" were made easier by Alfred
Bester being there. And I know about the BOTMC sf-world connection too.)

Great SF writer: Yep. 2001? Check. Clarke Orbit? Got it.

But he was also the man who sold the Moon.

#100 ::: MisterOregon ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 06:14 PM:

PNH @ #23

Thank you.

My faith is convoluted at best...and that was, without a doubt, the
most personally affirming quote I've read in years. It buoyed up my
love for both men immeasurably in a few sentences.

I've been out of contact with the general world for so long, I didn't know he'd passed away until I happened on this thread.

"The City and the Stars" was the first ACC novel I ever read.
"Rendezvous with Rama" was the second. I re-read each of them once a
year. Each has left me staring at the stars at night more times than I
can count.

It is very unsettling to me to know that another of my favorite
authors has passed back into the collective energy of the universe. It
is so strange that contemporary things pass into the possession of
history and memory.

#101 ::: Brendan Podger ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 06:49 PM:

[81]: The is "The Fountains of Paradise" where Clarke popularises
the idea of building a space elevator. Over on David Brin's blog we
spent some time talking about the feasibility of building one in the
near future(Consensus was that nono-fibre tech will need to improve
before it is possible).

Asimov had the vision, Heinlein had the science, but only Clarke had both.

Farewell.

#102 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 07:17 PM:

Thank you, Patrick. The man was 90, but my eyes are full of tears.

#103 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 07:33 PM:

When I started going to College in 1973, I discovered that its
library was a True Treasure Trove(*) of SF. Among its many wonders were
Delany's Nova, and Clarke's City and the Stars and Childhood's End in one tome. Ptoing went my brain.

(*) Say that fast many times.

#104 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 07:36 PM:

* Bittersweet Jeff Greenwald remembrance: Sundown with Arthur.

* Daily Kos runs David Brin's tribute to ACC.

#105 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 09:02 PM:

"Against the Fall of Night" (along with "The Lion of Comarre" in the
omnibus volume) is the first science fiction I remember reading, when I
was in 2nd grade. I still love it!

I believe it was Shelley who said that "poets are the unacknowledged
legislators of the world." Clarke's life and work makes a strong case
that the science fiction writers have taken over that job.

#106 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 10:29 PM:

I know that this is the most stupid question I could ask right about
now, but somehow I've never read any Clarke. Where do I start?

#107 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 10:53 PM:

Daniel Klein @106 -

I would start with Against the Fall of Night for some early Clarke, then Childhood's End for the reach of his ideas, A Fall of Moondust for the meticulous engineering that he brought to life, and then The Songs of Distant Earth.

Just about any Clarke novel is a good one.

#108 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 10:56 PM:

Daniel Klein @ 106... What's stupid about that question? I'd recommend Childhood's End. I rather enjoyed Sands of Mars too.

#109 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 11:20 PM:

I have been fortunate enough (feeling late to the party, having
become a fan in the 70s) to meet several of the greats. And blessed
enough to be young when I did so, which got me some special attention.

Clarke was one of those I didn't get to meet. He, in the Tales of
the White Hart brought a lot of this stuff to the real. Sturgeon (and
Henderson) gave me a sense of the incredible.

Clarke, a sense of the conrete; and all of it wonderful. Everything
was magnificet: the world in a grain of sand, and the stars like dust
across the universe.

You write one helluva eulogy Patrick.

#110 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 12:01 AM:

No, Jo Walton is the one who writes a hell of a eulogy. #73:

I
can remember sitting in the back of the car by the sea in the rain
while my grandparents dozed off in the front and the windows slowly
steamed up, reading "The Star" and "The Nine Billion Names of God" and
"If I forget thee, O Earth" and having the top of my head blow off
again and again.
That's the truth. That's our lives.

#111 ::: Keir Dullea ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 12:18 AM:

You made the cutting room floor.

#112 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 12:48 AM:

Au clair de la lune, mon ami Pierrot

Prête-moi ta plume, pour écrire un mot.

Ma chandelle est morte, je n'ai plus de feu.

Ouvre-moi ta porte, pour l'amour de Dieu.

That is the song that HAL sings, in the French version of 2001, as his mind is shutting down.

By the moonlight, my friend Pierrot

Lend me your pen, to write a few words.

My candle is dead, I have no more fire.

Open your door to me, for the love of God.

#113 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 01:38 AM:

WOW. While 'Daisy, Daisy' makes a very poignant scene, the French version is so incredibly better a choice.

#114 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 02:46 AM:

Daniel, #108: You can get all of Clarke's short fiction here,
in one handy volume. I'd recommend beginning with "The Star" and "The
Nine Billion Names of God", then go to the White Hart stories, then
just skip around as you feel like it.

In the novels, you've had some good recs already. To those, let me add Imperial Earth and The Songs of Distant Earth
-- the latter of which is an expansion from an earlier short story.
They're not the ones everyone talks about, but both of them hit me over
the head with "godDAMN, that man can write!"

#115 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 09:16 AM:

Clifton @ 113... I wonder if Clarke and/or Kubrick knew about that. Probably. Still, I wonder.

#116 ::: Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 09:41 AM:

Thanks everyone for the recommendations. The Tor collection should
have been a no brainer. I'm getting that, and as far as novels go,
Childhood's End sounds good. I hate it when an author has to die to get
my attention, but there's so much stuff I haven't read yet.

Thanks again for the recommendations.

#117 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 12:29 PM:

The three great science fiction novels of my youth were Childhood's End, Sturgeon's More Than Human, and Anderson's Brain Wave. And now that I think of it, they all had a transhumanist theme...

