[OPE] Arthur C. Clarke dies in Sri Lanka: a generation of science fiction writers is vanishing

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@tiscali.nl)
Date: Fri Mar 21 2008 - 16:35:36 EDT

"Sir Arthur Clarke, who has died aged 90, was, for many, synonymous with science fiction, and in particular with 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick's film of his novella The Sentinel; his principal gifts, however, were his ability to popularise science and his genius as one of the most prophetic voices of the space age.

In the 100 or so books he wrote, co-wrote or edited, Clarke predicted, with remarkable accuracy, such developments as the moon landings, space travel, communications satellites, compact computers, cloning, commercial hovercraft and a slew of other scientific developments - though he was also, inevitably, often wide of the mark.

In many cases, though, that was because Clarke underestimated the speed of technology's advance. In his first novel, Prelude to Space (written in 1947), he "scored a direct hit by giving 1959 as the date of the first lunar impact", but predicted manned satellites by 1970, and the moon landing no earlier than 1978." http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/03/19/db1904.xml

Clarke moved to Sri Lanka in 1956 to study the Great Barrier Reef. Having battled debilitating post-polio syndrome since the 1960s, he discovered that scuba-diving approximated the feeling of weightlessness that astronauts experience in space. He ran a diving school there. In his last years, he moved around in a wheelchair.

When prurient journalists grilled him about whether he was really gay or not, Clarke quipped "No, merely mildly cheerful." The authorized biography of Clarke was published by Neil McAleer in 1992. He got his knighthood in 1998.

On his 90th birthday, December 16th, Clarke wished for peace. For close to half his lifetime he had watched the longest-lasting armed conflict in the modern history of Asia. "I dearly wish to see lasting peace established in Sri Lanka as soon as possible," he said. "But I'm aware that peace cannot just be wished - it requires a great deal of hard work, courage and persistence". 

Since that time he was in and out of hospital, experiencing breathing difficulties, his aide Rohan de Silva said. One of his aphorisms was that "politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories". May his spirit of inquiry live on among the living.


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