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Arthur C. Clarke$

Gary Westfahl

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780252041938

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252041938.001.0001

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(p.181) Appendix Clarke’s “Collaborations” with Other Authors

(p.181) Appendix Clarke’s “Collaborations” with Other Authors

Arthur C. Clarke

Gary Westfahl

University of Illinois Press

While Clarke and Gentry Lee’s Cradle was his first official “collaboration,” twelve other texts might be placed in this category, as they represent the work of other authors acknowledging their use of Clarke’s ideas. First, a forgotten story in a 1938 fanzine, D. R. Smith’s “Cosmic Case #4,” is described as based “upon an idea suggested by Arthur C. Clarke” (8).

Second, the anthology Three for Tomorrow (1969) contains novellas written by Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, and James Blish in response to an essay by Clarke, published as the book’s foreword, offering this question: “With increasing technology goes increasing vulnerability. … How is the society of the future going to protect itself from an increasing spectrum of ever more horrendous disasters, particularly those made possible by new devices (high-powered lasers? drugs?) in the hands of madmen?” (9). Clarke did no other work for the volume, though he has been incorrectly cited as its editor (it was actually edited by an uncredited Silverberg).

(p.182) Six novels published under the umbrella title Arthur C. Clarke’s Venus PrimeBreaking Strain (1987), Maelstrom (1988), Hide and Seek (1989), The Medusa Encounter (1990), The Diamond Moon (1991), and The Shining Ones (1991)—are credited solely to Paul Preuss, though each is based on a Clarke story. Clarke’s plots are reworked to feature a new female protagonist, a spacefaring investigator named Sparta, and Clarke’s only contribution to the books was to write their afterwords.

Beyond the Fall of Night (1990) was initially promoted as a collaborative work by Clarke and Gregory Benford; in fact, as readers could quickly discover, the book consists of the republished text of Clarke’s Against the Fall of Night and Benford’s original sequel. Thus, there was no pretense that any actual “collaboration” occurred.

Most recently, there is Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds’s authorized sequel to “A Meeting with Medusa,” The Medusa Chronicles (2016), which may become the first of several new sequels to Clarke stories.

Cradle involves a benevolent alien race that visits underdeveloped planets, captures specimens of promising life forms, creates improved versions of those creatures, and deposits “cradles” on those planets containing the modified beings’ embryos and robot instructors to help them mature. When a spaceship delivering such a package to Earth is damaged after encountering a satellite, it lands off the Florida coast to make repairs, diverting an American cruise missile. When a female journalist, a boat owner, and his crewmate undertake to locate the missile, they contact the submerged vehicle, assist with repairs, and persuade the departing aliens to take their cradle with them instead of leaving it to alter Earth’s natural development. Complicating matters are an investigating navy commander, his overzealous subordinate, and a duplicitous treasure hunter. The novel is weakened by lengthy, unpersuasive explorations of each character’s personal traumas, and the fact that Lee’s characters, here and in the Rama trilogy, regularly smoke cigarettes contrasts with Clarke’s aversion to smoking, expressed in The Ghost from the Grand Banks by the predicted emergence of technology to edit smoking out of old movies.

The Rama trilogy, beginning with Rama II, is credited to Clarke and Lee. Soap opera is again prioritized over science as Lee improbably posits that when a second Raman spacecraft approaches, authorities would dispatch (p.183) an exploratory mission consisting of only twelve people, including two unqualified journalists, who all suffer from severe psychological problems and a proclivity to personal conflicts. As characters squabble and conspire against one another, they seem inattentive to the alien spacecraft they should be investigating. Yet Rama II belatedly sputters to life when physician Nicole des Jardins and engineer Richard Wakefield investigate a Raman “city” and discover a race of intelligent bird-like aliens called “avians” and replicas of objects left behind by explorers of the first spacecraft, suggesting the vehicles have been in contact. When the Raman vehicle alters its course to approach Earth, Nicole, Richard, and crewmate Michael O’Toole warn the spaceship to protect itself against Earth’s nuclear missiles, and they remain inside the craft when it leaves the solar system.

