Arthur C. Clarke

I was saddened to see that Arthur C. Clarke the science fiction writer, Nobel Prize winner and visionary died yesterday aged 90. He predicted the moon landings, the role of satellites in communications and had me glued to the screen as a child with his Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World TV series. He’s probably best known though for his collaboration with Stanley Kubrick on 2001: A Space Odyssey.

One of my oddest telephone conversations was with him. In 1997 I was working at the then brilliant Singapore-based ad agency Batey, as a strategic planner on the Singapore Airlines account and was preparing some sort of presentation on the future of the brand. And in that self-indulgent way that advertising planners sometimes do, I thought I’d kick off with some vision on the future of flight. My wife had just interviewed Clarke for a magazine and had his home number in Sri Lanka and so I called. And I got right through and before I knew it was talking to him. In a slight panic, as I had been expecting some sort of ‘handling’ by assistants, I blurted out my question: “Ah…..Mr Clarke…um…..I was wondering what you thought about the future of flight?” It was absolutely the right thing to do as it turned out because he was instantly interested:

“The future of flight? Good question…..let me think. Right. Two things are important in the future of flight. Cold fusion which means that planes will not have to carry the huge weight of fuel they do now, just a cup of water in fact, and so they will be able to fly around the world with no stops and it will be cheaper and cleaner and the second thing is anti gravity. This is where a mechanism can be used to temporarily interrupt the effect of the earth’s gravitational pull and will mean that planes will not need all that extra power or speed to get into the air. There has been some great and promising work on this in Norway and I am convinced we will crack it sometime soon. Anything else you wanted?”

Brilliant. A one minute engagement with one of the great minds that I will always cherish. Not sure it helped me schlock any more ads for my agency but at least it added spice to the meeting.

Here’s the truly amazing Dawn of Man sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey (beware seven minute but so worth another viewing) and the bit where HAL the computer gets a sense of his own life force (a theme which has been explored a thousand times since and pure Clarke). If you have not got time, the last is the one minute opening sequence. I know they are as much if not more about Kubrick, but there is such a strong element of Clarke in them too with the uncanny vision for the future of technology.

2001: A Space Odyssey opening sequence
Dawn of Man

2001: A Space Odyssey opening sequence

2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL doesn’t want to open the doors!

[tags] Arthur C. Clarke; Stanley Kubrick; 2001: A Space Odyssey [/tags]

David Brain

One Comment

  1. I always thought this was a great piece of trivia. (via Wikipedia)

    It is a mark of the friendship and respect accorded Asimov by Arthur C. Clarke that the so-called “Asimov-Clarke Treaty of Park Avenue”, put together as they shared a cab ride along Park Avenue in New York, stated that Asimov was required to insist that Clarke was the best science fiction writer in the world (reserving second best for himself), while Clarke was required to insist that Asimov was the best science writer in the world (reserving second best for himself).[26] Thus the dedication in Clarke’s book Report on Planet Three (1972) reads: “In accordance with the terms of the Clarke-Asimov treaty, the second-best science writer dedicates this book to the second-best science-fiction writer.”

    Great story, David.

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