#118 ::: Fred Kiesche ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 01:42 PM:

My tribute, such as it can be written. I owe him more than I can put into words.

http://texasbestgrok.mu.nu/archives/258063.php

#119 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 01:48 PM:

#99: Tim Kyger is right. (This sometimes happens.)

And he got an early start. As I posted elsewhere, here is Arthur C. Clarke, age twenty:

Go out beneath the stars on a clear winter night, and look up at the Milky Way spanning the heavens like a bridge of glowing mist. Up there, ranged one beyond the other ot the end of the Universe, suns without number burn in the loneliness of space. Down to the South hang the brilliant, unwinking lanterns of other worlds-- the electric blue of Jupiter, the glowing ember of Mars. Across the zenith, a meteor leaves a trail of fading incandescence, and a tiny voyager of space has come to a flaming end.

Looking out across immensity to the great suns and circling
planets, to worlds of infinite mystery and promise, can you believe
that man is to spend all his days cooped and crawling on the surface of
this tiny earth-- this moist pebble with its clinging film of air? Or
do you, on the other hand, believe that his destiny is indeed among the
stars, and that one day our descendants will bridge the seas of space?

From a 1938 brochure promoting the British Interplanetary Society, quoted by Neil McAleer in Arthur C. Clarke: The Authorized Biography.

#120 ::: bartkid ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 02:59 PM:

>There's a posthuman chilliness to Stapledon

There's a posthuman chilliness to humanity nowadays.



>“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Y'know, I always viewed that sentiment as more of a curse than a statement of conjecture.

#121 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 04:42 PM:

Can I just say: fuck The Times for this so very timely story.

#122 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 06:24 PM:

Dave 121: Notice how they carefully state that the accusations were
vigorously denied later, and how it's all alleged, said, discussed, and
then they go on to talk about all the great things he did. This is so
they can claim to be even-handed,* while titillating the readers with
scandal.

Bastards. Does no one have any respect for anything any more? It's
not like he was tried and convicted. Dirty fucking bastards.

*In America this is called "fair and balanced," and it's bullshit here too.

#123 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 07:10 PM:

Dave Langford #121: One concurs, fuck The Times.

#124 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 07:16 PM:

Xopher #122: It is not a coincidence that the slogan 'fair and
balanced' is used by a network owned by the same robber baron who owns The Times.

#125 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 07:27 PM:

The backs of recently dead people make great riding paths for people
with chronically over-exercised hobby horses. If you do a search on
"arthur c. clarke" and "homosexuality" you can find a veritable 35,000
acre ranch, including at least one very bitterly re-written obituary of
Sir Arthur, excoriating him for not Coming Out during his lifetime.

Me, I try to think of this sort of thing as a reason to admire even
more those writers who manage, fitfully maybe, to help us bring
ourselves closer to our common humanity. We are plunked down into a
world where we are encouraged to feed off each other for our own
advancement, as this sort of thing demonstrates. Any writer who
manages, either through sensawunda or whatever, to help us in some way
counteract these forces gets my vote.

Me, I look forward to an authoritative, carefully researched
biography. No substitute for knowing Sir Arthur personally, of course,
but it's probably the best I can do. I think it will be a life worth
reading about in detail.

#126 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 09:35 PM:

I'm surprised no one has mentioned "Take a Deep Breath", which I think is an absolute gem of a short story. And truly science fiction - the physiology works. (I presume I don't need to summarize for this thread?)

#127 ::: G H Nordhagen ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 10:39 PM:

The first thing I read that Clarke wrote, was _The Star_. I was 12
or 13, I think, and the story was a translation, of course. (At that
tender age I would not have even _contemplated_ reading anything that
was not translated into Norwegian!).

In the years that have passed since then Clarke has become a
cornerstone in my private definition of "what is worth bothering with
in SF". That doesn't mean I have enjoyed everything he has written. Far
from it!. But the basic concept of "SF has to be grounded in SCIENCE
(or at least _logic_)" hasn't been altered since Sir Arthur conditioned
me.

#128 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 06:05 AM:

Joann @86 The thing that always struck me about his work ... was
a dry, understated, totally Brit sense of humor, that I had never
encountered before.

I remember reading Doc Smith and Asimov from my Dad's bookshelves at
an early age; a year or two later I came across Clarke and now I
realise it was his slightly British voice that I noted but couldn't
place at the time. It's not that stuff written in American seemed
strange (I'd grown up watching TV after all) but Clarke's writing felt
instantly familiar, like something that might exist in life rather than
on a page or screen.

I may have, um, borrowed a copy of A Fall of Moondust and never given it back at a the age of 9.

...excoriating him for not Coming Out during his lifetime

But... what? Wasn't it obvious from... well, reading between the
lines of everything I could get my hands for 7 or 8 years by him? I
thought he was openly gay. Well, another suprising thing I've learnt.

(I'd somehow never thought of Clarke and Lewis* as contemporaries,
despite reading them at the same age; it's like finding out that Elvis
was a Monty Python fan - two things you thought were separate turn out
to have connections)

* Not Lewis and Clark, who I suspect did indeed know each other

#129 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 07:18 AM:

Re: dry British humor.

Alfred Bester described attending a meeting of a British SF group
while he was living in England. Clarke was attending, and offered to
bring some slides of his underwater photography to the next meeting.
True to his word, at the next meeting he presented a slideshow. After
about the third slide, Bester protested "Arthur, this isn't underwater
photography! You took those pictures at an aquarium. I can see the
reflections in the glass". Bester complained that the rest of the
meeting devolved into a discussion of whether it was necessary for the
photographer to be underwater as well as the subject to be considered
underwater photography.