In The Garden of Rama Nicole, Richard, and Michael spend twelve years traveling to Sirius; Nicole has three daughters with Richard (effectively her husband) and two sons with Michael (to provide offspring with genetic diversity). Near Sirius they rendezvous with an immense processing facility, the Node, where they meet a human-like “biot” who tells them that Rama’s mission is to locate and retrieve specimens of spacefaring species. One male and one female are asked to remain at the facility as potential parents, so one daughter marries Michael to stay behind; the others return to Earth’s solar system, hibernating in a redesigned Rama, to join a recruited colony of two thousand humans to live within the spacecraft for “observation.” Implausible conflicts emerge because officials, not believing Nicole’s message requesting colonists for Rama, instead recruit people to join a Mars colony; discovering that Nicole was truthful, they suddenly inform colonists they will be living in a space habitat. Further, unable to find enough volunteers, they include convicted felons, including the particularly unsavory Nakamura, who takes control of the colony, dangerously tinkers with its specially prepared environment, attacks and slaughters nearby avians, and imprisons opponents. The monitoring masters of Rama are displeased by these activities but take no action as Richard escapes and Nicole faces a death sentence.

In Rama Revealed Nicole is rescued and joins her husband and other family members in taking refuge with aliens they call “octospiders,” who are friendly, intelligent, and amazingly advanced in biological technology. They are imperiled by Nakamura, who launches an unprovoked war, and when (p.184) Richard and one octospider attempt to negotiate a settlement, Nakamura murders them. The octospiders reluctantly retaliate by unleashing the first of a planned series of bioengineered diseases, which kills all humans over forty years old. At this point, Raman overseers intervene and put the spacecraft’s residents to sleep until they reach the Node, now positioned near Tau Ceti. There, Nicole is reunited with Michael, her daughter, and their children and completely informed about Rama’s purpose: it is part of a mission launched by a being termed the Creator—or God—to intensely study the innumerable universes He created to find the one model that naturally evolves toward complete harmony—a quasi-religious vision that pleases the Catholic Michael but is at odds with Clarke’s own beliefs. Though the dying Nicole is offered mechanical replacements for failing organs to keep her alive indefinitely, she declines treatment but is allowed to visit a “Knowledge Module” and receive a virtual tour of the universe.

Richter 10, credited to Clarke and Mike McQuay, is the weakest Clarke “collaboration” and seems the least like Clarke’s work in focusing not only on characters’ personal issues but high-level political maneuvers as well. After his parents are killed in a 1994 California earthquake, Lewis Crane becomes obsessed with predicting earthquakes and as an adult achieves a successful system with the assistance of African American colleague Dan Newcombe. As conspiracies unfold involving Crane’s foundation, the Chinese company controlling America’s government, and Islamic African Americans seeking to expand their enclaves into a separatist state, Crane is discredited when falsified data leads him to incorrectly predict an earthquake in the southern United States but then vindicated when a subsequent prediction of an earthquake in the same region proves accurate. He resolves to prevent the earthquake destined to devastate California by audaciously employing nuclear bombs to fuse together two plates beneath the state, but the Islamists, now aided by Newcombe, thwart his plans, kill his wife and son, and make Crane an international pariah. Crane remarries and sets up a projected utopian community on the moon; however, bringing their lives to a fitting conclusion, Crane reunites with Newcombe to calmly die while they personally witness the earthquake that destroys California.

