Tuesday 18th March: Sad news…
Perhaps England’s most famous science fiction author, Arthur C Clarke, has died, aged 90.
I have read many, but by no means all, of Clarke’s books and most of them rank among my favourites in the genre. Brilliant works such as Songs of Distant Earth, Fountains of Paradise and 2001: A Space Odyssey have given me many pleasurable hours but, perhaps my overall favourite is Rendezvous With Rama.
Many years ago, while still at school, I was bought a book called Science Fiction: Ideas and Dreams (David Kyle, 1977). It was a book about science fiction authors and their works and, among the many covers reproduced in full cover, was one for Rendezvous With Rama. Something about that cover made me want to read the book but it took me a few years to find a copy. When I finally did, I devoured the book in just a couple of days. The story of a group of explorers as they, well, explored the interior of a giant object which was passing through our solar system had me gripped and the best thing was that nothing was explained. The final anticipatory line – “The Ramans did everything in threes” – left me waiting anxiously for a sequel.
Despite Clarke insisting that he never intended to write sequels and that the line was just a good way to end the book, in 1989 (17 years after Rama was first published), Rama II followed its predecessor’s path past Earth and was soon followed by two more sequels which built on and completed the story. Written more by Gentry Lee than by Clarke, who edited, the books were entertaining but not as good as the original and, at the time, it was suggested that the storyline sprang more from Clarke’s growing realisation of his own old age and his getting closer to the end of his life. If that was true, he still managed to hang on another fifteen years after the publication of the final book
Finding and reading that copy of Rendezvous With Rama remains a seminal point in my own enjoyment of written SF. The good news, for me, is that I still have Childhood’s End and The City and the Stars still to read.
Rest easy, Arthur, your own odyssey is, hopefully, only just starting.