One of the world's most famous science fiction writers, Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008) was responsible for works such as Childhood's End, the 2001: A Space Odyssey series, Rendezvous With Rama and The Songs of Distant Earth. He influenced almost all the science fiction that has arrived in his wake, from Stargate SG-1 to Neon Genesis Evangelion. Much of his fiction features O. Henry style Twist Endings at the end of each story or chapter. He is considered one of the "Big Three" of Science Fiction along with Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein. He was the last of the Big Three to leave us, after Heinlein and Asimov, in that order.
He is often credited with inventing the geostationary communications satellite, although in fact he did not originate the idea.
Formulated "Clarke's three laws", the third being the most famous and oft cited:
- When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
- The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
- Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
He wrote the Space Odyssey sequels himself, without the input of Stanley Kubrick -- each instalment gets increasingly more literal and with less left to the imagination, up till 3001 which retcons all the fantastical elements out of the original story (and only has its actual plot start two-thirds of the way through the book, the preceding chapters consisting entirely of the literary equivalent of Scenery Porn). The Time Odyssey series was likewise "co-written with" Stephen Baxter. It shows there, too.
Has an award named after him.
A 1981 episode of The Goodies spoofed him as "the inventor of the digital lawnmower".
- Childhood's End
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Rendezvous With Rama
- The Songs of Distant Earth
- Author Appeal:
- Communications satellites.
- In a somewhat sad example, rarely do love interests work out for the good. A common phrase used in his collections of short stories is "married another man." In the Space Odyssey series, Heywood Floyd is divorced twice with the second time being on his way to Jupiter. In 3001 the first woman Poole falls for ends up horrified due to a 'deformation', and the second relationship falls apart romantically fifteen years after they get married and have kids.
- The Great Politics Mess-Up: Or Soviet Russia in stories set after 1990.
- Invisible to Gaydar: According to Michael Moorcock. Others placed him as Ambiguously Gay; he himself, when asked whether or not he was gay, said, "no, merely mildly cheerful."
- Ironic Echo: Pretty much all of the "Harry Purvis" tales.
- Local Hangout: The "White Hart".
- Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: Clarke's works, for the most part, lie firmly on the "hard" side of this sliding scale. Hardly surprising, given that he had been a radar operator in World War II and that training was in mathematics and physics (he was the first to propose communications satellites). In The Songs of Distant Earth, for example, he had to invoke the rather speculative possibility of zero-point energy just so he'd have a power source for a slower-than-light starship.
- "Jupiter Five" was dedicated to Professor G. C. McVitte as writing the story involved having twenty to thirty pages of orbital calculations drawn up.
- No Poverty: In "The City and the Stars".
- Reclusive Artist: Was famously hard to access in his later years.
- Technology Marches On:
- If you read his collected short stories, many of his 1950s stories involve his Author Appeal communications satellites. The difference between his stories and the eventual reality? His stories always feature manned Space Stations as the communication/broadcast satellites.
- Stories involving manned planetary/lunar expeditions/colonies.
- The British having anything to do with the above lunar expeditions.
- One of his most famous short stories, "The Nine Billion Names of God", goes for a while into the extensive technological contortions required to print out the titular names in the specialized language and alphabet used by the monks -- something that could probably be arranged within a day on a dot-matrix or laser printer.
- Tomato Surprise: Most of Clarke's short stories, and many chapters of his novels, end with a big twist (or a big reveal) in the very last sentence.
- "Who's There" has a fluffy Tomato Surprise. The reader is lead to believe by the character that something is trying to get into his spacesuit, or that the spacesuit is about to fail because it was repaired after a previous fatal accident. Instead, the astronaut is simply hearing the muffled noises and scratchings of three kittens 'nesting' in the space suit and were born to the station mascot..
- Twist Ending: Used in many of his short stories, many times the final sentence is all that's required for the twist. What exactly version of the various twist's will depend on the story.
- "The Nine Billion Names of God" is about a religious sect who hire a computer and two technicians to compute the title names of god. The technicians decide to cut and run before the program is finished to avoid the angry monks when the prophesied ending of the universe fails to come to pass. The final line is about how the stars were going out above them.
- "Breaking Strain" is a story about Grant (ship captain), and McNeil (engineer) who become trapped on a wrecked ship with only enough air to last one of them. The twist is that Grant has badly misjudged McNeil and Grant eventually accepts his own death to allow McNeil to survive.
- "Loophole" has Martians telling Earth to stop rocketry research. Earth stops researching rockets. Instead, they perfect matter transportation and bomb the Martians out of existence without launching a single rocket.
- "Hide and Seek": The reader expects the mysterious agent who avoided the warship to be the teller of the tale. Instead, the teller of the tale is the captain of the ship who was thrown out of the service for being unable to catch a single man with the fastest ship in the fleet.
- "Superiority", where the twist isn't anything to do with the technology involved, but that the narrator has been forced to share a prison cell with the man responsible for the downfall of his entire race.
- "Reunion", where aliens approaching Earth reveal that humanity is one of their lost colonies. The aliens are aware that many humans contracted a disfiguring disease which caused hatred and suspicion over many centuries, but they have good news: they can cure anyone who is still white.