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Creator: Arthur C. Clarke

One of the world's most famous science fiction writers, Arthur C. Clarke (1917—2008) is responsible for works such as Childhoods End, the 2001: A Space Odyssey series, Rendezvous with Rama and The Songs of Distant Earth. Has influenced almost all the science fiction that has arrived in his wake, from Stargate 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:
  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.

Later on he also created a fourth law: For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert.

He wrote the Space Odyssey sequels himself, without the input of Stanley Kubrick — each installment 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".

This author's works with their own trope pages include:

His other works provide examples of:

  • 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 being on his way to Jupiter. In 3001 the first woman Poole falls for ends up horrified due to a 'mutilation', and the second relationship falls apart romantically 15 years after they get married and have kids.
    • Clarke was a diving enthusiast, which is reflected in some stories.
    • Many of the stories show societies that returned to Arcadian countryside life after the development of telecommunications and personal transport allowed for greater flexibility in one's choice of workplace.
    • Some of his stories, or at least the earlier ones tended to have references to a spaceship named the Morning Star.
  • But What About the Astronauts?: "If I Forget Thee, Oh Earth" is a post-apocalyptic story using this trope for a powerful effect. It depicts a small lunar outpost as a last remnant of humanity after a nuclear Holocaust.
  • Homeworld Evacuation: "Rescue Party" has aliens coming to Earth in order to try saving at least a few humans before the Sun goes nova. In the end, it turns out the humans built a fleet and left already.
  • Ironic Echo: Pretty much all of the Harry Purvis tales.
  • Living Gasbag: "Meeting with Medusa" featured the discovery of a miles-long jellyfish-like creature floating in the atmosphere of Jupiter. (In biology, medusa is a term applied to certain forms of jellyfish.)
  • Local Hangout: The White Hart.
  • Loophole Abuse: There's a reason why Clarke named one of his short stories "Loophole". See the Twist Ending entry below for details.
  • 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. 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.
  • Planet Spaceship: In The City and the Stars, it is revealed at the end that most of the humanity left the Galaxy to explore the universe... in a star cluster made into a fleet.
  • Psychic Powers: In "Second Dawn", a whole alien race who entirely lack useful hands have built an entire civilization around Telepathy and other mostly-subtle mental powers. Their problem is that in their last war they have developed a psychic weapon powerful enough to destroy the minds of entire populations, and fear what will happen in their next war.
  • Reclusive Artist: Was famously hard to access in his later years.
  • Retractable Appendages: The male inhabitants of Diaspar, in The City and the Stars, have retractable genitalia.
  • Straight Gay: 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."
  • Sub Story: The Deep Range.
  • Technology Marches On:
    • If you read his collected short stories, many of his '50s 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.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: Soviet Russia in stories set after 1990 — including 2010: Odyssey 2.
  • 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.
  • Twist Ending: Used in many of his short stories, many times the final sentence is all that's required for the twist. What exact version of the various twists will depend on the story. Many also double as a Wham Line.
    • "The Nine Billion Names of God" is about a religious sect which hires a computer and two technicians to print out all the names of God, which they believe is the purpose of the universe. The technicians decide to cut and run before the program is finished to avoid the monks' anger and disappointment when the world fails to end. The final line has them looking up and seeing that "Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out."
    • "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 eventual accepts his own death to allow McNeil to survive.
    • "Loophole" has Martians telling Earth to stop rocketry research, or else. 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 their nation.
    • "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.
    • "The Star" is narrated by a Jesuit priest and astronaut whose faith has been badly shaken by the discovery of an alien civilization that was wiped out when their sun went nova, and the implications of their extinction.
    [O]h God, there were so many stars you could have used. What was the need to give these people to the fire, that the symbol of their passing might shine above Bethlehem?
    • "Rescue Party" ends in a line implying Humans Are Special. While nothing exceptional for Military Science-Fiction, it's particularly jarring to see it in Clarke's context.
    • "The Food of the Gods" is set in the far future where artificial food is used, and most people don't even realize that artificial meat is made to resemble dead animal flesh. It turns out that a new, instantly popular artificial meat is made to resemble human flesh.
  • Virtual Reality Interrogation: In The City and the Stars, the heroes are questioning a robot which must keep silent until the end of time. The Master Computer simulates just that.

Andre NortonDamon Knight Memorial Grand Master AwardIsaac Asimov
John ChristopherSpeculative Fiction Creator IndexCassandra Clare
John ChristopherAuthorsJackie Collins

alternative title(s): Arthur C Clarke
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