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cjackson
2013-Aug-15, 05:07 AM
What is this forum's thoughts on Arthur C Clarke?

Jens
2013-Aug-15, 05:47 AM
Well, what do you think about him? You're a member of this forum. Personally I'm not a big fan. I don't find his storytelling to be particularly compelling.

Solfe
2013-Aug-15, 05:56 AM
I didn't like 2001, but I did like the Rama series. Personally, I really like older sci-fi like War of the Worlds and 20,000 Leagues and some how Clarke has some of the qualities of those. I can't put my finger on what it is... Perhaps "newness"?

Paul Beardsley
2013-Aug-15, 06:31 AM
When I was 14, I'd been into astronomy for about 3 years, and was impatient for new scientific discoveries. Eventually I decided I would read SF to keep me going while I waited for the next probe to get launched to Mars. I stumbled upon The Sands of Mars, and went on to devour almost all of his fiction, and some of his non-fiction. It really hit the spot.

I think I'd find it a bit dated now but yeah, he and his work were an important part of my early life.

I met his brother and his niece in 2001. And I wore a black tie to work when he died.

Swift
2013-Aug-15, 04:56 PM
The first Rama book, Rendezvous with Rama, is one of my favorites (it probably has the best closing line in any SF book); it went quickly downhill after that in that series. I hated Childhood's End. I liked 2001. Some of his short stories are very good.

I would say a mixed bag for me.

ngc3314
2013-Aug-15, 05:50 PM
Clarke is among my favorite SF writers (although I have been cautioned to keep his shelf well separated from the C.S. Lewis shelf[1] to avoid annihilation in a blast of gamma rays). His short stories, to me, to embody sheer poetry in their contemplation of what can happen in a vast Universe. My taste runs to the earlier work, less so to his later novels (and some of the collaborations wandered way off my tastes in particular). He had a gift for scenes that stay in mind verbatim after decades:

"Overhead, without any fuss..."
"I think they'll be very determined people".
"What was the need to give these people to the fire?"
"clicking of giant claws ahead of him"
"Where were you?"
(quotations, obviously, from memory).

As Solfe said, some of this power may come from the timing of much of his writing, at the dawn of the "Space Age" when nothing much had become cliched, and breaking new ground was simper than it became with time.

[1]Noting that the two had a short, interesting correspondence, picked up by one editor and fleshed out into a book by putting some of their stories along with the letters. There was one early story that really could have been written by either.

ToSeek
2013-Aug-15, 07:32 PM
Clarke is among my favorite SF writers (although I have been cautioned to keep his shelf well separated from the C.S. Lewis shelf[1] to avoid annihilation in a blast of gamma rays). His short stories, to me, to embody sheer poetry in their contemplation of what can happen in a vast Universe. My taste runs to the earlier work, less so to his later novels (and some of the collaborations wandered way off my tastes in particular). He had a gift for scenes that stay in mind verbatim after decades:

"Overhead, without any fuss..."
"I think they'll be very determined people".
"What was the need to give these people to the fire?"
"clicking of giant claws ahead of him"
"Where were you?"
(quotations, obviously, from memory).

As Solfe said, some of this power may come from the timing of much of his writing, at the dawn of the "Space Age" when nothing much had become cliched, and breaking new ground was simper than it became with time.

[1]Noting that the two had a short, interesting correspondence, picked up by one editor and fleshed out into a book by putting some of their stories along with the letters. There was one early story that really could have been written by either.

"There was a killer loose on the range."

I definitely love a lot of his stuff, especially the earlier works. (He got a little self-indulgent later on, though he's not the only sf writer to do so.) He's written a plethora of classic novels and short stories both.

starcanuck64
2013-Aug-16, 12:12 AM
I'm like Paul, I started reading SF in my mid teens and 2001 was one of my first novels in that area. I went on to get a lot of his short story collections like Tales from the White Hart and Expedition to Earth and loved Rendezvous with Rama. The City and the Stars is one of my favorites, and I also didn't like Childhoods End, it left me feeling empty at the end. Fountains of Paradise was also good I thought.

swampyankee
2013-Aug-16, 02:29 AM
I thought his work was largely ok, but he was not my favorite of his generation. I've tried re-reading some of his books (this can be a challenge: local libraries tend to sell fiction that doesn't move off a shelf for too long a time, and many of his books are too long out of print to show up in the local used book stores) and generally found that I've changed too much to enjoy them.

Disinfo Agent
2013-Aug-16, 12:35 PM
He wrote some very good SF short stories and a few classic novels/novellas. He usually wrote endings well, something which can't be said of other big names in science fiction: he was a master of the last-minute plot twist. Indeed, his whole writing relies a lot on attempting to surprise the reader. And he had a sudued but elegant sense of humour. His stories are always scientifically well-informed, though here and there (as at the end of 2001) they do include more fantastical/speculative elements. I'm wary of the label "hard science fiction" because it's too difficult to write compelling science fiction relying only on what is strictly known by science; at least it has been so since the 19th century. But if anyone deserves to be described as a "hard SF writer", Clarke certainly does. I do see him as following on the footsteps of Verne, Wells, and Doyle. Also Olaf Stapledon, who inspired him greatly.

