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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.

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Happy Birthday To Arthur C. Clarke And Philip K. Dick: Today In Science & Science Fiction

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ClarkeToday marked the birth of not one, but two of science fiction’s greatest talents: Sir Arthur C. Clarke and Philip K. Dick. I have to wonder if there’s another single day in the year that delivered up such an eventual impact on the genre we all love.

Clarke was born in Somerset, England in 1917, served as a radar specialist in the Royal Air Force during World War II, and made his first professional sale with the story “Loophole,” which appeared in Astounding Science Fiction in 1946. With works such as Childhood’s End, Rendezvous with Rama, and the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, for which he co-wrote the short story with director Stanley Kubrick, Clarke became one of science fiction’s most legendary talents, and is often referred to as one of the genre’s “Big Three,” alongside Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. Over the course of his long career, he won a Hugo, an Academy Award nomination for 2001, and a Nobel Peace Prize nomination, and was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1985. Clarke passed away in 2008, at the age of 90.

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Arthur Clarke’s DNA Spacebound

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sunjammerArthur Clarke’s dreams of going to space didn’t die when he did. And in 2014, they’re going to come true. Better late than never, right?

NASA plans to send Clarke’s DNA on the solar-powered Sunjammer spacecraft, which in November 2014 will launch on a 1.9-million-mile voyage to the sun.

The Sunjammer Cosmic Archive is a flying time capsule that carries blueprints for human genetic codes. In addition to Clarke’s DNA, the Sunjammer will carry DNA of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and his wife Majel, who also acted on Star Trek, as well as James “Scotty” Doohan. Clarke, who penned such seminal sci-fi works as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Childhood’s End, and Rendezvous with Rama, also came up with the name Sunjammer—it was the title of one of his short stories.

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Ringworld And Childhood’s End Miniseries Coming To Syfy

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RingworldWith a name like the Sci-Fi Channel — even after they transmogrified it into the aggressively stupid “Syfy” — you’d figure science fiction would be a major staple of their lineup. Sadly, you would often be wrong, because the Network Formerly Known as Sci-Fi is more interested in paranormal “reality” shows by the truckload and occasionally-so-bad-they’re-good Saturday night monster movies. Could the winds finally be shifting over at Syfy? Could it finally start living up to its name in a way it hasn’t for a while now? It remains to be seen, but greenlighting miniseries projects based on two works by two of the genre’s titans is definitely a good start.

First up, Ringworld. Larry Niven’s colossal creation is easily one of the most famous science fiction locations of all time, and it’s just begging to be realized up on the big screen. But since that isn’t happening any time soon, we’ll have to settle for our big-screens. Syfy actually tried to develop Ringworld about a decade back, but this new incarnation is under a whole new team. EW reports that screenwriter Michael Perry is adapting Niven’s classic novel, which follows an expedition to explore a cosmic mystery, an enormous ring-shaped construct the size of a million Earths, set around a distant star. Perry has worked on quite a few genre projects in the past, including ABC’s short-lived The River, USA’s The Dead Zone, Millennium, and even American Gothic way back in the day. Those are some decent credentials, so here’s hoping he’s got the chops to bring us the four-hour Ringworld miniseries we’ve love to see.

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Read The Stanley Kubrick Letter That Convinced Arthur C. Clarke To Collaborate On 2001

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Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of the most influential movies ever made. It’s reach and appeal affected the way sci-fi movies were viewed. Until then, sci-fi films were campy, fun space adventures, but what Kubrick and writer Arthur C. Clarke developed was something more lasting and moving. On March 31st 1964, Stanley Kubrick sent a letter in the mail and changed the course of cinema forever.

Kubrick wrote a correspondence letter to Clarke to express his admiration for the novelist’s work and to perhaps pique his interest in collaborating together on a screenplay to make “the proverbial ‘really good’ science-fiction movie.” Kubrick even plotted three points he wanted to get out of the project. Here those are…

My main interest lies along these broad areas, naturally assuming great plot and character:

1. The reasons for believing in the existence of intelligent extra-terrestrial life.
2. The impact (and perhaps even lack of impact in some quarters) such discovery would have on Earth in the near future.
3. A space probe with a landing and exploration of the Moon and Mars.

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Arthur C. Clarke Reminisces About 2001 In The Making Of A Myth Documentary

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Despite having been released over four decades ago, 2001: A Space Odyssey is still more impressive, thoughtful, and ambitious than most modern blockbusters. Despite working with a budget of a mere $10.5 million — that’s less than a tenth of Prometheus‘ rumored budget — director Stanley Kubrick made audiences feel like they were genuinely watching an ill-fated expedition to Jupiter. The film absolutely holds up: the effects, the mystery, the sheer sense of wonder, and there’s no question that people are still fascinated by the making of the film even today.

Back in 2001 (the year, not the movie), British television aired a documentary entitled 2001: The Making of a Myth. Hosted by erstwhile king-of-the-world James Cameron, the documentary features interviews with Sir Arthur C. Clarke and many of the surviving cast and crew, examining how Clarke’s story “The Sentinel” was adapted into one of the most iconic films of all time. Now, thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can watch the entire documentary online via the embeds below.