The Trigger, credited to Clarke and Michael Kube-McDowell, begins promisingly as researchers accidentally discover a device that detonates nitrate (p.185) explosives at a distance, potentially making it impossible for anyone to employ guns or other weapons for violent purposes. A pro-disarmament senator persuades them to reveal their invention, called the Trigger, to idealistic President Breland, who soon makes them available to governments and citizens everywhere. No facility protected by a Trigger can be violently assaulted, as would-be perpetrators’ weapons are destroyed before they can act. An improved version of the technology, the Jammer, prevents explosives from exploding instead of igniting them. A growing emphasis on politics seems unlike Clarke, as the novel devolves into an extended diatribe in favor of gun control, with saintly advocates of the new technology interminably arguing against sinister, sometimes homicidal, opponents who are determined to eliminate the Trigger and Jammer to protect their Second Amendment rights. But proponents of the technology prevail, and in an epilogue set twenty years in the future, the scientist who crafted the Trigger ponders his newest discovery, a device that selectively kills individuals based on their DNA.

As an established writer of hard science fiction, Stephen Baxter, credited coauthor of all remaining texts discussed here (except The Last Theorem), was the most capable of Clarke’s “collaborators,” though he also generally fails to emulate his style. “The Wire Continuum” soberly considers the idea Clarke treats farcically in “Travel by Wire!”—a system to instantly teleport people and goods by means of wires or radio waves. Baxter creates an alternate history (a genre Clarke avoided) wherein postwar scientists, continuing research launched by Nazi Germany, achieve such teleportation in 1962, leading to various revolutionary effects, including instantaneous space travel to other planets. The protagonists are married couple Henry Forbes and Susan Maxton Forbes, who maintain a troubled relationship while pilot Henry improbably advances from airplanes to space flights and, eventually, a flight to another solar system, and Susan assists in perfecting and improving the system.

In “Hibernaculum 46” a utopian future world enjoys limitless energy and resources, yet numerous individuals, bored with their ideal world, are having their bodies frozen in suspended animation within underground “hibernacula.” One woman, convinced this process is draining the planet of innovative, energetic citizens, seeks to sabotage one hibernaculum, but her attempt is detected and thwarted. The hibernaculum’s head then persuades her that it is beneficial to have people placed in suspended animation to (p.186) awaken at a time when humans can finally travel to other solar systems, a development that will spark a human renaissance requiring capable, motivated participants.

The Light of Other Days describes a remarkable invention: a device that locates and makes use of tiny, transitory wormholes, initially employed for instantaneous long-distance communication. But the driven tycoon who developed the machine, Hiram Patterson, recruits his estranged son, David, a physicist, to improve the technology so that it enables people to observe any event, anywhere in the world. This technology gradually becomes accessible to everyone, eliminating privacy and exposing corrupt activities. It is further enhanced to enable people to view past events, so people can compile an entirely factual historical record. Complicating matters are the impending arrival, in five hundred years, of a huge traveling world that will strike and destroy Earth, and Hiram’s machinations to control his other son, Bobby, to end his relationship with a female journalist, and to protect himself from people whose lives were ruined by his invention. Eventually Hiram learns how to employ wormholes to extract limitless energy from Earth’s core, enabling the world to achieve a utopia and prevent Earth’s destruction; others adapt the technology to become “Joined” as a group intelligence; and a project is launched to use the technology to resurrect all people and beings who ever lived on Earth. Despite melodramatic touches and questionable speculations, this is the best of Clarke’s “collaborations.”

In the Time Odyssey trilogy, beginning with Time’s Eye: Book One of a Time Odyssey, the first intelligent species to emerge in the cosmos, the Firstborn, determines that the universe has a finite amount of energy and resolves to preserve its energy at all costs. Since advanced civilizations consume large amounts of energy, they begin annihilating intelligent species whenever they are detected. Before doing so, they have the poorly explained habit of first constructing a pocket universe containing a duplicate of the doomed planet, composed of fragments from various times in its history, and such a duplicate Earth, called Mir, is the setting for Time’s Eye. There, while the aliens’ spherical, floating Eyes observe events, twenty-first-century United Nations soldiers interact with prehistoric australopithecines, the armies of Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan, and nineteenth-century British soldiers, including Rudyard Kipling. After inconsequential adventures, UN worker Bisesa (p.187) Dutt is mysteriously transported back to Earth (due to the intervention, we later learn, of other aliens, the Lastborn, who oppose the Firstborn).

