Arthur C(harles) Clarke Biography
Arthur C. Clarke comments:
Nationality: British. Born: Minehead, Somerset, 1917. Education: Huish's Grammar School, Taunton, Somerset, 1927-36; King's College, London, 1946-48, B.Sc. (honours) in physics and mathematics 1948. Military Service: Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force, 1941-46; served as Radar Instructor, and Technical Officer on the first Ground Controlled Approach radar; originated proposal for use of satellites for communications, 1945. Career: Assistant auditor, Exchequer and Audit Department, London, 1936-41; assistant editor, Physics Abstracts, London, 1949-50; since 1954, engaged in underwater exploration and photography of the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and the coast of Sri Lanka. Director, Rocket Publishing, London, Underwater Safaris, Colombo, and the Spaceward Corporation, New York. Has made numerous radio and television appearances (most recently as presenter of the television series Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World, 1980, and World of Strange Powers, 1985), and has lectured widely in Britain and the United States; commentator, for CBS-TV, on lunar flights of Apollo 11, 12 and 15; Vikram Sarabhai Professor, Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, India, 1980. Awards: International Fantasy award, 1952; Hugo award, 1956, 1969 (for screenplay), 1974, 1980; Unesco Kalinga prize, 1961; Boys' Clubs of America award, 1961; Franklin Institute Ballantine medal, 1963; Aviation-Space Writers Association Ball award, 1965; American Association for the Advancement of Science-Westinghouse Science Writing award, 1969; Playboy award, 1971; Nebula award, 1972, 1973, 1979; Jupiter award, 1973; John W. Campbell Memorial award, 1974; American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics award, 1974; Boston Museum of Science Washburn award, 1977; Marconi fellowship, 1982; Science Fiction Writers of America Grand Master award, 1986; Vidya Jyothi medal, 1986; International Science Policy Foundation medal, 1992; Lord Perry award, 1992; Presidential Award, University of Illinois, 1997. D.Sc.: Beaver College, Glenside, Pennsylvania, 1971. D. Litt.: University of Liverpool, 1995; University of Hong Kong, 1996. Chair, British Interplanetary Society, 1946-47, 1950-53. Guest of Honor, World Science Fiction Convention, 1956. Fellow, Royal Astronomical Society; Fellow, King's College, London, 1977; Chancellor, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, since 1979. C.B.E. (Commander, Order of the British Empire), 1989; knighted, 1998. European satellite, launched in April 2000, named after Clarke in recognition of his contribution to the development of global communication networks. Agent: David Higham Associates Ltd., 5-8 Lower John Street, London W1R 4HA, England; or, Scouil, Chichak, Galen Literary Agency, 381 Park Avenue, New York, New York 10016, U.S.A.
Prelude to Space. New York, Galaxy, 1951; London, Sidgwick andJackson, 1953; as Master of Space, New York, Lancer 1961; as The Space Dreamers, Lancer, 1969.
The Sands of Mars. London, Sidgwick and Jackson, 1951; New York, Gnome Press, 1952.
Against the Fall of Night. New York, Gnome Press, 1953; revised edition, as The City and the Stars, London, Muller, and New York, Harcourt Brace, 1956.
Childhood's End. New York, Ballantine, 1953; London, Sidgwick and Jackson, 1954.
Earthlight. London, Muller, and New York, Ballantine, 1955, 1998.
The Deep Range. New York, Harcourt Brace, and London, Muller, 1957.
Across the Sea of Stars (omnibus). New York, Harcourt Brace, 1959.
A Fall of Moondust. London, Gollancz, and New York, HarcourtBrace, 1961.
From the Oceans, From the Stars (omnibus). New York, HarcourtBrace, 1962.
Glide Path. New York, Harcourt Brace, 1963; London, Sidgwick andJackson, 1969.
An Arthur C. Clarke Omnibus [and Second Omnibus ]. London, Sidgwick and Jackson, 2 vols., 1965-68.
Prelude to Mars (omnibus). New York, Harcourt Brace, 1965.
2001: A Space Odyssey (novelization of screenplay), with StanleyKubrick. New York, New American Library, and London, Hutchinson, 1968; with a new introduction, Thorndike, Maine, G. K. Hall, 1994.
The Lion of Comarre, and Against the Fall of Night. New York, Harcourt Brace, 1968; London, Gollancz, 1970.
Rendezvous with Rama. London, Gollancz, and New York, HarcourtBrace, 1973.
Imperial Earth. London, Gollancz, 1975; revised edition, New York, Harcourt Brace, 1976.
The Fountains of Paradise. London, Gollancz, and New York, Harcourt Brace, 1979.
