Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Death in Sri Lanka of a visionary

The futuristic writer Arthur C Clarke died early this morning, at the age of 90, at Colombo in Sri Lanka, where he had been living for over half a century. In 1968, he and Stanley Kubrick created the screenplay 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the outcome was one of the most poetically breathtaking science-fiction movies of all time, which stunned me completely when I first saw it in Paris. The film's opening integrates splendidly the music of Strauss. Above all, the convincing presence of the anthropomorphic robot HAL (whose behavior was conceived apparently with wise advice from Marvin Minsky) helped to make this extraordinary work of art a cult movie.

My favorite quote from Arthur C Clarke is often applied to high-tech domains from space research and computing through to nuclear energy and genetic engineering: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on turning French!

    Kubrick didn't tell me anything about what HAL would do, or what his abilities would be. We did discuss how well it might speak, and I helped to redesign the appearance of HAL's interior, and also the arms and hands of the space-pod manipulator. (Also Stanley rejected some advice on using computers to make graphics—and he was right! He used conventional animators for that, and the result was better than any programs could do in those ancient days.)

    I exchanged some emails with A.C.C last month, and he seemed optimistic enough:

    At 11:22 AM 1/31/2008, Marvin Minsky wrote:
    Dear Arthur,

    2001 has come and gone, but you are still inspiring me with clouds of ideas. Believe it or not, at many times when I've gotten stuck, I actually hear your voice, telling me what I should try to do next.

    I finished a big new book last year, and the final section mentions my debt to You and Isaac and Fred Pohl.

    Love, Marvin


    February 2, 2008 1:54:16 AM EST
    Dear Marvin,

    Thanks for your email - how nice to hear from you after a long time!

    I'll be interested in your new book and look forward to receiving a copy. I'll also be happy to give a puff if that helps...

    You mention Fred Pohl - who has helped me complete my latest novel, which should be out this year. See attached Egogram for details.

    I'm now recovering from a back injury where full healing would take many weeks during which I have to be extremely careful. I’m surviving on 16 hours of sleep everyday, and getting used to doing some reading and light work from my semi-reclined position. I can’t wait to get back to my hover-chair...

    Also attached is an essay I wrote for Locus which has printed it in their Jan 2008 issue which had tributes to myself from several giants in SF. Made me feel (almost) posthumous...

    All good wishes,

    2 Feb 2008