Goodnight, Sir Arthur

>> Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sir Arthur C. Clarke has passed away. He was 90 years old.

Sir Arthur will be commemorated as the author of 2001 and the conceptual inventor of the geostationary communications satellite. He, himself, wanted to be remembered as a writer, and of course he will be. But my hope is that Sir Arthur will be remembered more than anything as a man of Reason. He was a man who loved ideas and whose deepest faith seemed to be in the capacity of the human mind to eventually achieve anything and everything it might be put to--be it space travel or world peace. He was a skeptic and a dreamer in the best senses of both words: a man who was willing to evaluate any notion set before him in an open-minded way but not one who ever seemed to leave his critical faculties behind. Anything is possible, but every claim requires evidence before it becomes one of the bricks in your edifice. It might even be said that the only thing in which he retained an almost blind faith was that aforementioned-faith in the mind and it's potential to triumph over the worst human impulses. I can think of nothing better to believe in than that.

A video Sir Arthur made for his 90th:

"I have a great faith in optimism as a guiding principle, if only because it offers us the opportunity of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy." I believe Sir Arthur took it as a given that Reason leads to understanding, and understanding to wisdom. I want to believe that, too.

Rest in peace, Sir Arthur.

ADDENDUM: I just saw Wired's obituary, which is nice and worth a look. They closed with a wonderful quote from Sir Arthur, and if I'd seen the Wired piece before writing my own, I would have closed my original post with it:

When asked by Wired in 1993 if he had put any thought into what he would want on his epitaph, Clarke said he had.

"Oh, yes," he said. "I've often quoted it: 'He never grew up; but he never stopped growing.'"


Jeri Wednesday, March 19, 2008 at 1:16:00 AM EDT  

He is the last of the golden age SF giants, and he will be missed. His book Childhood's End is on my top five list of SF novels, ever. He is an amazing author, and by all reports a good man.

Eric Wednesday, March 19, 2008 at 1:43:00 AM EDT  

Not quite the last: we still have Ray Bradbury, but Bradbury is 87 and can't be expected to be with us too much longer.

In his 90th birthday speech/farewell, Sir Arthur alluded to how many of his contemporaries were no longer with him, and how that was the sad thing about living as long as he had. It's sad for those of us who remain behind, to watch our heroes fade away and come to the ends of their time. I suppose we can take solace, though, in having Childhood's End and Rama and 2001 and the rest. I realized today that I had missed The Songs Of Distant Earth when I was devouring his books in my teenage years; I've added that to my list at Amazon to make up for the oversight.

I think, unless I'm overlooking someone, that when Bradbury dies it really will be the end of that Golden Age generation that created science fiction as we know it. Sad, but they had a good run.

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