2010: Odyssey Two. New York, Ballantine, and London, Granada, 1982.
The Songs of Distant Earth. London, Grafton, and New York, Ballantine, 1986.
2061: Odyssey Three. New York, Ballantine, and London, Grafton, 1988.
Cradle, with Gentry Lee. London, Gollancz, and New York, Warner, 1988.
Rama II, with Gentry Lee. London, Gollancz, and New York, Bantam, 1989.
Beyond the Fall of Night, with Gregory Benford. New York, Putnam, 1990; with Against the Fall of Night, London, Gollancz, 1991.
The Ghost from the Grand Banks. New York, Bantam, and London, Gollancz, 1990.
The Garden of Rama, with Gentry Lee. London, Gollancz, and NewYork, Bantam, 1991.
Rama Revealed, with Gentry Lee . London, Gollancz, and New York, Bantam, 1993.
The Hammer of God. London, Gollancz, and New York, Bantam, 1993.
Richter 10, with Mike McQuay. New York, Bantam Books, 1996.
3001: The Final Odyssey. New York, Ballantine Books, 1997.
The Trigger, with Michael Kube-McDowell. New York, BantamBooks, 1999.
The Light of Other Days, with Stephen Baxter. New York, Tor, 2000.
Expedition to Earth. New York, Ballantine, 1953; London, Sidgwick and Jackson, 1954; New York, Ballantine, 1998.
Reach for Tomorrow. New York, Ballantine, 1956; London, Gollancz, 1962; New York, Ballantine, 1998.
Tales from the White Hart. New York, Ballantine, 1957; London, Sidgwick and Jackson, 1972; New York, Ballantine, 1998.
The Other Side of the Sky. New York, Harcourt Brace, 1958; London, Gollancz, 1961.
Tales of Ten Worlds. New York, Harcourt Brace, 1962; London, Gollancz, 1963.
The Nine Billion Names of God: The Best Short Stories of Arthur C. Clarke. New York, Harcourt Brace, 1967.
The Wind from the Sun: Stories of the Space Age. New York, HarcourtBrace, and London, Gollancz, 1972.
Of Time and Stars: The Worlds of Arthur C. Clarke. London, Gollancz, 1972.
The Best of Arthur C. Clarke 1937-1971, edited by Angus Wells. London Sidgwick and Jackson, 1973.
The Sentinel. New York, Berkley, 1983; London, Panther, 1985.
A Meeting with Medusa, with Green Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson. New York, Tor, 1988.
Tales from Planet Earth. London, Century, 1989; New York, Bantam, 1990.
2001: A Space Odyssey, with Stanley Kubrick, 1968.
Interplanetary Flight: An Introduction to Astronautics. London, Temple Press, 1950; New York, Harper, 1951; revised edition, 1960.
The Exploration of Space. London, Temple Press, and New York, Harper, 1951; revised edition, 1959.
Islands in the Sky (for children). London, Sidgwick and Jackson, andPhiladelphia, Winston, 1952.
The Young Traveller in Space (for children). London, Phoenix House, 1954; as Going into Space, New York, Harper, 1954; as The Scottie Book of Space Travel, London, Transworld, 1957; revised edition, with Robert Silverberg, as Into Space, New York, Harper, 1971.
The Exploration of the Moon. London, Muller, 1954; New York, Harper, 1955. The Coast of Coral. London, Muller, and New York, Harper, 1956.
The Making of a Moon: The Story of the Earth Satellite Program. London, Muller, and New York, Harper, 1957; revised edition, Harper, 1958.
The Reefs of Taprobane: Underwater Adventures Around Ceylon. London, Muller, and New York, Harper, 1957.
Voice Across the Sea. London, Muller, 1958; New York, Harper, 1959; revised edition, London, Mitchell Beazley, and Harper, 1974.
Boy Beneath the Sea (for children). New York, Harper, 1958.
The Challenge of the Spaceship: Previews of Tomorrow's World. New York, Harper, 1959; London, Muller, 1960.
The First Five Fathoms: A Guide to Underwater Adventure. NewYork, Harper, 1960.
The Challenge of the Sea. New York, Holt Rinehart, 1960; London, Muller, 1961.
Indian Ocean Adventure. New York, Harper, 1961; London, Barker, 1962.
Profiles of the Future: An Enquiry into the Limits of the Possible. London, Gollancz, 1962; New York, Harper, 1963; revised edition, Harper, 1973; Gollancz, 1974, 1982; New York, Holt Rinehart, 1984.
Dolphin Island (for children). New York, Holt Rinehart, and London, Gollancz, 1963.
