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Arthur C. Clarke
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A Brief Biography of Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)

Arthur C. Clarke
Sir Arthur Charles Clarke was a science and science fiction writer, futurist, undersea explorer, and television series host, best known for his short stories and novels, including 2001: A Space Odyssey and Rendezvous with Rama.

Clarke was born in Minehead, Somerset on 16 December 1917 and grew up on a farm enjoying stargazing and reading science fiction magazines. After secondary education at Huish Grammar School in Taunton, he joined the Board of Education as a pensions auditor.

During the Second World War he served in the Royal Air Force as a radar specialist and was involved in the early warning radar defence system and later worked on ground controlled approach radar as documented in his only non-science fiction novel, the semi-autobiographical Glide Path. Clarke initially served in the ranks as a corporal instructor on radar. He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer in 1943 before being promoted to Flying Officer. He was then appointed chief training instructor before being demobilised in 1946 with the rank of flight lieutenant.

After the war Clarke earned a first-class degree in mathematics and physics at King's College London. Although he was not the originator of the concept of geostationary satellites, Clarke proposed a satellite telecommunications system in 1945 - an idea that won him the Franklin Institute Stuart Ballantine Gold Medal in 1963. He was the Chairman of the British Interplanetary Society from 1946 to 1947 and again from 1951 to 1953.

While Clarke had a few stories published in fanzines between 1937 and 1945, he did not make his first professional sales until 1946 when Loophole and Rescue Party appeared in Astounding Science Fiction in 1946. In 1948 Clarke wrote The Sentinel for a BBC competition. Although the story was rejected, it changed the course of Clarke's career. Not only was it the basis for 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it also introduced a more cosmic element to Clarke's work. Many of Clarke's later works feature a technologically advanced but still-prejudiced mankind being confronted by a superior alien intelligence. In the cases of The City and the Stars, Childhood's End, and the 2001 series, this encounter produces a conceptual breakthrough that accelerates humanity into the next stage of its evolution.

Clarke also wrote a number of non-fiction books describing the technical details and societal implications of rocketry and space flight. The most notable of these may be The Exploration of Space (1951) and The Promise of Space (1968). In recognition of these contributions the geostationary orbit 22,000 miles above the equator is officially recognised by the International Astronomical Union as a Clarke Orbit.

On a trip to Florida in 1953 Clarke met and quickly married Marilyn Mayfield, a 22-year-old American divorcee with a young son. They separated permanently after six months, although the divorce was not finalised until 1964. Clarke never re-married but was close to a Sri Lankan man, Leslie Ekanayake, whom the author called his "only perfect friend of a lifetime" in his dedication to The Fountains of Paradise. Clarke is buried with Ekanayake, who pre-deceased him by three decades. In his biography of Stanley Kubrick, John Baxter cites Clarke's homosexuality and the more tolerant laws in Sri Lanka as a reason why he relocated there. Journalists who enquired of Clarke whether he was gay were told, "No, merely mildly cheerful."

2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. ClarkeClarke emigrated to Sri Lanka in 1956 and lived there until his death in 2008. He was an avid scuba diver and a member of the Underwater Explorers Club. In addition to writing, Clarke set up several diving-related ventures with his business partner Mike Wilson. In 1956, while scuba diving, Wilson and Clarke uncovered the Koneswaram temple. In 1961, while filming off Great Basses Reef, Wilson found the wreck of a ship that had belonged to the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb. Plans to dive on the wreck the following year were delayed when Clarke developed paralysis, which was ultimately diagnosed as polio. A year later, Clarke observed the salvage from the shore and the surface. In 1988 he was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome and needed to use a wheelchair most of the time thereafter. Clarke was for many years a Vice Patron of the British Polio Fellowship.

Living in Sri Lanka and learning its history also inspired the backdrop for his novel The Fountains of Paradise in which he described a space elevator. This, he believed, would make rocket based access to space obsolete and, more than geostationary satellites, would ultimately be his scientific legacy. His many predictions culminated in 1958 when he began a series of magazine essays that eventually became Profiles of the Future, published in book form in 1962. A timetable up to the year 2100 describes inventions and ideas including such things as a "global library" for 2005. The same work also contained "Clarke's First Law" and text that became Clarke's three laws in later editions.

  1. 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.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Clarke discussed the possibility of a collaborative film project with film director Stanley Kubrick when they met in New York in 1964. They decided to base the story loosely on one of Clarke's short stories: The Sentinel. Originally, Clarke was going to write the screenplay for the film, but as the idea for 2001: A Space Odyssey developed, Kubrick suggested that, before beginning work on the script, they should first give their imaginations free rein by writing a novel on which they would base the film. This is more or less the way it worked out, though toward the end, novel and screenplay were being written simultaneously, with feedback in both directions. The novel was published a few months after the release of the movie, which led some to believe it was a novelisation of the film. In 1972, Clarke published The Lost Worlds of 2001, which included his accounts of the production and alternate versions of key scenes.

