Arthur C. Clarke

By: Robert Wringham
December 16, 2014


On paper, ARTHUR C. CLARKE (1917–2008) sounds like the hero of a 1940s adventure story for boys. He discovered the ancient Koneswaram ruins off the coast of Sri Lanka; designed telecommunications satellites, popularizing the concept of geostationary orbit; and wrote some of the world’s most aspirational Humanist science fiction. In reality, the man behind 2001: A Space Odyssey was retiring, modest. Despite its exciting title, his autobiographical Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! is dull; he’d much rather describe the intricacies of some underwater breathing apparatus or space probe instead of, say, his artistic inspirations or his seldom-mentioned bisexuality. Of course, hard science was the source of his literary power. Unlike many of his genre-writing peers (Heinlein and Asimov being exceptions), Clarke’s utopian dream came not from sensationalism but from technological principle. His was a nuts-and-bolts science fiction, making the quest for human transcendence among the stars all the more believable: yes, we will walk with gods, but that process begins with vacuum tubes and phosphor dots. Although he did give us the ultimate way of achieving existential perspective in the form of the Wise Space Baby.

GOLDEN-AGE SCI-FI at HILOBROW: Golden Age Sci-Fi: 75 Best Novels of 1934–1963 | Robert Heinlein | Karel Capek | William Burroughs | E.E. “Doc” Smith | Clifford D. Simak | H.P. Lovecraft | Olaf Stapledon | Philip K. Dick | Jack Williamson | George Orwell | Boris Vian | Bernard Wolfe | J.G. Ballard | Jorge Luis Borges |Poul Anderson | Walter M. Miller, Jr. | Murray Leinster | Kurt Vonnegut | Stanislaw Lem | Alfred Bester | Isaac Asimov | Ray Bradbury | Madeleine L’Engle | Arthur C. Clarke | PLUS: Jack Kirby’s Golden Age and New Wave science fiction comics.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Margaret Mead, Remedios Varo, Philip K. Dick, Bill Hicks, Jane Austen.

READ MORE about members of the New Gods Generation (1914-23).