The Literary Year: 16 December
To dissertation, and beyond ...
I blame three writers for my enduring love of Science Fiction: in chronological order, Ray Bradbury, HG Wells, and Arthur C Clarke. The latter would have turned 103 today.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) has been a mini-obsession for at least 25 years, in both book and cinematic form.
Science Fiction writers are often judged on their ability to predict the future. Whilst this is unreliable and unfair, it's a test that Clarke passes with flying colours. You may not know that he predicted the satellite network the modern world takes for granted. If you watch Kubrick's majestic film, which Clarke had a significant hand in, you'll find other gadgets and concepts like video calling, tablets and famously, AI Assistants. Remember, both book and film were released the year before the Apollo 11 moon landings ...
2001: A Space Odyssey is a staggeringly ambitious work, both on page and screen. It begins pre-history, in fact pre-humanity, with Moon Watcher's struggles for survival and the alien intervention which changed the course of life on Earth. The famously obscure ending suggests one possible evolution, perhaps a hopeful one which assumes that we are able to avoid destroying ourselves?
Back to Clarke's writing. One of the things he captures beautifully is the silence of the vacuum. He may as well have written the tagline for Ridley Scott's 1979 classic, Alien: 'In space, no-one can hear you scream.' Another enduring motif in Clarke's work is a sense of scale and humanity's insignificance in the universe. In this, perhaps his work echoes the work of the Romantic Poets in focussing on the sublime.
By the time I wrote my English Literature dissertation in 2012, on the evolution of Robots and AI in Science Fiction, I'd moved on to a new triumvirate of authors: Isaac Asimov, William Gibson, and Philip K Dick. Dick was born today in 1928, by the way, making today's author choice very difficult. So whilst my SF reading expanded like the universe, it could be said that Arthur C Clarke's work was one of the ingredients which caused my 'Big Bang' in the first place ...
These related works might also interest you:
By the same author: Rendezvous with Rama (1973) another 'BDO' (Big Dumb Object); A Fall of Moondust (1961) - a problem-solver for fans of Apollo 13 or The Martian
The sublime in Science Fiction: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1831); HP Lovecraft's cosmic horror works
If you'd like a PDF copy of the leading graphic, you can download it here:
Finally, if you're still reading, it would be foolish not to wish my Dearest Partner of Greatness a happy birthday, too!