In the early 1970s Clarke signed a three-book publishing deal with Gollancz, a record for a science fiction writer at the time. The first of the three was Rendezvous with Rama (1973), which won all of the main genre awards and spawned sequels that, along with the 2001 series, formed the backbone of his later writing career.

In a 1974 taped interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the interviewer asked Clarke how he believed the computer would change the future for the everyday person, and what life would be like around the year 2001. Clarke accurately predicted many things that became reality - responding to a question about how the interviewer's son's life would be different, Clark responded: "He will have, in his own house, not a computer as big as this [points to nearby computer] but at least a console through which he can talk through his local computer and get all the information he needs for his everyday life, like his bank statements, his theater reservations, all the information you need in the course of living in our complex modern society, this will be in a compact form in his own house . . . and he will take it as much for granted as we take the telephone."

Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. ClarkeDuring the 1980s Clarke became well known to many for his eponymous television programmes: Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World, World of Strange Powers and Mysterious Universe. In 1989 he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to British cultural interests in Sri Lanka. Clarke was then knighted in 1998 and was awarded Sri Lanka's highest civil honour, Sri Lankabhimanya, in 2005.

Clarke appeared in a science fiction film in 1994 when he portrayed himself in Without Warning, an American production about an apocalyptic alien first contact scenario presented in the form of a faux newscast. That same year, after using his influence at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to steer the space shuttle Endeavour over the gorilla habitat in Rwanda, he became a patron of the Gorilla Organization which fights for the preservation of gorillas. When tantalum mining for cell phone manufacture threatened the gorillas, he lent his voice to their cause.

Clarke and his home were unharmed by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, but his diving school" at Hikkaduwa was destroyed. He made humanitarian appeals and the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation helped works towards better disaster notification systems. The diving school has since been rebuilt.

In September 2007, Clarke provided a video greeting for NASA's Cassini probe's flyby of Iapetus (which plays an important role in 2001: A Space Odyssey). Later in the year, on his 90th birthday, he recorded a video message to his friends and fans bidding them goodbye. Clarke died in Sri Lanka on 19 March 2008 following respiratory complications and heart failure stemming from post-polio syndrome. A few days before he died, he had reviewed the manuscript of his final work, The Last Theorem, on which he had collaborated by e-mail with his friend Frederik Pohl. Clarke was buried in Colombo in traditional Sri Lankan fashion on 22 March.

- Arthur C. Clarke - Official Website - retrieved 27 April 2018
- The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction - Arthur C. Clarke - retrieved 9 September 2012
- The Internet Speculative Fiction Database - Arthur C. Clarke - Summary Bibliography - retrieved 9 September 2012
- Wikipedia - Arthur C. Clarke - retrieved 9 September 2012 - the text above is a revised version of the Wikipedia article

An illustrated bibliography is available here.

Lists of the first publications of Arthur C. Clarke's non-magazine published fiction appear below along with a selection of non-fiction and autobiographical writings.
Titles in black are novels, while
those in blue are collections and omnibuses.

