Friday, March 21, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke, RIP

Arthur C. Clarke has passed away at the age of 90. My first encounter with Clarke did not go well, though I didn’t even know who Clarke was at the time. We watched 2001 at school in 4th or 5th grade, and it bored me to tears. Still does. I may be the only person on earth who actually thinks the movie 2010 is better.

A few years later, as I was starting to get deeper into science fiction, I became more aware of Clarke. I knew he was one of the most renowned figures in the field, so I thought I ought to see what he was like. On one of my regular trips to the local library, I checked out a book called Rendezvous with Rama.

Keep in mind that this sort of science fiction was pretty new to me at the time. I had grown up on Star Trek: The Next Generation, the old Star Trek animated series, and whatever schlock the local video stores had, back in the glory days before the big chain video stores like Blockbuster became so dominant. I loved reading about science from an early age, starting with an old yellowed book about the solar system (probably written back when the Galilean moons were an amazing new discovery) that my grandfather had given me, but science fiction that wasn’t based on some media property was something I came to later. Growing up, I had a whole shelf of Isaac Asimov’s science books that I read over and over, but I somehow managed for years to remain ignorant of the fact that he was also a science fiction author.

So, I read Rendezvous with Rama, and I loved it. It had no malevolent aliens, no ships zipping around like World War II aircraft, no fighting, and very little that could be called “action,” and yet it was wonderfully exciting. All it had was a big weird empty spaceship, full of mysteries that the book largely doesn’t explain. And it was awesome. I’ve read and enjoyed a number of his books since then, such as the novel version of 2001 (Which I like much more than the movie, because the book actually has stuff happening with some regularity) and the unjustly obscure and neglected Earthlight. Rest in peace, and thank you.

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