Culture Writing

Ciao, Sir Clarke

Two of the greatest science-fiction novels I’ve ever read (and would argue have ever been written) are Childhood’s End and Rendezvous with Rama. Arthur C. Clarke wrote both of them, among dozens of other stories and novels that, through the 50s, 60, and 70s, endowed to pulp sci-fi a respectable, even haughty, mien.

I remember being 10 or 11, just recently graduated from Heinlein’s Red Planet, when I discovered Clarke. And then taking a big ambitious bite a few years later out of Childhood’s End. That was one of the first sci-fi books that made me realize science fiction was about vision and commentary, and that many of the issues of which he wrote — power, conquest, self-interest, governance, fate — were a primer for the world I didn’t understand yet sprawled before me.

Clarke was dry (I don’t believe an instant of perspiration occurred in his tales), but he was precise and fully invested in cosmic mystery. I will always adore him for that and hope his inspiring fiction always enjoys the light of day.

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