#130 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 11:03 AM:

I read "2001" when I was a 14 or so. I think it was the first "real"
science fiction I'd ever read. At the time, I was a nerdy, geeky kid
growing up on a farm, who wanted something more than just a future in
farming. I remember reading "2001" and having an entire universe of
possibility open up in my mind. I think I read the entire book in one
sitting, and I know when I finished the last sentence of the book, "...
but he would think of something", I got goosepimples that wouldn't go
away for half a minute.

I don't know if it was simply because I hadn't had much exposure to
SF, because it was simply the first "real" SF I'd ever read, or because
"2001" was really that much of a mind-altering story. But it was one of
the few book that changed my view of the world and myself. And I always
had a spot in my heart for Mr. Clarke for writing it.

#131 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 11:25 AM:

In his NY Times essay on Clarke's mysticism, Edward Rothstein
includes a tentative reworking of the Third Law: "Perhaps any
sufficiently sophisticated science fiction, at least in his case, is
nearly indistinguishable from religion."

Take out the waffling bits, and it becomes a provocative statement
that's true of other Big-Picture SF writers. You can see it in Wolfe,
Jay Lake, and many past greats -- as long as "religion" adds up to
something better than the same old matters of ritual, rules and
prejudice that drive this world's battling faiths.

Is anyone here interested in discussing or debating the issue for a
while? (Working for a future column, this week I've written a couple of
reviews of SF books with religious aspects, and next time I may plunge
into a bunch of big tomes that involve "angels" in one way or another
-- but *not* connected to Buffy -- so it's been on my mind).

#132 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 11:46 AM:

PS: From a NASA Swift satellite scientist, quoted here
in today's Science Daily: "Coincidentally, the passing of Arthur C.
Clarke seems to have set the universe ablaze with gamma ray bursts."
(The latest one was a real doozy!)

#133 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 12:03 PM:

Faren@131: Perhaps any sufficiently sophisticated science fiction, at least in his case, is nearly indistinguishable from religion.

I never took Clarke to be a religious person. I took him to be an extremely spiritual person.

Unfortunately, merriam-webster doesn't distinguish the two very
well, but religion is more of an institutional process, spirituality is
more about the individual's personal relationship to "all of it", where
'all of it' refers to all space, all time.

I think the best way to describe it to the SF-aware crowd is to say that a spiritual person could enter the Total Perspective Vortex and emerge unchanged.

When Clarke has David Bowman look into the monolith and realize that
it is full of stars, I think that's his own version of the TPV. He
doesn't have a fear of the infinitness of space, he wants his readers
to expand their minds until they can fit that infinity within their
minds, embrace it.

Douglas Adams' TPV implies that if you see your relationship to the
infinite, your head will explode. I just happened to watch "Serenity"
yesterday, and they were talking about the Reavers and there is a point
where Kaylee says something like "some say they were just men who went
to the end of space, looked into the black, and lost their minds".

So, Adams isn't the only one who can write that into his stories.
Whedon has incorporated the idea into parts of his stories. (Not that
either author personally endorses these views.) I'm sure there is someone here more familiar with all
of Clarke's works than me, but what I have read of his works, Clarke
seems to have such a comfortable relationship with "all of it", seems
to have such an easy relationship to his spirituality, and seems to
have at the heart of his stories the hope that his readers will expand
their own personal relationship to the eternal, that I can't imagine
him writing anything that would seriously entertain the idea that
seeing "all of it" would make a person go mad. (maybe a close minded
person, an extremely religious person, which might be the sort of
character Clarke would have go nuts when exposed to his version of the
TPV)

So, in that context, Clarke's stories (or at least the ones that I've read so far) are
very spiritual. Not just are indistinguishable from spirituality, but
truly are spiritual in that they tend to reflect the author's
comfortable relationship with the eternal and infinite and tend to
reflect his encouragement of the reader to embrace the eternal and
infinite.



#134 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 12:39 PM:

Take out the waffling bits, and it becomes a provocative
statement that's true of other Big-Picture SF writers. You can see it
in Wolfe...

I'm not quite sure I buy that characterization of Gene Wolfe. He
isn't writing about science in a way that becomes religion: he really
is writing about religion. Severian is the messiah, not
something else that fulfills the metaphoric role of a messiah. The same
for Frank Herbert, come to think of it.

Where I do think this observation is real is in much of the writing
about the singularity. Robert Charles Wilson, for example, definitely
approaches spirituality, or even religion, when he deals with the
unknowable, even numinous. Blind Lake or Darwinia
are about understanding our role in the universe and definitely have a
flavor of religion at the far end of the science. Vinge, too, although
I don't get quite the same sense of spirituality.

#135 ::: James Davis Nicoll ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 03:00 PM:

128:

If I can stoop to using his books as tea-leaves [1], it wouldn't
have particularly surprised me if Clarke was bi but perhaps somewhat
more interested in men than women.

1: The only explicit romances [2] that come to mind off-hand in
Clarke are the rather passionless grappling in A FALL OF MOONDUST, the
affair in SONGS OF DISTANT EARTH and the abusive triangle in IMPERIAL
EARTH. The last one seemed to me to be show more vividly than the first
two.

2: Which rules out those two guys in EARTHLIGHT.

#136 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 05:07 PM:

"... wife and one child in Brisbane, wife and two in Port Lowell, with option on third..."

"Wife?" asked Taylor innocently.