The Treasure of the Great Reef. London, Barker, and New York, Harper, 1964; revised edition, New York, Ballantine, 1974.
Indian Ocean Treasure, with Mike Wilson. New York, Harper, 1964;London, Sidgwick and Jackson, 1972.
Man and Space, with the editors of Life. New York, Time, 1964.
Voices from the Sky: Previews of the Coming Space Age. New York, Harper, 1965; London, Gollancz, 1966.
The Promise of Space. New York, Harper, and London, Hodder andStoughton, 1968.
First on the Moon, with the astronauts. London, Joseph, and Boston, Little Brown, 1970.
Report on the Planet Three and Other Speculations. London, Gollancz, and New York, Harper, 1972.
The Lost Worlds of 2001. New York, New American Library, andLondon, Sidgwick and Jackson, 1972.
Beyond Jupiter: The Worlds of Tomorrow, with Chesley Bonestell. Boston, Little Brown, 1972.
Technology and the Frontiers of Knowledge (lectures), with others. New York, Doubleday, 1973.
The View from Serendip (on Sri Lanka). New York, Random House, 1977; London, Gollancz, 1978.
1984: Spring: A Choice of Futures. New York, Ballantine, andLondon, Granada, 1984.
Ascent to Orbit: A Scientific Autobiography: The Technical Writings of Arthur C. Clarke. New York and Chichester, Sussex, Wiley, 1984.
The Odyssey File, with Peter Hyams. New York, Ballantine, andLondon, Granada, 1985.
Astounding Days: A Science-Fictional Autobiography. London, Gollancz, 1989; New York, Bantam, 1990.
How the World Was One: Beyond the Global Village. London, Gollancz, and New York, Bantam, 1992.
By Space Possessed: Essays on the Exploration of Space. London, Gollancz, 1993.
The Snows of Olympus: A Garden on Mars. London, Gollancz, 1994.
Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds!: Collected Essays, 1934-1998, edited by Ian T. Macauley. New York, St. Martin's Press, 1999.
Editor, Time Probe: Sciences in Science Fiction. New York, DelacortePress, 1966; London, Gollancz, 1967.
Editor, The Coming of the Space Age: Famous Accounts of Man's Probing of the Universe. London, Gollancz, and New York, Meredith, 1967.
Editor, with George Proctor, The Science Fiction Hall of Fame 3: The Nebula Winners 1965-1969. New York, Avon, 1982.
Editor, July 20, 2019: A Day in the Life of the 21st Century. NewYork, Macmillan, 1986; London, Grafton, 1987.
Arthur C. Clarke: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography by David N. Samuelson, Boston, Hall, 1984.
Mugar Memorial Library, Boston University.
"Out of the Ego Chamber" by Jeremy Bernstein, in New Yorker, 9 August 1969; Arthur C. Clarke edited by Joseph D. Olander and Martin H. Greenberg, New York, Taplinger, and Edinburgh, Harris, 1977; The Space Odysseys of Arthur C. Clarke by George Edgar Slusser, San Bernardino, California, Borgo Press, 1978; Arthur C. Clarke (includes bibliography) by Eric S. Rabkin, West Linn, Oregon, Starmont House, 1979, revised edition, 1980; Against the Night, The Stars: The Science Fiction of Arthur C. Clarke by John Hollow, New York, Harcourt Brace, 1983, revised edition, Athens, Ohio University Press-Swallow Press, 1987; Odyssey: The Authorized Biography of Arthur C. Clarke by Neil McAleer, Chicago, Contemporary Books, and London, Gollancz, 1992; Arthur C. Clarke: A Critical Companion by Robin Anne Reid. Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1997; Arthur C. Clarke and Lord Dunsany, a Correspondence, edited by Keith Allen Daniels. San Francisco, Anamnesis Press, 1998.
I regard myself primarily as an entertainer and my ideals are Maugham, Kipling, Wells. My chief aim is the old SF cliché, "The search for wonder." However, I am almost equally interested in style and rhythm, having been much influenced by Tennyson, Swinburne, Housman, and the Georgian poets.
My main themes are exploration (space, sea, time), the position of Man in the hierarchy of the universe, and the effect of contact with other intelligences. The writer who probably had most influence on me was W. Olaf Stapledon (Last and First Men).
