Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My God, it's full of stars!

Arthur C. Clarke died early today in Sri Lanka. The NY Times has a very good obituary. Growing up, I was a great fan of Clarke's writing. His most famous work, 2001: A Space Odessey, is of course a classic book and movie (Stanley Kubrick co-wrote the movie). I must be the only person in the world who's read the book but not seen the movie! It turns out that Clarke wrote the book after he co-wrote the movie with Kubrick (based on Clarke's original ideas). He felt compelled to write the book because he disagreed with Kubrick's "...obscurism and mysticism..." in the movie (see here for a discussion). So the movie and the book disagree in exactly those areas where Clarke disagreed with Kubrick. In fact, Dave Bowman's famous line in the book as he enters the monolith ("My God, it's full of stars") does not appear in the movie!

While 2001 was an amazing book, he had other equally amazing books. I remember being particularly enthralled by Rendezvous with Rama, a fascinating story of an encounter with a huge, cylindrical alien craft that comes swooping into the solar system. And then, of course, there's his frightening classic Childhood's End, featuring aliens who look like devils. Clarke gave me a lot of joy with these and other books. I hope he finds that where he's gone now is full of stars!

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