And then at the end of Rendezvous With Rama, very shortly
after some mention that the 'end-of-mission "orbital orgy"' would be in
full swing', "Dr. Carlisle Perera had as yet told no one of how he had
wakened from a restless sleep with the message from his subconscious
echoing in his brain: The Ramans do everything in threes."

... which I'd read a number of times over the years without it ever occurring to me that he might be referring to spaceships.

#137 ::: sherrold ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 05:15 PM:

Re: teh gay, and the outness thereof:

I know I've seen reply before, and better sourced, but all I can find now is this one:

Clark ...was long rumored to be gay by sci fi lovers,... but when
asked about his sexual orientation, his standard reply was, “not gay,
just cheerful.”
(http://visiblevote08.logoonline.com/2008/03/18/arthur-c-clarke-dies/)

Which if nothing else, made me smile.

#138 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2008, 02:21 PM:

Just caught a good tribute on Current TV

http://current.com/items/88872821_arthur_c_clarke_1917_2008

I tried to make it a linky thing but failed.

#139 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2008, 04:40 PM:

Joel Poliwin @#136:

And then at the end of Rendezvous With Rama, ... "The Ramans do everything in threes.

IIRC, in the forward to the second book, Clarke admitted that bit
was was a "generic hook", tossed in on principle. He hadn't actually
planned a sequel until Gentry Lee contacted him with ideas.

#140 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 02:00 AM:

One thing that Clarke did very well in the Rama books was to
describe an emotionally abusive relationship. I barely made it thru the
third book, and couldn't contemplate the fourth, because I was in such
deep empathy with the youngest daughter* -- the one who was wrong from
the start, who no matter what she did or how hard she tried, it was
never right and never enough, and who eventually began to lash out in
self-destructive ways because after all, why should she even CARE?

* I don't remember her name, or her parents' names, or any of the
rest in detail. That's quite deliberate; it was just too painful to
read for me to want to have it in my long-term memory. I wanted to
shake her parents and scream at them for what they were doing to her.

#141 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 10:24 AM:

Oops, sorry to Joel Polowin for misspelling your name!

I also note that the Ramans might do things in threes, but Clarke didn't....

#142 ::: James Davis Nicoll ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 01:42 PM:

140: One thing that Clarke did very well in the Rama books

How much did Clarke have to do with the actual writing of the three
Rama sequels? I never finished the first one for reasons that might
most diplomatically be described as seeing Rama II as an
abomination (Although not to the extent of Benford's foray into
Clarke-fic, since I believe Lee actually read RwR) but most of the
other collaborations with Clarke that I have read have read more like
the fiction of the junior author than Clarke himself.

I don't know that there's anyone around right now who is preadapted to getting the tone of a Faux-Clarke right.

#143 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 03:23 PM:

Seems like the stars did make a fuss after all:

Discovery News on GRB 0803198, specifically the last paragraph.

#144 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 01:35 AM:

James, #142: I don't give a shit whether it was Clarke himself or a
co-writer. What matters is that whoever wrote it got it RIGHT. Any
parent with a "difficult" child should be forced to read those scenes,
and do some hard thinking about the daughter's POV.

#145 ::: eyelessgame ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 06:14 PM:

My father once compared Clarke to O. Henry, and said Clarke did O. Henry endings better than O. Henry did.

Not just the twist at the end but the particular sort of twist at
the end that you really could have seen coming, but only if you were
already cosmically attuned in the right way.

Rendezvous with Rama was my favorite of his works: one of the
best instances of a novel changing its entire feel in the final
sentence. He never shoulda written sequels. (I refused to touch them.)

#146 ::: anthony ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 11:13 PM:

he wrote the worst novel i have read, and one of my favourite short
stories, and dhalgren losing over rama told me all i needed to know
about sf fandom.

#147 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 09:19 AM:

dhalgren losing over rama told me all i needed to know about sf fandom.

What did it tell you about SF fandom?

#148 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 12:00 PM:

anthony, I'm curious too. I read Dhalgren enthusiastically and many times, but RwR is also a good book, and I don't blame people for finding Dhalgren
difficult. Non-linear storytelling tends to be a hard sell, especially
when there really is no way to make all the timelines work out. I love
that sort of thing, but it's not to everyone's taste.

What it tells me about fandom is that a majority the subset of fans
that vote on the Hugos (or anyway, the ones who voted that year)
thought RwR was a better book. It doesn't tell me why, though I have
guesses (some of which are above). What does it tell you?

#149 ::: anthony ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 01:37 PM:

I'm going to get in trouble here, and I'm going to try really hard
not to. i hate Rama, i read it under duress, as part of a class, but i
found it cold, technocratic, and frankly badly written. often leaden,
and frequently reading it i was reminded of functional prose--like
reading cereal boxes or computer manuals.

dhalgren never struck me as a difficult novel and i wonder why its
reputation rests that way. it is no more difficult then pynchon, for
example. but it was queer, fecund, and strange, it moved my brain about
in ways that Rama never could have, even if you found it impenetrable,
it wasn't boring.

i have found that people who read a lot of sf like rama enjoy cold
and shiny more then they like strange and human...i felt like they were
hostile to the best sf writing that happened during the 60s and 70s,
many of which was viciously satirizing Clarke's obsessions (including
but not limited to the Atrocity Exhibition, Camp Concentration, Palmer
Eldritch (i know Dick won for Man in the High Castle), Dhalgren and a
number of others.

The exception is Tiptree--and maybe i am reading hi/r with an
unusual lens, or maybe s/he was good enough at playing the game, but
that's the interesting one. (and work that results from Tiptree is
often loathed by a certain mainstream of fandom--look at how David
Truesdale ripped apart Karen Joy Fowler's win in 1987.

