Tuesday, March 18, 2008

RIP Arthur C. Clark, Dec. 16, 1917 -- March 18, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke died. The man gave us radar, and communications satellites. He gave me more.

I remember those summer days, as a child on break from school. We'd go hide inside the airconditioning of our public library. I would spend all day in there, piling up books and books and books. Then, in fifth grade, I came across one with a dark blue cover, portraying a starry sky over some alien world. I was intrigued.

The book was "The Songs of Distant Earth." It was by Arthur C. Clarke. I opened it. I read. I was enthralled.

Here was a man who managed the task of grounding his stories in the hardest of science and newtonian phsyics... and the most fantastical reaches of imagination. He imagined the impossible yet plausible: Exploding suns, great "seedships" carrying the treasures of humanity, ranging from King Tut's burial mask to our very DNA, to far out worlds, proto-intelligence on alien worlds, and most of all the incomprehensible notions of distance and time in outer space.

Next trip to the library, I got everything by Clarke I could. 2001, of course. Also his short story collections, 2010, the Rama series. Every one transported me away, and saved me from a stifling hot summer and kept my mind racing to the impossible and beyond.

There was a power there -- the power of the written word. He spoke to me through the decades and across the oceans. He pounded out his stories on an old manual typewriter, yet they spoke of the sleekest of starships and the grandest frontiers of humanity's possibilities.

It's probably not an exaggeration to say that I am a writer because of Clarke. He made me who I am, and he gave the world, and all beyond it, to a 11-year-old boy.

Rest in Peace, my friend. You will be missed.

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