ONLY just found out that Arthur C. Clarke has died and I feel unexpectedly sad. It’s like a part of my childhood – or at least my adolescence – has died with him. He wasn’t my favourite sci-fi author. That questionable accolade went to Bob Shaw and Asimov (both of whom are also departed, incidentally). But there’s no denying his profound contribution to the genre – and beyond, in the advancement and understanding of sci-fact.
Clarke is often credited with “inventing” the artificial satellite, which is only partly true. He did envisage a system of global satellites, but when he tried to patent the idea, he was told he would have to patent the actual detailed design, not just the concept. Which he never did. He died a rich man. Imagine how much richer he would have been if he had been given royalties for every satellite placed orbit.
I guess he’ll be best remembered for 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was based on a short story by Clarke called The Sentinel. His conception of hardware and science was truly remarkable, his characterisations less successful, which is why I prefer some of his contemporaries as writers. Nevertheless, Childhood’s End and Rendezvous With Rama will justifiably enjoy their status as science fiction and literary classics for a long time to come. Maybe even for eternity.