#150 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 02:09 PM:

anthony 149: Actually, to the extent that I'm critical of Rama my
concerns tend to resemble yours. I liked it, but not as much as I
expected to. A lot of people like "cold and shiny" because warm and
human makes them so much trouble in their own lives, I find. It's the
attraction of Mr. Spock, so ably parodied in an episode of TNG when a
boy decides he's going to be like Data and have no emotions—because his
emotions are too much for him. He fails, of course, and the episode
pounds the viewer over the head with a metaphorical baseball bat:
"Don't. Try. To. Be. Like. A(n). Android/Vulcan!"

That criticism of fandom bears repeating (though the writing in the episode...well, let's just say it ain't Delany).

I suspect that a lot of people had trouble with Dhalgren
because of the sex scenes. Especially the gay sex scenes; remember that
fandom is mostly straight males, and was even more so at the time.

And even we who love it can't claim that the "Anathemata" section is
an easy read. In fact it's a special sense of the word 'read' that must
be applied in that part of the book; you keep having to loop back and
read something else on the same page, and if you want to really follow
the story, you have to keep trying to find all the pieces. And when you
do, you realize that there are several unresolvable event paradoxes in
it!

Rama, on the other hand, you can just read straight through.

I'm not intending a dis on either by the above. Popularity and
quality vary independently; I'm intending to explain why the Delany
book was less popular than the Clarke.

And I hope no one gets mad at you for your post at 149. It's not
like you stormed in here attacking Clarke in his memorial thread; you
were asked for, and gave, your opinion.

Besides, fellow big fans of Dhalgren are a rare and precious thing! Please don't go away. :-)

#151 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 03:17 PM:

Ok -- I'm going to admit here that I found Dhalgren impenetrable and
off-putting, and just decided Delaney's writing style wasn't my cup of
tea.

But I feel the same way about Clarke's novels. He wrote wonderful
short stories*, but Childhood's End bored me to tears. I had to read
2001 for a class in college, and the only part I liked was the sequence
with the hominids (apes?). And the film of the latter did nothing for
me.

(*The Nine Billion Names of God and The Star are my favorites.)

At the time Dhalgren was published, my favorite authors were
Herbert, Bradley, and McCaffrey -- so I may not have been the audience
Delaney was writing for...

#152 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 03:28 PM:

Lori 151: Those authors would certainly provide a sharp contrast to Delany, it's true! De gustibus non disputendem est.

#153 ::: anthony ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 04:19 PM:

i think that the Anathemata" section becomes easier, if you read
more, for lack of a better word, liteary fiction, and i guess i feel
the same way about Ballard. (i wonder what the mainstream, american,
fandom of people like Teasdale think of Ballard, btw)

That said, Delaney devoured, and loved all kinds of SF, the motion
of light on water mentions Bester, and he has written essays on Bradley
and McCaffery--he came from pulp, and never forgot his pulp roots.

And Clark did write the 9 billion names for god, which has one of the better o henry endings, as someone up thread mentioned.

#154 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 04:34 PM:

anthony @ 153... It's been a long time since I read it, but I loved Delany's Nova.
I wonder why it didn't trigger the rejuvenation of space opera, which
instead sort-of officially started in the early 1990s although might
want to thank CJCherryh and Star Wars for that. I guess the 1960s just weren't the right time for that rebirth.

#155 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 04:43 PM:

I like the two very different books, Rama and Dhalgren, but I have to say even though it's been years since I've read either, it's only images from Dhalgren
that linger. (And no, not just the sex scenes, though I recall some of
them being pretty hot.) So, yeah, I guess on that basis, I'd have to
vote now for Dhalgren being the better book.

But I like Wolfe and Bear, Paul Park and Vernor Vinge, and I've
never put myself in the position of voting for any Hugo nominee so I
guess I don't know what I'd do if I ever had to actually choose between
the First Best and Second Best book.

#156 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 06:54 PM:

I re-read Clarke stories that I first read aged 10 and I still get a
shiver down my back. I can reread John Carter and get an echo of the
original shiver, bounced down through three decades, but the Clarke
stories still work, they still deliver the original shiver.

As to the scurrilous newspaper stories, Clarke was only 5 years
younger than Alan Turing, and left the UK forever only 2 years after
Turing died.

The 1950s are an alien place now, more alien than Mars was then.

#157 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 07:19 PM:

At #155, Michael Weholt writes:

But I like Wolfe and Bear, Paul Park and Vernor Vinge, and I've
never put myself in the position of voting for any Hugo nominee so I
guess I don't know what I'd do if I ever had to actually choose between
the First Best and Second Best book.

As you probably know, the final Hugo ballot uses a preference
system, so your second, third, fourth, and fifth choices may sway the
final result. Choosing between good works becomes easier, I find, or
anyway somewhat less guilt-wracking.

#158 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 07:54 PM:

I was going to say that I don't like non-linear writing, but on
reflection that's not strictly true; I didn't have any trouble with "By
His Bootstraps" or The Man Who Folded Himself.

I think perhaps what I don't like is writing where I have trouble following the plot -- or discerning whether there is
a plot. And I'm not at all fond of the kind of lit-fic that's the
equivalent of a still-life, where by the end of the story nothing has
happened; IMO if you want to do still-life in text, you do it with a
poem!

I've never attempted Dhalgren, so I have no opinion to offer there. But just out of curiosity, anthony, what do you think of Barry Malzberg?

#159 ::: anthony ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 09:08 PM:

shamefully, i havent read him.

