Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke

Gary Westfahl

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9780252041938

Publisher: University of Illinois Press


Despite extensive critical attention, Arthur C. Clarke’s distinctive science fiction has never been fully or properly understood. This study examines some of his lighthearted shorter works for the first time and explores how Clarke’s views regularly diverge from those of other science fiction writers. Clarke thought new inventions would likely bring more problems than benefits and suspected that human space travel would never extend beyond the solar system. He accepted that humanity would probably become extinct in the future or be transformed by evolution into unimaginable new forms. He anticipated that aliens would be genuinely alien in both their physiology and psychology. He perceived a deep bond between humanity and the oceans, perhaps stronger than any developing bond between humanity and space. Despite his lifelong atheism, he frequently pondered why humans developed religions, how they might abandon them, and why religions might endure in defiance of expectations. Finally, Clarke’s characters, often criticized as bland, actually are merely reticent, and the isolated lifestyles they adopt--remaining distant or alienated from their families and relying upon connections to broader communities and long-distance communication to ameliorate their solitude--not only reflect Clarke’s own personality, as a closeted homosexual and victim of a disability, but they also constitute his most important prediction, since increasing numbers of twenty-first-century citizens are now living in this manner.