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Although Arthur C. Clarke's success in the literary field began in the 1950s, his early involvement in the 1930s with the British Interplanetary Society (BIS) heralded his intellectual devotion to outer space. Later, as an enlisted officer in the Royal Air Force, Clarke wrote "Extra Terrestrial Relays" (1945), a prescient article detailing a communications satellite system that predated by two decades the eventual launching of the Early Bird synchronous satellites. Finally, Clarke's first books, the nonfiction Interplanetary Flight and its successor, The Exploration of Space, promoted space travel. The ease with which he rendered complex scientific principles catapulted The Exploration of Space into a Book-of-the-Month selection.
Capitalizing on the relationships he fostered through his affiliation with BIS, Clarke wrote nineteen science fiction (sf) stories—some published under the pseudonyms Charles Willis and E.G. O'Brien—before his first two novels, Prelude to Space and The Sands of Mars, were published in 1951. While Peter Nicholls remarks in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction that these early works are marred by wooden prose and a somewhat mechanical structure, the novels do prefigure the scientific optimism, technological sense of wonder, and sheer entertainment value that dominate Clarke's philosophy and define his sf writing.
A jewel in the wealth of Clarke's short stories, "Sentinel of Eternity," reprinted in Expedition to Earth as "The Sentinel," shines forth, as it is the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick's landmark movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and Clarke's 2001 novel adaptation. 2001 tells the story of the Discovery, a spaceship operated by an intelligent computer, HAL 9000. The ship is sent into outer space to track a mysterious signal emanating from a black monolith on Earth's moon. HAL's secret agenda slowly eliminates Discovery 's human crew save Dave Bowman who, encountering a mirror monolith on a Saturn moon, evolves into the Star Child. This narrative of an enigmatic alien artifact, also shown four million years in the past helping encourage the dawn of Man, embodies the scientific and metaphysical qualities of Clarke's writings. Nicholls considers these qualities as Clarke's central paradox; namely, that a writer exploring scientific theories and detailing technological advances should be drawn to the metaphysical, mystical, even quasi-religious essence of space and the universe at large.
Never one to avoid the tensions between science and religion, Clarke's darkly comic "The Nine Billion Names of God" depicts Tibetan monks who, with the aid of Western computer salesmen and technicians, count all the names of God and, fulfilling the purpose of Man, trigger the end of the universe. In the Hugo-winning "The Star," Clarke offers the reader a Jesuit astrophysicist questioning his faith after discovering evidence that the star of Bethlehem, which had announced the birth of Christ to the Three Wise Men, was a supernova that destroyed an entire alien race. "Although the narrator's faith is troubled," writes David N. Samuelson in Science Fiction Writers, "his trust in science—like Clarke's—is not."
Childhood's End, Clarke's first successful sf novel, is replete with his thematic interests in its offering of humanity's transcendent evolution under the guidance and tutelage of the Overlords, a devilshaped alien species steering Earth towards an admittedly ambiguous utopia. The true mission of the Overlords is revealed when Jeff Greggson—son of George and Jean Greggson, who, with others, have rejected the Overlords and established an independent New Athens—begins displaying extrasensory powers. Humanity's maturation, it seems, is available only to Earth's children whose mental evolution draws them into the Overmind, a galactic entity transcending physical form. Barred from achieving their own transcendence, the Overlords watch humanity's evolutionary leap while Jan Rodericks, returning from the Overlords' home planet, remains as the last human to record Earth's final destruction. The novel is bittersweet as it announces humanity's next step up the evolutionary ladder while, in the same breath, condemning a humanity left behind.
City and the Stars—an updated and expanded version of Clarke's earlier Against the Fall of Night—depicts the far-future city of Diaspar as an enclosed urban utopia mediated by a complex computerized system. The protagonist Alvin is a "pure pattern" born out of the Memory Banks matrix, the first human born on Earth in ten million years. With the help of Khedron, a jester designed to introduce randomness into the highly regulated cityscape, Alvin escapes Diaspar only to find a parallel race of mentally evolved agrarian humans living in the town of Lys. Joined by the Lys-born Hilvar, Alvin uncovers a long-buried spaceship and proceeds into outer space to encounter the Vanamonde, a body-less consciousness created to defend Earth from the destructive powers of the equally bodiless Shalmirance. City and the Stars narrates humanity's divergent evolution along mental and technical paths, its subsequent consequences and resultant retreat from outer space, and a resurgent humanity once again reaching out to the stars. With the closing sunset/sunrise imagery symbolizing the eclipse of one epoch and the dawn of another, the "final passages blend a sense of loss and of transcendence with an almost mystical intensity," notes Nicholls.
