Arthur C. Clarke Analysis


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Arthur C. Clarke received numerous awards. The most representative include Hugo Awards for science fiction in 1956, 1974, and 1980; UNESCO’s Kalinga Prize in 1961, for science writing; the Stuart Ballantine Gold Medal in 1963, for originating the concept of communications satellites; an Academy Award nomination in 1969 for best screenplay; Nebula Awards for science fiction in 1972, 1973, and 1980; a GALAXY Award for science fiction in 1979; and the Centennial Medal in 1984, for scientific achievements. Other distinguished honors include the prestigious Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1986, the Charles A. Lindbergh Award in 1987, and his election to the Society of Satellite Professions Hall of Fame in 1987 and to the Aerospace Hall of Fame in 1988. In 1989 Clarke became a Commander of the British Empire, and he received a knighthood for “services to literature” in 1998.

Beginning in the 1950’s, Arthur C. Clarke became acknowledged as a major science-fiction author, winning several Hugo and Nebula Awards for his works, and he earned the Kalinga Prize in 1961 for science writing. He garnered greater renown in 1968 as author of the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey and as a screenwriter of the Stanley Kubrick film of the same title, which led to an Academy Award nomination; a year later, he joined newscaster Walter Cronkite as a television commentator on the Apollo 11 space mission to the Moon. From the 1970’s on, his novels were best sellers, the most successful being his sequels to 2001. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, Clarke hosted three documentary television series about strange phenomena, Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World (1980), Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers (1985), and Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious Universe (1994). In 1998, he was knighted by the British government for his contributions to literature, and in 2005 his adopted home country of Sri Lanka bestowed on him its highest civil honor, Sri Lankabhimanya.

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Arthur C. Clarke is best known for novels that chronicle near-future space and sea exploration or suggest transcendence of human form and limitations. He published an autobiographical novel based on his experience with radar in World War II, and he adapted several of his novels for film: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) for Stanley Kubrick, 2010: Odyssey Two (1982), and Cradle (1988). In 1997, 3001: The Final Odyssey was published. He contributed numerous articles on science and speculation, edited various scientific and science-fiction magazines, and wrote more than twenty books of nonfiction, including By Space Possessed (1993) and The Snows of Olympus: A Garden of Mars (1994). Clarke recorded some of his fictional works, lectured widely on science, the sea, and futuristic technology, and authored a television series, Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers. His writing has appeared in popular magazines under the pseudonyms E. G. O’Brien and Charles Willis.

Arthur C. Clarke also wrote numerous science-fiction short stories, which are available in several collections; two of his stories, “The Star” and “A Meeting with Medusa,” won major awards. Clarke is also noted as the author of scientific essays and science-related books for general readers, usually about outer space or the ocean, and he published a few loosely structured autobiographies.

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Arthur C. Clarke’s fiction speculates about the lives of humans in the future. Is his vision of the future a utopia, where humans live happy lives in a nearly perfect society, or a dystopia, where they lead a fearful existence in a hostile world?

Are any of Clarke’s characters complex, well-developed ones to whom readers can relate?

What role does the theory of evolution play in Clarke’s fiction?

What nonhuman sentient beings appear in Clarke’s fiction, how are they different from humans, and why are they important?

What is the relationship between humans and technology in Clarke’s fiction?


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Blackford, Russell. “Technological Meliorism and the Posthuman Vision: Arthur C. Clarke and the Ultimate Future of Intelligence.” New York Review of Science Fiction 14 (November, 2001): 1, 10-12. Examines Clarke’s visionary predictions in his nonfiction Profiles of the Future and discusses how certain ideas later reappeared in his fiction.

Brull, Steven, and Neil Gross. “The Next World According to Clarke.” Business Week, February 24, 1997, 123-124. Notes that scientists take Clarke’s musings about the future seriously, for Clarke has always blurred the lines between what people dream and what engineers create; notes that many respected scientists, engineers, and writers praise Clarke for infusing science fiction with verisimilitude and helping inspire real-world scientists.

Clarke, Arthur C. Astounding Days: A Science-Fictional Autobiography. New York: Bantam Books, 1989. Although this volume is not really an autobiography, Clarke offers a brief memoir of his youth. He explains how writers and editors of Astounding magazine (later named Analog) first aroused his interest in science fiction and discusses his work on rocketry and radar. Provides a pleasant diversion on Clarke’s background.

Clarke, Arthur C. The View from Serendip. New York: Random House, 1977. Clarke writes with interest of the three s‘s in his life—space, serendipity, and the sea. The twenty-five chapters touch on the events in his life, the people he has met, and the technological advances of the present and the future. A good introduction to Clarke’s wide-ranging...

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