The amazing Arthur C. Clarke

No matter how good non-fiction is, when I'm done with one or two, I usually crave a dose of fiction. By which I generally don't mean a contemporary best-seller. So when I finished the superb, thought provoking Thinking, Fast And Slow / Daniel Kahneman, I reached for the sci-fi shelf. And this is what I jotted down, as I read the slim volume I picked up:


Arthur C. Clarke
Childhood’s End (first published: 1953)
Interesting plot and characters. Unforeseen plot development.
As a reader mentioned on Amazon, this is not a typical Arthur C. Clarke sci-fi novel, in the sense that it isn’t based on hard scientific research. It’s more in the realm of fantasy-sci-fi. It has a lyrical quality, it has supernatural beings, and it makes a philosophic point that is at odds with the one usually espoused by Clarke. But all that is beside the point I wanted to make:
The funny thing is – like with many other futuristic, sci-fi novels – that sci-fi writers, no matter how brilliant, did not foresee or dream of such things as the internet, ebooks, email, mobile phones that are in effect handheld computers that can do tons of complicated stuff; text messages, e-photos, and more. Humanity could be so advanced, technically/mechanically; yet they still get their info in the form of paper, tons of it; they’re still stuck with clunky fax machines, and any serious computers are huge and take up entire rooms.

In terms of the effect of technology on humans and their daily life, Clarke’s 1956 novel, The City and the Stars, tells a different story. But, since I read it 10 years ago, in Feb 2002, I must confess I don’t remember the details, and only have the brief note I wrote to myself at the time:

Feb. 2002
Arthur C. Clarke  - The City and the Stars 
Amazing SF, especially considering when it was written (1956). The breadth of vision and the scientific insight and foresight are amazing. When it comes to human nature – nu, we've read better. The predominance of the male point of view, seeing the entire universe as a man's domain, with women only an adjunct, is typical of its time (and much later times.)
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As it happens, half-way through Childhood's End, I came across the following newspaper article, which made me smile, because it described the up side of today's technological advances: No Flying Cars, but the Future is Bright, wrote Virginia Postrel. I find that a very comforting thought.



Have you read either of the above Arthur C. Clarkes? Both? Any comments?


1 comments:

Michael D. Sweeney said...

Childhood's End is the best example of science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke.

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