Like a lot of things, I guess that in my heart of hearts I knew that eventually all the venerable old writers of science fiction, the folks who I grew up with, would all pass away. When it starts happening it’s a strange experience. The world has enough obituaries for ACC – here I just wanted to say something about what he means to me.
When ‘2001 – A Space Odyssey’ – came out I was a boy of 7 years old and although it played the local fleapit I didn’t see it. I don’t remember whether I was too young to go, but I remember my mum wanting to see it. I never found out whether she eventually got to see the movie or not; I only myself caught up with it after watching 2010, which is pretty arse-about-face. In other words, I came to ACC not via his most famous work, but in my own way.
A British ‘boys weekly’ of the 1970s was called, I seem to remember, ‘Speed and Power’, and featured all sorts of machines, vehicles, etc. each week…aong with a short story from ACC. And that’s where I encountered him first. I still have a box of these magazines somewhere in the dark recesses of my attic, complete with the short stories which occupied many an evening, and encouraged me to go and find his other books.
The first ACC novel I read was ‘A Fall of Moondust’ – a disaster story about a ‘moon bus’ full of tourists that gets swamped in dust whilst traversing a lunar ‘sea’, and the efforts of rescuers to get them out. The novel of his that made the biggest impact on me was ‘Rendezvous with Rama’ – I still remember the first time I read it, and even now it holds up. Lovely, wonderful, story telling that I never get bored with. I have to say that I’m very excited about the prospects of a film being made of the novel – possibly for release in 2009. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!
But the short stories made the biggest impression on me. As the years passed I just grabbed copeis of his collections of short stories from second hand shops, charity shops, wherever. And of all of them, the ones that made the biggest and longest lasting impression were his ‘Tales from the White Hart’. Quite why I have no idea – I guess that I just love ‘tallish tales’ that are just, maybe, plausible. These stories, and those of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King, have probably been the major influences of my short story writing. So much so that I’ve written a collection of similar stories – an ‘homage’, I guess – called ‘Tales from the Oakham Arms’.
I’m not even going to start on the technical innovations that ACC suggested, starting with his now famous Wireless World item on Geostationary Communication Satellites, that have now appeared in our lives.
Like someone else said recently, I really hope that as ACC passed away he was able to look deep into the cosmos and utter those final words of Dave Bowman’s…”My God, it’s full of stars”.
Thanks Sir Arthur. My life would have been significantly poorer without your imagination.