#160 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 09:25 AM:

I just discovered Childhood's End on my bookshelf, unread. Will soon remedy.

#161 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 01:05 PM:

GH Nordhagen 127: The first thing I read that Clarke wrote, was
_The Star_. I was 12 or 13, I think, and the story was a translation,
of course. (At that tender age I would not have even _contemplated_
reading anything that was not translated into Norwegian!).

Words cannot express how happy I would be if it turned out that GH
Nordhagen was not actually Norwegian, but simply a precocious teenager
from the Mid-West who went through a phase of only reading things in
Norwegian for the sheer intellectual challenge of it.

#162 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 07:49 PM:

Nancy C.M. #160:

I just discovered Childhood's End is *not* on my bookshelf,
even though I've read it loads of times starting when I was 10. Soon to
remedy. (Must have been that last move.)

#163 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 02:50 PM:

anthony remarks in #146 that Delany's Dhalgren losing the Hugo to Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama "told me all i needed to know about sf fandom."

This is silly, and some of the conversation following it is also silly, for several reasons.

First, Rendezvous with Rama was published in 1973, and won the Hugo in 1974. Dhalgren was published in January 1975. Even if Dhalgren had been a finalist for the Hugo (which it was not), it would never have gone up against that particular Clarke novel.

Second, how can antony know that this was "all [he] needed to know
about sf fandom"? Evidently "all he needed to know" excluded quite a
few facts I know, like the fact that Delany's work, Dhalgren
emphatically included, was and is practically venerated in enormous
swathes of fandom. Claiming that one knows all one "needs to know"
about anything is an almost infallible way to look dumb--like you're
simultaneously pretending to omniscience and being wrong.

Third, Xopher's attempts to explain "why the Delany book was less popular than the Clarke" founders on the plain fact that Dhalgren
was extremely popular, selling nearly a million copies in the decade
following its original publication. I don't know how its sales compare
to those of Rendezvous with Rama, but they're definitely in the same league.

Actually knowing some facts, and not jumping to conclusions, is
usually helpful. When you don't know the facts, or when what you know
is based on nothing more than hearsay or assumption, it helps to look
things up. Or ask around.

And by the way, antony is right about one thing: there's nothing particularly difficult about Dhalgren's
narrative style, beyond the highly imagistic opening few pages. Mostly
it's much more straightforwardly told than the Delany stories that won
him his SF awards in the late 1960s. The ways in which it's unlike the
average SF novel have little to do with "style."

Returning to my second point: I, whose high regard for Clarke is obvious at the top of this thread, think Dhalgren
is a great book. Does this perhaps tell antony something he might "need
to know" about SF fandom? Or has he made up his mind that he knows
everything he "needs to know"?

#164 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 04:26 PM:

Well, the dumb assumption I made was that anthony had the basic fact right, which was that Dhalgren went up against Rama and lost. You're right; I should have checked. Since it's easy to check,
I assumed anthony had checked, which was foolish on my part. We never
check the things we think we know. (Perhaps anthony was thinking of The Man Who Folded Himself, another novel with significant gay content (to say the least), which did go up against Rama?)

As far as sales go, I don't know Rama's sales figures either. But Patrick, we were talking about the novels' popularity with Hugo voters,
which doesn't necessarily map to sales, in either direction—or so I'd
thought. Perhaps the fans aren't so rarefied compared to the mainstream
culture as they think!

However...the fact that Dhalgren did not, in fact, get a Hugo nod, let alone win, while Rama
actually won, would tend to indicate that the former was less popular
than the latter, in terms of Hugo voting. I say "tend" because lots of
other factors can influence these things; for example, the number of
people who voted could make a difference, as could the "lots of other
great stuff that year" effect.

When Dhalgren came out I was a sophomore in high school. I got it because my mother bought it for me and left it on my bed without comment.
I think this was a gesture intended to encourage me to be open about my
homosexuality, but the fact is my mother wouldn't have known a Hugo
from a musk ox, and so she was part of the sales figure, but not part
of the Hugo-voting population. An unusual case, but I suspect there are
many others with the same net result.

#165 ::: anthony ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2008, 04:32 AM:

i should have been clearer and less rhetorical. i meant that there
was a peroid of time, where some of the best speculative fiction being
written was being written, and also work that was cold, mechanical, and
adolescent. I meant that, there was not one year, but an era, that
would reward a book so earthbound and leaden, and ignore a work so
cosmic.

I should have gone to the charts, and going thru the 1970s hugos,
there seems to be an attempt to settle questions about what the genre
meant, who the genre was for, and how the aesthetics and politics of
the genre would play out. i am basing this on the texts that i have
read, because i know very little about the culture, and that which i
know from the culture comes from unorthodox sources. i am interested in
knowing what happened there (ie 1970: Novel: The Left Hand of Darkness
by Ursula K. Le Guin; Short Story: "Time Considered as a Helix of
Semi-Precious Stones" by Samuel R. Delany vs Dramatic Presentation:
News coverage of Apollo XI; 1971: Novel: Ringworld by Larry Niven;
1972: Novel: To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip José Farmer; and a
Special Award for Dangerous Visions, 1973: Novel: The Gods Themselves
by Isaac Asimov vs Novella: "The Word for World Is Forest" by Ursula K.
Le Guin; 1974: Novel: Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke

Novella: "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" by James Tiptree, Jr. 1975:
Dramatic Presentation: Young Frankenstein; 1977: Novella: "By Any Other
Name" by Spider Robinson and "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?" by James
Tiptree, Jr. (tie)

Novelette: "The Bicentennial Man" by Isaac Asimov...i could continue,
but that list, just a selection of he winners in the 1970s, seems
dissiscative at best, what happened there?

and look what is missing: no ballard at all, no russ for the female
man, disch as a critical work in 1999, no spinnard, no elizabeth lynn
(but she did win the world fantasy award in 1979), the fan magazine
chanticleer never won anything at all, nor did its editor leibscher

and look what is not: tiptree is all over there, so is farmer,
leguinn, delany's most important early work is there, but not any of
his epic novels, but then so is niven's ringworld.

i think there should be a pattern here, a moving towards a canon, but i cannot seem to find any pattern at all.