Against the Fall of Night
Year Title Publisher ISBN Notes
1953 Against the Fall of Night Gnome Press N/A The original story
1956 The City and the Stars Harcourt, Brace N/A Revised and expanded version
1990 Beyond the Fall of Night Ace / Putnam 0399134999 The original story plus a sequel by Gregory Benford
Rama   (Parts 2-4 with Gentry Lee)   (Related novels by Gentry Lee alone have been included for the sake of completeness)
Year Title Publisher ISBN Notes
1973 Rendezvous with Rama Gollancz 057501587X First part of the Rama series
1989 Rama II Gollancz 0575045450 Second part of the Rama series
1991 The Garden of Rama Gollancz 0575051698 Third part of the Rama series
1993 Rama Revealed Gollancz 0575055774 Fourth and final part of the Rama series
1995 Bright Messengers Bantam Spectra 0553090062 Novel by Gentry Lee - Set in the Rama universe
1999 Double Full Moon Night Bantam Spectra 0553090070 Novel by Gentry Lee - Set in the Rama universe
2000 The Tranquility Wars Bantam Spectra 0553090089 Novel by Gentry Lee - References the Rama universe
2011 Rama: The Omnibus Gollancz 9780575096868 Omnibus edition containing the first 4 novels
A Space Odyssey   (Related books have been included for the sake of completeness)
Year Title Publisher ISBN Notes
1968 2001: A Space Odyssey New American Library N/A First part of the Space Odyssey series
1970 The Making of Kubrick's 2001 Signet N/A An account by Jerome B. Agel. Contains the short story The Sentinel plus interviews, reviews and more
1972 The Lost Worlds of 2001 Signet N/A Contains the short story The Sentinel plus excerpts from the proto-novel
1982 2010: Odyssey Two Phantasia Press 0932096190 Second part of the Space Odyssey series
1984 The Odyssey File Del Rey-Ballantine 0345321081 Email c orrespondence between Arthur C. Clarke and Peter Hyams, director of the 2010: Odyssey Two film
1988 2061: Odyssey Three Grafton 0246133236 Third part of the Space Odyssey series
1990 2001: A Space Odyssey Legend 009979800X This edition includes essays by Clarke along with the short stories The Sentinel and Encounter in the Dawn
1997 3001: The Final Odyssey Voyager 0246126892 Fourth and final part of the Space Odyssey series
A Time Odyssey   (With Stephen Baxter)
Year Title Publisher ISBN Notes
2003 Time's Eye Del Rey-Ballantine 0345452496 First part of the Time Odyssey series
2005 Sunstorm Del Rey-Ballantine 034545250X Second part of the Time Odyssey series
2007 Firstborn Del Rey-Ballantine 9780345491572 Third and final part of the Time Odyssey series
Other Novels
Year Title Publisher ISBN Notes
1951 Prelude to Space World Editions Inc. N/A Also appeared as Master of Space (1961) and The Space Dreamers (1969)
1951 The Sands of Mars Sidgwick & Jackson N/A  
1952 Islands in the Sky Sidgwick & Jackson N/A  
1953 Childhood's End Ballantine N/A  
1955 Earthlight Ballantine N/A  
1957 The Deep Range Harcourt, Brace N/A  
1961 A Fall of Moondust Harcourt, Brace N/A  
1963 Dolphin Island Holt, Rinehart & Winston N/A  
1963 Glide Path Harcourt, Brace N/A  
1975 Imperial Earth Gollancz 0575020113  
1979 The Fountains of Paradise Gollancz 0575025204  
1986 The Songs of Distant Earth Del Rey-Ballantine 0345332199  
1988 Cradle Gollancz 0575041641 with Gentry Lee
1990 The Ghost from the Grand Banks Gollancz 0575049065  
1993 The Hammer of God Gollancz 0575056169  
1996 Richter 10 Gollancz 0575061162 with Mike McQuay
1999 The Trigger Voyager 0002247119 with Michael Kube-McDowell
2000 The Light of Other Days Tor 0312871996 with Stephen Baxter
2008 The Last Theorem HarperVoyager 9780007289981 with Frederik Pohl
Collections & Omnibuses   (Omnibuses composed solely of novels have been omitted)
Year Title Publisher ISBN Notes
1953 Expedition to Earth Ballantine N/A Short story collection
1956 Reach for Tomorrow Ballantine N/A Short story collection
1957 Tales from the White Hart Ballantine N/A Short story collection
1958 The Other Side of the Sky Harcourt, Brace N/A Short story collection
1959 Across the Sea of Stars Harcourt, Brace N/A Omnibus including Childhood's End, Earthlight and a selection of short stories
1962 From the Ocean, From the Stars Harcourt, Brace N/A Omnibus including The City and the Stars, The Deep Range and a selection of short stories
1962 Tales of Ten Worlds Harcourt, Brace N/A Short story collection
1965 Prelude to Mars Harcourt, Brace N/A Omnibus including Prelude to Space, Sands of Mars and a selection of short stories
1965 An Arthur C. Clarke Omnibus Sidgwick & Jackson N/A Omnibus including Childhood's End, Prelude to Space and a selection of short stories
1967 The Nine Billion Names of God Harcourt, Brace N/A Short story collection
