Tuesday, March 18, 2008

 

Sir Arthur C. Clarke


When I was in sixth grade, my father gave me a copy of Robert Heinlein's book, "Glory Road". Although that was not his best novel, it opened a new world for me. After devouring that one, I went on to read every SciFi book I could get my hands on... including all the greats - the rest of Heinlein ("Stranger in a Strange Land" is one of my top 5 favorite books), Isaac Asimov (especially his "Foundation" series), and Arthur C. Clarke. This was many years before the movie, "2001 A Space Odyssey" (the movie was OK enough, but I loved that soundtrack).

Clarke's work was a little different from the others. My Dad used to say that Clarke wrote Science Faction, since many of his ideas were within our reach, and were usually scientifically believable. Among them was his vision of a worldwide telecommunications network using relay satellites parked in geosynchronous orbits around the planet - more than a decade before Sputnik. I always liked his idea for a space elevator - a tether into space. I think I read every SciFi novel Clarke wrote, my favorites from his prolific output include "Childhood's End", "The City and the Stars", "Fountains of Paradise", and the "Rama" series.

Although I don't read a lot of SciFi anymore, all of these guys had such a huge influence as I developed my sense of self and my somewhat offbeat sense of the cosmos. Even though I really don't think about these kind of things much anymore, I was profoundly transformed at the time by their depictions of the immensity and indefinability of the universe, and how incredibly complex and unusual it had to be. They showed me that our version of "time" and the physical dimensions are simple constructs we've made up to try to explain what we can't ever begin to really understand. For decades I moved away from God and the church only to realize finally that my own inadequate personal concept of god exists in all that immensity and uncertainty that is the universe.

Thank you, Sir Clarke. May your continued journey across time and space be as fascinating as your brief 90 years here on earth were.

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