(and the nebula's final ballot tells a similar story, what ever that
story is--in 1970 And Chaos Died by Joanna Russ nominated by Ringworld
won; "Poor Man, Beggar Man" by Joanna Russ nominated for Novelette, The
Queen of Air and Darkness" by Poul Anderson won, but two Silverbergs
also won, including the blasphemous Good News for the Vatican. Norman
Spinrad'a audacious and difficult Iron Dream nominated in 1972, lost to
Asimov--but Russ finally got hers. Rama won 1973's Nebula, against
Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. Are you really arguing that Rama
is a better novel than Pynchon?,but Tiptree won for her short story
that year; "Love Is the Plan, the Plan is Death";
LeGuinn won two
in 1974 and they gave one to Woody Allen, for similar reasons to Young
Frankenstien's Hugo I'm assuming; 1975 had a huge chunk of v. good
novels, and Dahlgren lost to The Forever War, not bad company, and they
had the balls to nominate Italio Calvino but they also nominated
Ragtime--which i never thot of as SF;1976--two winners that seem to
express the wide split well, both for Novella: "Houston, Houston, Do
You Read?" by James Tiptree, Jr. and "The Bicentennial Man" by Isaac
Asimov, but Delany loses again, for Triton. and in 1979 Disch loses to
Clarke.

so, sf fandom seems to not know how to depict itself, what made sf,
and who made sf, and made some really bad choices, in that decade--and
some not bad ones.

it leads me to some questions:

1) silverberg and tiptree seem to be the big winners of the new wave, why was this?

2) why did none of the literary fiction writers who were working thru
something resembling sf in the 1970s, including Pynchon, Borges, and
Cortazar do so poorly? were they read by fandom widely?

3) was there a fight between people who liked leguin and people who
liked lets say asimov, between people who loved ballard, and people who
pumped for rama--why is ballard never on these lists?

4) and the most difficult ones, considering the sensitive timing, with regards to clarke's recent death:

A lot of very smart, very capable people have told me that rama is
worth reading, that it was seminal to their self knowledge and
understanding--and its winning of a hugo and a nebula backs that up--so
can someone explain to me why, both in "sf" terms, in idea and genre
terms, plus in formal terms, in writing terms, why rama is worth
reading?

i should have been more open and less snarky, at he beginning. i also have idiosnycratic spelling and grammar, sorry about that

#166 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2008, 09:14 AM:

I think that when you say "sf fandom seems to not know how to depict
itself", you're displaying an unreasonable expectation. Awards
aren't--awards can't--be about "moving toward a canon,"
because the outcomes of even the most well-run awards processes (and
the Hugo Awards are generally quite well run, as literary awards go)
are always going to feature a lot of contingency, noise, and sensitive
dependence on initial conditions. Awards are among the many
conversations that make a canon, but they can never be sufficient, and
some of them will always look weird or foolish in later years. Gene
Wolfe has never won a Hugo, but it's absolutely obvious from inside the
SF subculture that fandom treasures and values him and that he
reciprocates the feeling.

Remember also that the Hugos are determined by a preferential,
automatic-runoff voting system whose aim is to discern which candidate
is most broadly acceptable to the largest number of voters. Many Hugo
winners were the candidate whogot the largest number of second- and
third-place votes from candidates who came behind them in first-place
votes. Me, for instance.

Basically, it seems like you're expecting the Hugos to yield up a
kind of Science Fiction Hall of Fame for the ages, and they never will.
What they help inform us about is what loomed large at the time.
Obviously, it's disconcerting that They'd Rather Be Right by
Clifton & Riley won the 1954 Hugo, but it's also a worthwhile piece
of data to know that this slight novel seemed so important for a brief
time.

#167 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2008, 09:40 AM:

Awards aren't--awards can't--be about "moving toward a canon,"
because the outcomes of even the most well-run awards processes (and
the Hugo Awards are generally quite well run, as literary awards go)
are always going to feature a lot of contingency, noise, and sensitive
dependence on initial conditions.

Adding to this list: awards are answering a different question than
cannons are, so even if both operated perfectly, they'd give different
answers.

The Hugo asks, which is the best book of a particular year? The
cannon asks, which are the best books in the genre? Not the same
questions.

The Hugo is given to one book a year (baring ties), whether that
year is a great or terrible. A year with three cannon-worthy books will
give the same number of Hugos as a year where everything was lackluster.

Thus even apart from the inevitable contingency, noise, etc, there are still fundamentally different questions here.

(The same is true for other questions -- "which is the best book of
such-and-such an author" won't be answered (necessarily) by which books
won awards, since those awards were asking a different question.)

SF

#168 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2008, 01:01 PM:

Part of what I was referring to above...why didn't 12 Angry Men,
one of the greatest films ever made, and certainly THE best ever set
almost entirely in a single room, win an Oscar™? Because The Bridge on the River Kwai was made the same year.

Both these films are excellent and would certainly belong in any
canon of great American films. The awards criterion alone would exclude
the former, which is to my mind the better film.

