Arthur C. Clarke Essay - Clarke, Arthur C(harles) (Vol. 1)

Clarke, Arthur C(harles) (Vol. 1)

Clarke, Arthur C(harles) 1917–

A British science fiction writer, Clarke is also an explorer and photographer and has written books on earth, sea, and space exploration. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.)

[An] important part of Mr. Clarke's success as a fiction writer (I exclude his achievements as a popularizer of science and of science-fiction prophecies, which is an entirely different kind of skill) can be attributed to the use—the unashamed use—he made of … semi-erotic, semi-irresponsible daydreams, which he told as soberly as though they were as worth taking seriously as hard truths. Instead of clinging to them in privacy, shame, or penuriousness, he voiced them for all of us, as though he were reporting an important part of the real world. And of course he was; hence, how could we have failed to be moved?

William Atheling, Jr., in his More Issues at Hand, Advent, 1970, p. 48.

Arthur C. Clarke … has become the best publicized science-fiction writer in the world. He has become the name one is most likely to hear when mainstream sources, unfamiliar with the field, choose an example of an s-f writer. Clarke is known today as the man who wrote 2001, the movie that cost more and satisfied less than any other fantasy film yet produced….

For me Clarke was at his very best when he let his imagination wander far from the fields of real technology. One of his earliest books, a brilliant fantasy of the very far future, Against the Fall of Night, is virtually a prose poem of the last days of Earth and faith in man's immortality. A billion years from now, after man's empire has encompassed the universe, time has eroded it again, and there is but the one last city left where the last men dream and go their haunted way.

But the universe does not end here. For in this last city the last act is to send a message out into the universe where somewhere there must still be men to carry the word that Mankind would come back. A beautiful book, an act of faith for a science-fiction mind.

Childhood's End is Clarke's most famous novel. This tale of the new evolution of a generation of human children into something higher, managed and manipulated by peacemakers from outer space, has always seemed to me to be a novel of despair. Others may see it as offering hope, but this tampering with humanity always struck me as being synthetic….

Donald A. Wolheim, in his The Universe Makers, Harper & Row, 1971, pp. 97-8.