SyFy To Adapt Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End As A Miniseries

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Childhood's EndArthur C. Clarke resides in the pantheon of science fiction gods. That might seem like a melodramatic thing to say, but it’s absolutely true. The guy was utterly amazing. Not only did he give us 2001: A Space Odyssey(among a slew of other books), he dreamed up the GPS system and discovered ruins of an underwater temple—and that’s just for starters. While 2001 is his most famous work, my favorite has always been Childhood’s End, which I’ve both read and taught a number of times. So I’m both excited and nervous to hear that SyFy has picked up the book as a miniseries. I sure hope it’s better than Helix.

Childhood’s End was published in 1953, before humans went to space or even sent satellites beyond our atmosphere. The book opens with an arresting premise: Earth is suddenly visited by alien ships who take residence over the planet’s major metropolises. The mysterious aliens, Overlords, keep their agenda a secret, but they start influencing humanity, largely in positive ways. They eradicate cruelty to animals with a high-pitched scream in the ears of would-be abusers, and they generally introduce a utopian age without poverty and crime. But of course, they can’t be entirely benevolent, or else the story would be pretty dull. When the humans figure out what the Overlords are after, there’s not a whole lot they can do. Clarke sets up a David vs. Goliath theme, but twists it in unexpected ways. I have long discussions in class about the ending—not only does it support multiple interpretations, but it strikes some people as unbearably sad and others as gloriously uplifting.


Arthur C. Clarke: A Birthday Retrospective

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Arthur ClarkeScience fiction great Arthur C. Clarke would have been 96 yesterday. Clarke lives on through his work and the revolutionary ideas he developed and championed with respect to science, particularly space. I wanted to take a minute to show Clarke some love. There’s never been anyone like him, and there never will be again — unless, that is, his spacebound DNA produces some interesting results.

Clarke was born in Britain in 1917, but no amount of pub food or soccer could keep him there. The man had wanderlust that makes mine seem like more of an itch. Space called to Clarke, much as it did to Ray Bradbury, and he joined the British Interplanetary Society when he was only 17. Later he became chair of the group — twice. At a young age he distinguished himself from other scientists with his writing, and he distinguished himself from other writers with his knowledge of science. The two blended together in his work. Many of the concepts Clarke wrote about, such as the space elevator he described in his 1979 novel The Fountains of Paradise, and his thoughts about replicators, have provided food for thought, if not specific goals, for space engineers. In 1945, Clarke wrote a paper advocating putting satellites in geostationary orbit. That’s right — you have Clarke to thank for your GPS systems and satellite TV. Eighteen years later, after America’s launch of the Syncom 2 satellite, Clarke won the Stuart Ballantine Medal, a science and engineering award, for the idea. Now most satellites hang out in an area called, appropriately, the Clarke Belt. In a nutshell, dude knew what was up, literally.