I suppose many of Clarke's stories may seem too familiar nowadays; we've met them in so many reincarnations. They've become archetypes of science fiction, or as less charitable readers might feel, clichés. Not me, though, because I usually judge a science fiction story not just by its content, but also the historical context in which it was originally written. Overall I place Clarke's quite close to Asimov's in style, feel, and place in the history of SF (not content). Clarke was probably less creative and prolific than Asimov -- he tended to recycle his ideas more, though often in interesting ways --, while Asimov had a better grasp of the human element. Like most other SF big names, Clarke was not very good with character development. His characters are generally more or less placeholders, not people you get to know. For some this is a serious flaw, but not for me. If I want likeable characters or human interactions or a meditation on human nature, then I go see Harry Potter or a romantic comedy or I read some Proust. I never expect character development from science fiction. It has a different focus and a broader scope. It's about ideas and mankind, not individuals.

Speaking more on literary terms, I generally find Clarke's fiction worthwhile and good to excellent until the mid 70s to mid 80s. Somewhere between The Fountains of Paradise (fascinating engineeering concept, but a somewhat flawed novel) and The Songs of Distant Earth (his last above-average novel, to me), the quality of his writing started to decline. Perhaps this was due to illness, or maybe old-age and loss of inspiration. What he wrote after this period is sadly not worthwhile. He seems to have tried to make up for it by cowriting some of his later works with other people. But I've read some of his collaborations with Gentry Lee, and although they do have greater vigour than Clarke's later solo work, their style is altogether different.

For myself I would recommend Clarke's best known short stories and novels prior to the 80s, the film 2001 (see it first and then read the novel, which is quite good as well, if you wish), and also the novels 2010 and The Songs of Distant Earth. Apart from these, my favorite of his novels are Rendezvous with Rama and Childhood's End. At one point in his life Clarke was interested in the supernatural. Later he disavowed it all, but out of it came the 1980 TV series Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World.

He also wrote some non-fiction, but I haven't read much of it.

iquestor
2013-Aug-16, 01:08 PM
I loved Childhood's End and read it many times growing up. I found many ideas and subtlties he used to be very memorable. I was lukewarm on his later offerins, especially collaberative works.

Buttercup
2013-Aug-16, 01:29 PM
2001: A Space Odyssey rocks. Read the novel, then watch the movie. Prefer novel definitely.

Rendezvous with Rama, imo one of the best sci-fi novels ever. Beautiful!

Childhood's End, very good...didn't like the ending though.

What sequels he wrote? Not worth it, unfortunately. :hand:

Paul Beardsley
2013-Aug-16, 02:44 PM
Audio adaptations of his work are worth checking out. There are good dramatisation of A Fall of Moondust and Childhood's End.

beskeptical
2013-Aug-16, 03:49 PM
Funny coincidence. I'm in the middle of Childhood's End right now, just started part two. One loved it one hated it. I'll let you know my vote when I finish.

Jeff Root
2013-Aug-18, 08:03 AM
ngc3314,

I've only read a modest amount of Clarke's work, but I
recognized several of those quotes immediately, and was
able to name the stories.

'Childhood's End' was mixed good and bad for me.
I much preferred the first half of 'The City and the Stars'
to the second half. City fascinating, Stars not so much.

Clarke's first published story, 'Rescue Party' is my favorite
that I've read. He said it was the story he got the most mail
about before '2001'.

I don't know what we'll do next, but we'll think of something.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Jeff Root
2013-Aug-18, 08:25 AM
2001: A Space Odyssey is almost certainly the one
work of art which has had the greatest effect on my life.
But I think Clarke had a pretty minor role in shaping it.
It was Kubrick's story, really. Clarke just put words to it,
as best he could, and provided details that couldn't be
included in the movie. The movie, of course, provided
details that couldn't be included in the novel.

I was thrilled to learn, though, that the terrifically
well-written dialog between the two astronauts in the
EVA pod when they discussed disconnecting HAL, was
written by the actors, Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

John Mendenhall
2013-Aug-18, 12:52 PM
Heard Clarke lecture at U.C. Berkeley about 1969. He was great. A very likable and unassuming person.

Doesn't get enough credit as a scientist. Was not the the inventor, but was one of the first to push synchronous communications satellites and the space elevator. In both cases the technology was not up to it at the time. Now the former is common and the latter is . . . close.

beskeptical
2013-Aug-18, 08:23 PM
Funny coincidence. I'm in the middle of Childhood's End right now, just started part two. One loved it one hated it. I'll let you know my vote when I finish.So just when I thought I'd surely be disappointed in the reveal at mid-story, I wasn't.

Still reading. :)