In Sunstorm: A Time Odyssey: 2 the aliens undertake to obliterate humanity by hurling a distant planet into the sun, causing a “sunstorm” of radiation to kill all life on Earth. To avoid this fate, scientists construct an enormous, ultra-thin shield to partially protect Earth from the radiation and mitigate its impact. Descriptions of how the shield is designed, built, and deployed represent the only part of the trilogy that resembles Clarke’s writing. Dutt contacts authorities with the key information that this is not a natural event, so scientists recognize that humanity will soon face another threat.

In Firstborn: A Time Odyssey: 3 the aliens attempt to destroy Earth in another way: by transforming an Eye into a “Q-bomb” of dark energy. But it is learned that millennia ago, an extinct race of Martians discovered how to disable the Eyes, and when Dutt is transported back to Mir, she discovers that its pocket universe also contains a duplicate of ancient Mars. Thomas Edison contacts the Martians with huge burning ditches forming Martian symbols, and upon receiving his message, a Martian scientist somehow “squeezes” an Eye, inspiring it to emit a distress signal that inexplicably confuses the Eye designed to destroy the real Earth, causing it to destroy the real Mars instead. The novel concludes with the Lastborn contacting Dutt, presumably to enlist humanity’s assistance in further efforts against the Firstborn. To put matters mildly, none of these events really make any sense, as explained in my “The Endless Odyssey.”

One must, however, praise Baxter for a credible addition to the White Hart series, “Time Gentlemen Please” which recaptures its spirit and tone by describing a contemporary reunion of the pub’s attendees, including David Kyle, James MacCreigh, John Christopher, and Ken Slater. Clarke, as “Charles Willis,” participates by means of television, as arranged by brother “Bill” (Fred Clarke); a new visitor, a thinly disguised Gregory Benford (“Benjamin Gregford”), is considered “at sixty-six a sprightly youth” (193); and everyone pays tribute to “those who could no longer join us” (194): the deceased John Wyndham, Charles Eric Maine, George Whitley, William F. Temple, and John Brunner. Harry Purvis, now in a wheelchair, arrives to tell an outlandish story about an Australian scientist who develops a “temporal flux accelerator” (199) enabling him to experience three hours of time in one second (recalling the (p.188) device in “All the Time in the World”). But in his accelerated state, he discovers that light and heat move too slowly to affect him, so he freezes to death. Purvis concludes by claiming that problems with the device were later corrected, so it is being used to create phony antiques, including “seventeenth-century English pewter tankards” (208)—a barb directed at Gregford, who proudly displayed such an item as his recent purchase.

Finally, although scattered passages of Clarke’s prose are embedded in The Last Theorem, it is almost entirely the work of Frederik Pohl. Clarke provided its basic plot in an outline: a young Sri Lankan mathematician, Ranjit Subramanian, discovers a short proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem; he then works for the United States government; he marries a woman named Myra and has two children, daughter Natasha and a mentally disabled son, Robert; his wife dies; and he eventually travels into space. In a later introductory passage, largely identical to the novel’s “The First Preamble,” Clarke mentions an alien race, the Grand Galactics, who detect evidence of humanity’s existence. From this, Pohl devises an elaborate subplot involving advanced aliens who first resolve to destroy humanity but, upon discovering evidence of tremendous progress, change their minds, allow humanity to survive, and eventually anoint them as their successors. Pohl also creates almost all of Ranjit’s adventures, including experiences as a university student; his abduction by pirates (replacing a sequence involving Tamil rebels that Pohl removed at Clarke’s insistence); his activities as a professor and government employee; Natasha’s participation in a race involving solar-powered spacecraft (borrowing language from “The Wind from the Sun”); Myra’s death while diving; and Ranjit’s final transition to virtual life as a computer program, visited by far-future humans crafting a narrative of his career.