1968 The Lion of Comarre and Against the Fall of Night Harcourt, Brace N/A Omnibus
1972 The Wind from the Sun Harcourt, Brace 0151968101 Short story collection
1972 Of Time and Stars Gollancz 0575015713 Short story collection
1973 The Best of Arthur C. Clarke 1937-1971 Sidgwick & Jackson 0283979798 Short story collection
1978 Possessed
and Other Stories
Amereon 0891909567 Short story collection
Recorded in some online databases, but may not exist
1983 The Sentinel Berkley 0425061833 Short story collection
1988 A Meeting with Medusa Tor 0812533623 Published as an omnibus with Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
1989 Tales from Planet Earth Legend 0712634800 Short story collection
1991 More Than One Universe Bantam Spectra 0553291890 Short story collection
1996 Childhood Ends:
The Earliest Writings of
Arthur C. Clarke
Portentous Press None Short story, essay and play collection
2000 The Collected Stories
of Arthur C. Clarke
Gollancz 057507065X Short story collection
2006 Clarke's Universe ibooks 159687306X Omnibus including A Fall of Moondust, The Lion of Comarre and Jupiter V
Venus Prime   (By Paul Preuss)   (Based on short stories by Arthur C. Clarke)
Year Title Publisher ISBN Notes
1987 Breaking Strain Avon 0380753448 Part 1 - Based on Breaking Strain (1949)
1988 Maelstrom Avon 0380753456 Part 2 - Based on Maelstrom II (1965)
1989 Hide and Seek Avon 0380753464 Part 3 - Based on Hide-and-Seek (1949)
1990 The Medusa Encounter Avon 0380753480 Part 4 - Based on The Medusa Encounter (1971)
1990 The Diamond Moon Avon 0380753499 Part 5 - Based on Jupiter Five (1953)
1991 The Shining Ones Avon 0380753502 Part 6 - Based on The Shining Ones (1964)
Year Title Publisher ISBN Notes
1950 Interplanetary Flight Temple Press N/A An Introduction to Astronautics
1951 The Exploration of Space Temple Press N/A A less technical version of Interplanetary Flight (1950)
1954 The Exploration of the Moon Frederick Muller N/A An analysis of the possibilities of space travel and the exploration of the Moon
1954 The Young Traveller in Space Phoenix House N/A Discussion of the development of space exploration
Also appeared as Going Into Space (1954), The Scottie Book of Space Travel (1957) & Into Space (1971)
1956 The Coast Of Coral Frederick Muller N/A An account of scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef
1957 The Making of a Moon Frederick Muller N/A The story of the Earth satellite programme
1957 The Reefs of Taprobane Frederick Muller N/A Underwater adventures around Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
1958 Voice Across the Sea Frederick Muller N/A The story of deep sea cable-laying plus speculation on the future of the cables and communication
1958 Boy Beneath the Sea Harper N/A Young divers exploring the waters around Ceylon
1959 The Challenge of the Spaceship Harper N/A Collection of essays looking at the the cultural, artistic, philosophical ramifications of space travel
1960 The Challenge of the Sea Holt, Rinehart & Winston N/A A study in deep sea exploration and possible future developments
1960 The First Five Fathoms Harper N/A An introduction to diving
1962 Indian Ocean Adventure Harper N/A An account of a visit to the Great Basses Reef, off the coast of Ceylon
1962 Profiles of the Future Harper & Row N/A Essays on the future development of technology, focusing on the ultimate limits of what is possible
1964 The Treasure of the Great Reef Harper & Row N/A The story of a search for sunken treasure from a shipwreck at the Great Basses Reef
1964 Indian Ocean Treasure Harper & Row N/A Abridged version of The Treasure of the Great Reef (1964)
1964 Man and Space Time-Life Books N/A Review of man's interest in space and speculation of what the future may hold
1965 Voices from the Sky Harper & Row N/A Essays on space and space travel, communications satellites and other space related topics
1968 The Promise of Space Harper & Row N/A Updates Interplanetary Flight (1950), The Exploration of Space (1951) & The Challenge of the Spaceship (1959)
1970 Space, the Unconquerable Lake House Investments N/A Essays on space and astronomy
1972 Report on Planet Three and Other Speculations Harper & Row 0601079361 Essays on space, space travel and other space related topics
1972 Beyond Jupiter:
The Worlds of Tomorrow
Little, Brown & Co. 0316146994 Speculations on the outer planets and the upcoming Voyager missions
1977 The View From Serendip Random House 0394417968 Speculations on space, science and the sea with fragments of an equatorial autobiography
1980 Arthur C. Clarke's
Mysterious World
Collins 0002165368 With John Fairley and Simon Welfare
Based on the TV series