While non-fiction books and articles—many of them dealing with undersea exploration—dominated Clarke's output in the 1960s, Rendezvous with Rama was the first of an unprecedented three-book deal Clarke signed following the immense success of 2001. Rama follows a group of humans, led by Captain Bill Norton, who explore a derelict artifact (dubbed "Rama") hurtling through space towards the inner solar system. While exploration and adventure dominate a story full of surprises and technological wonders, transcendence and closure are denied in Rama as the ship's intentions are withheld, only to be explored further in a series of sequels—Rama II, Garden of Rama, and Rama Revealed—written in collaboration with Gentry Lee. Although Clarke's original Rama swept the awards circuit (winning the Hugo, Nebula, John W. Campbell Memorial Award and British Science Fiction Award), controversy swirled as to whether the book, due to its stylistic flaws and narrative structure, actually deserved the awards or whether the accolade stemmed from the return to fiction of a much beloved sf author.
Clarke's next two novels, Imperial Earth: A Fantasy of Love and Discord and The Fountains of Paradise, offer a treasure trove of technological wonders and scientific imagery. Imperial Earth, notable for descriptions of outer-planet mining, spaceship propulsion, and cloning, tells the story of Titan native Duncan Mackenzie's investigation of political and scientific intrigues on Earth and his bid, through cloning, to procure an heir to his empire. The Fountains of Paradise narrates Vannevar Morgan's attempts to construct a space elevator designed to escape Earth's gravity. Fleshing out the story are two revelations: first, a highly advanced galactic civilization has communicated with the human race through a robot probe; and, second, Prince Kalidasa had challenged the gods 2, 000 years earlier by attempting to build a tower into heaven on Taprobane, the same island-site for Morgan's space elevator. While The Fountains of Paradise won the Hugo, some critics fault the novel for abruptly dropping the Kalidasa storyline and centering the action on a somewhat stereotyped Morgan. Nevertheless, both novels broach the topics of science, technological marvels, and the bid for a taste of immortality, if not godhood.
The 1980s saw Clarke attempt the impossible; namely, to catch lightning in a bottle and write two sequels to 2001. 2010: Odyssey Two and 2061: Odyssey Three attempt to continue the magical weave of science, transcendence, and mystery embodied in the black monolith; unfortunately, the books fail to evoke the same narrative momentum as 2001. 2010 is a proficient book offering a distinctly human story as American/Russian tensions threaten a joint rescue mission of Dave Bowman's Discovery and the reactivation of HAL 9000. 2061 follows Heywood Floyd's exploration of Halley's comet and his subsequent redirection to the Jovian moon of Europa—the one place the monoliths had expressively forbidden humans to visit. While Clarke attempts to sustain the mystery of the monolith through the course of these books, critics feel the monolith was adequately explained in 2001 or, on the other hand, disappointingly depicted in the subsequent sequels. Although the 2001 sequels offer high-caliber scientific ideas and wondrous descriptions of the universe, Clarke's success at plot advancement and narrative vision is questionable.
The lukewarm critical reception of the 2001 sequels is symptomatic of the response to Clarke's contemporary work; in fact, divergent opinions on Clarke's narrative execution has increasingly dogged the latter phase of his career. For example, popular and critical responses to The Songs of Distant Earth—an expansion of a 1958 short story about human survivors introducing conflict to the inhabited utopia of Thallassa—and Richter 10 (with Mike McQuay)—a futuristic disaster novel—question the plausibility of Clarke's science, the privileging of scientific principles over plot development, and a pacing that is described alternately as taut and long-winded.
Quite possibly the most surprising novel of the 1990s was 3001: The Final Odyssey, supposedly the last of the Odyssey series. In this story, Frank Poole, long believed dead, is revived from a frozen state and is surprised to find the Europa monolith has absorbed Dave Bowman and HAL. Once again, critical opinion varies, as some view the narrative as reasonably written with thoughtful explorations of technology and Freudian theory, while others consider the novel's contemporary rendition of the once-transcendent monolith as an alien threat to be a disappointing treatment with few surprises.
Despite increasingly ill health, Clarke has continued to produce a voluminous literary output, often writing in collaboration with contemporary sf authors who grew up reading his early work. Indeed, after more than 50 novels, 35 non-fiction texts, 600 articles and short stories, numerous television scripts, and stints as a commentator during the Apollo moon landings, the Science Fiction Writers of America acknowledged Clarke's extensive contributions and continuing output and bestowed upon him Grand Master status in 1986. Armed with a scientific optimism and a cosmic, even transcendent, perception of humanity's role in an infinitely larger universe, Arthur C. Clarke is credited with helping revolutionize the sf genre from the Golden Age of the 1940s and 1950s through six decades of sf writing and into a new millennium that begins, as Clarke impatiently reiterates, in 2001.
—Graham J. Murphy
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