And that brings up another point. Works win awards in a given year
for all sorts of reasons. In the above case, the year both films were
made was in the McCarthy era, and the theme of Men was
decidedly liberal for the time (justice should be based on facts and a
dispassionate examination of same...come to think about it that's a
liberal idea once again, isn't it?), while Kwai, while complex,
was also patriotic. Were some Academy voters swayed by fear of HUAC? I
don't know, but it's certainly possible.

Another example: My Fair Lady
won Oscars™ for Best Picture and Best Actor, and garnered nominations
for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. Audrey Hepburn,
an excellent actress (albeit not a good singer, all hail Marnie Nixon)
in the title role, wasn't even nominated.

Why? Because Julie Andrews created the role on Broadway and many
Academy voters felt she should have played it in the movie (one of my
favorite "DVD from an alternate universe" fantasies), so they gave her
Best Actress for Mary Poppins (another fantasy: Dick Van Dyke sobers up before
making MP rather than after). Does that mean Audrey Hepburn isn't as
good an actress as Julie Andrews? Not at all; in fact it doesn't even
mean people thought Andrews acted better in Poppins than Hepburn did in Lady!

#169 ::: Rob T. ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2008, 03:08 PM:

Xopher, if Oscar voters went for The Bridge on the River Kwai instead of 12 Angry Men due to HUAC anxiety, that would add an extra layer of irony to the former film's Oscar victories. Kwai's screenplay was credited to Pierre Boulle, who wrote the original novel in French and who (as was revealed after
he'd been given the Oscar) had never written anything in English
before. Michael Wilson and Carl Foreman, both blacklistees, actually
wrote the screenplay.

#170 ::: aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2008, 03:27 PM:

Apropos of Patrick's comment #18 about the major media: they waited
a week so that they could cover the death of the last French
infantryman from WW1, but the Economist devoted their weekly obituary to Clarke.

#171 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2008, 10:37 PM:

anthony, #165, why is Rendezvous with Rama worth
reading? I think it's an interesting and engrossing story. It didn't
change my life and the sequels are pretty awful, but when I recently
had to winnow my books, I kept that one.

When I checked into my room in the Minicon hotel on the 19th, I
swapped shoes for slippers and went down to get something to eat from
the bar before I slept for a while. When I told the barman I was there
for the con, he said "I bet everybody will be wearing black armbands."
I told him we probably wouldn't be quite that demonstrative, but I
expected we'd have a memorial. We did, as well as one for Gygax. (Had
to ask the guy running the film program to move 2001 from where it was scheduled because that was the only time for the Clarke memorial and people wanted to go to both.)

#172 ::: anthony ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 04:44 AM:

marilee

i have enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that rama is vital, i just dont know why?

#173 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 06:28 AM:

Anthony, for a lot of us, Rendezvous With Rama was a
particularly accessible early presentation of some implications about
what cliches about "more advanced" and "alien" might mean. I read
it...hmm. Sometime in the second half of the '70s, I guess it must be,
since that's the span from 10 to 15 for me, and I'm sure it was in
there somewhere. In that bracket, I was also reading, oh, Niven, and
Niven & Pournelle, and Piper, and McCaffrey, and Bradley, and a
bunch of other authors who did a cool job telling stories about the
solving of mysteries thanks to human virtues like persistence,
cooperation, and inventiveness. In the midst of that, Rama
stood out as a story which agreed that all those virtues were in fact
good things but that they would run up against tests they would fail,
without any hope of passing. Childhood's End adds the element of the unknowable reaching down to tinker with us; Rama is about a manifestation that simply doesn't bend to or toward us at all.

I re-read it a few years ago and found much of it appalling. But it
isn't the appalling parts that stuck with me through the decades - it's
the parts about seeking and not finding, about watching and not
learning, about being one's best in the face of a challenge that will
not yield. And that's still good stuff to think upon.

#174 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 12:46 PM:

Side note to Anthony: This is a population of folks that includes a
lot of aging readers, and many with a variety of disabilities that
affect their reading. It's not just a matter of taste when people ask
for capitalization and punctuation - it's a matter of research dating
back to the 19th century and telegraph companies' investigation of what
text presentation is easiest to read and assimilate quickly. Please
consider using your shift key more; I'm probably not the only person
who'd simply been skipping over most of your posts until the responses
from others got me interested enough to struggle to deal with them.
Thanks.

#175 ::: anthony ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 07:31 PM:

Bruce:

I will make more conventional my capitalization and the like. When I
don't, it is the distinction between chatting and informal information
seeking versus more formal discourses. I found the paragraph about
searching and not seeking, moving, and the best argument in favour of
that work.

Thank You

Anthony

#176 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 04:40 AM:

Glad to have provided some insight. My hope is not so much to persuade you that you ought to like Rendezvous, but that you might see how it connects to works you do like that lead to some similar reflections.

In turn, thanks for explaining your usage - never thought about it that way.

#177 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2008, 08:14 PM:

Sir Patrick Moore briefly mentioned the death of Sir Arthur C. Clarke at the end of The Sky At Night
on the BBC. He told us of how they first met at a meeting of the
British Interplanetary Society, beginning a lifelong friendship.

#178 ::: Nirosh ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2008, 04:31 AM:

Santh Jayasuriya is better than Auther C Clark

#179 ::: Terry sees plaintive spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2009, 10:30 AM:

With a tolerable message in the cover text

#180 ::: Mary Aileen sees more of that disguised spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2009, 10:30 AM:

Different name, different country, same tactics.

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