A man is walking home, following a road back to the city on an unfamiliar planet. I forget why. Perhaps he had an accident, perhaps he was stranded; it doesn’t matter. He’s walking, alone, in the black night, thinking. He remembers the rumours of monsters in the desert, but of course there’s no such thing. He thinks of his life, and how it’s going. He remembers the large holes in the ground he passed on the journey out. He’s trying to think how far from the city they were, and therefore when he’ll pass them by. He’s trying not to think what could hide in such holes. He’s glad it’s night, so he can’t see. He’s trying to be rational, but it’s hard, with no light. He’s looking forward to seeing his family. The lights of the city grow closer, and closer. He’s home. He’s home, but for the clacking of enormous jaws, in the dark.
I don’t know what story that is. I don’t know which of the many collections it comes from. But it appears in my head roughly once a week, often for no discernible reason.
Arthur C. Clarke died today.
I finished Rendezvous with Rama last week. I was, and am, looking forward to the sequels. I’ve read all the 2001 series. I must have read most, if not all, of his short stories. I’ve read his collaborations with other authors. I once wrote a short screenplay completely ripping off The Nine Billion Names of God.
Others will be more knowledgeable, and eloquent. But Arthur C. Clarke introduced me to science fiction. His was the first sci-fi collection I ever read. I can still pick out his style a mile away. From him I found Asimov, and from them combined a thousand pathways opened, from Star Trek to Sagan to Tolkien. Their alien worlds sent me into a fascination with UFOs and the paranormal, but the underlying ode to science gave me a foundation to get out of it.
A million scenes are running through my head. A man struggling for shelter on the surface of Mercury. A spacecraft destroying a mountain. Wires of pure diamond, stretching across the solar system. A black sentinel, buried on the moon.
Here he is, last December:
You gave me delight, Mr Clarke. I couldn’t forget your books if I wanted to.
The man was the most influential author of my childhood. I consider him a giant. RIP, Arthur C. Clarke. And thank you.
Tributes: Phil at Bad Astronomy has a lovely post.
Waiting for Cory Doctorow, as he always manages to express these things beautifully…