1984 1984: Spring -
A Choice of Futures
Del Rey-Ballantine 0345313577 A collection of essays covering a diverse range of subjects
1984 Arthur C. Clarke's
World Of Strange Powers
Collins 0002166798 With John Fairley and Simon Welfare
Based on the TV series
1986 Arthur C. Clarke's
July 20, 2019: Life in the 21st Century
Macmillan 0025258001 Speculations on life in the 21st century
Edited by ACC with an introduction and an epilogue
1987 Arthur C. Clarke's
Chronicles of the Strange and Mysterious
Collins 0002176181 With John Fairley and Simon Welfare
Follow up to the previous "books of the series"
1992 How The World Was One Gollancz 0575052260 Writings on the history and future of communications
1992 The Fantastic Muse Hilltop Press 0905262050 An essay on SF poetry and a poem
1993 By Space Possessed Gollancz 0575055960 Essays on the exploration of space
1993 Arthur C. Clarke's
A-Z of Mysteries:
From Atlantis to Zombies
HarperCollins 0002155885 With John Fairley and Simon Welfare
Follow up to the previous "books of the series"
1994 The Snows of Olympus:
A Garden on Mars
Gollancz 0575056525 Speculations on Mars
1996 Childhood Ends:
The Earliest Writings of
Arthur C. Clarke
Portentous Press None Short story, essay and play collection
1998 Arthur C. Clarke's Mysteries Michael O'Mara 1854792814 With John Fairley and Simon Welfare. A collection of mysteries from previous books in the series
1999 Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! Voyager 000224697X A collection of essays covering many aspects of the twentieth century
Autobiographical   (Titles in blue are interviews. The remainder in black are biographical works and letters collections)
Year Title Publisher ISBN Notes
1971 The Panic Broadcast Avon N/A Interview with Clarke by Howard Koch
1978 Locus (#212, July 1978) Locus Publications N/A Interview with Clarke by David Garnett
1979 Omni (March 1979) Omni N/A Interview with Clarke by Malcolm Kirk
1979 Science Fiction Littell & Co. 0883431645 Interview with Clarke by Mark Davidson and Nirmali Ponnamperuma
1980 The Best of Omni Science Fiction Omni None Interview with Clarke by Malcolm Kirk
1980 Future Imperfect: Science
Fact and Science Fiction
Francis Pinter 0903804646 Interview with Clarke by Rex Malik
1982 New Voyager
(#2, Winter 1982)
Model & Allied Publications None Interview with Clarke by Mat Irvine
1983 Dream Makers Volume II:
The Uncommon Men & Women
Who Write Science Fiction
Berkley 0425058808 Interview with Clarke by Charles Platt
1984 Ascent to Orbit John Wiley & Sons 047187910X Subtitle: "A Scientific Autobiography"
1985 Space Voyager
(#17, Oct/Nov 1985)
Argus Specialist Publications None Interview with Clarke by Neil Gaiman
1987 Dream Makers:
Science Fiction &
Fantasy Writers at Work
Xanadu 0947761144 Interview with Clarke by Charles Platt
1989 Astounding Days Gollancz 0575044462 Subtitle: "A Science Fictional Autobiography"
1992 Odyssey:
The Authorised Biography
of Arthur C. Clarke
Gollancz 0575054484 Authorized biography by Neil McAleer
Also appeared as Arthur C. Clarke: The Authorized Biography (1992) by Neil McAleer
1992 Interzone (#66, Dec 1992) David Pringle N/A Interview with Clarke by Liz Holliday
1993 Interzone (#78, Dec 1993) David Pringle N/A Interview with Clarke by Stan Nicholls
1997 Future Histories Horizon House / Nokia 0953064808 Interview with Clarke by Stephen McClelland
1998 Arthur C. Clarke and Lord Dunsany: A Correspondence Anamnesis Press 0963120301 Letters sent between two authors over a period of twelve years
1999 Locus (#464, Sept 1999) Locus Publications N/A Interview with Clarke by John L. Coker, III
2000 Space and Beyond:
The Frontier Theme in SF
Greenwood Press 0313308462 Interview with Clarke by Gary Westfahl et al
2001 Orb Speculative Fiction (#2) Orb Publications N/A Interview with Clarke by Tharuka Dissanaike & Sanjiva Wijesinha
2003 From Narnia to a Space Odyssey ibooks 0743475186 Subtitle: "The War of Letters between Arthur C. Clarke and C.S. Lewis"
2008 Locus (#564 January 2008) Locus Publications N/A Interview with Clarke by himself???
2010 Sentinels: In Honor
of Arthur C. Clarke
Hadley Rille Books 9780982514078 Interview with Clarke by George Zebrowski
2012 Visionary:
The Odyssey of
Sir Arthur C. Clarke
The Clarke Project 9780615513690 Authorized biography by Neil McAleer
Revised and expanded version of Odyssey: The Authorised Biography of Arthur C. Clarke
2017 Sir Arthur C. Clarke:
Odyssey of a Visionary
Ashgrove Publishing 9781853981906 Authorized biography by Neil McAleer
An updated version of Visionary (2017), with new front matter, an additional chapter and photographs


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