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Sri Lanka: Remembering Arthur C Clarke

Categories: South Asia, Sri Lanka, Literature, Science

The death of Arthur C. Clarke [1] (1917 – 2008) has many people – some who are ardent enthusiasts of science fiction, and others who know of him blogging about their reflections on the man. From a fleeting glimpse, to an incidental conversation, Clarke is remembered fondly by many Sri Lankan bloggers as a visionary and a futurist. The British author moved to Sri Lanka in 1956 and lived there ever since.

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Words of Amaruwan [2] writes on how Clarke's works initiated a love for science fiction.

Sir Arthur is the reason I started loving science fiction. When I was 10 years old I first got my hands on his famous short story: The Sentinel. Ever since then I was hooked. And I couldnt wait to get my hands on more of his work. Which was by no means easy. Sir Arthur was a prolific writer with more than a 100 books to his credit along with numerous essays and short stories. Even wikipedia can only put up a partial bibliography. What made him so appealing was that although the science in his science fiction was of the highest levels his writing was very simple, very entertaining and very powerful. And his stories were more about the story than the science.

Gallicissa [3] remembers meeting the author in 2002.

I arranged this meeting and was lucky enough to accompany him on this visit to meet Dr. Clarke who was at his study browsing some super-magnified pictures of the Mars in his Laptop when we met him. Showing us those Martian pictures soon and pointing to a pale coloured straight line captured clearly in it, he asked what we think about it! We gazed intently at the screen trying to put a proper sentence together and soon noticing our sorry faces, Sir. Clarke helpfully intervened with a smile ‘it looks like someone has driven a pretty large vehicle!’

LIRNEasia [4] laments the loss of a person they closely collaborated with, shedding light on the fact that there was more to the man than writing fiction.

In November 2005, LIRNEasia had its last official encounter with him when few representatives from WorldSpace (our partner in the Last-Mile Hazinfo project) including Dr. Rangarajan met him in Colombo. His insightful comments on the need for early warning for disasters are still being used in the output from that project.

Rants, Raves and Miscellaneous Musings [5] remembers a brief encounter with Clarke – a delightful anecdote on playing table tennis with him. The blogger also brings to focus a controversial episode in the author's life when a tabloid accused him of being a pedophile.

Now I'm not much of a TT player. Hell, the main reason I played was so that some day I could tell people, Yeah, I played table tennis with Arthur C Clarke. But this was humiliating. A 75 year old man, who was supporting himself by holding on to the table with one hand, and not even moving from his position, beat me. he just had a massive reach, and a killer top spin that had me bouncing all over the place, while he calmly stayed there. As a friend of mine said when I told him this: Pwnt!

Ultrabrown [6] from India writes

None of this means that Clarke is insensitive to the minutiae of human lives, or to our deepest feelings: his beautiful, sentimental “Dog Star”, about an astronaut having to part with his beloved dog when he goes to live on a lunar observatory, is about the closest any short story has come to moistening my ever-dry eyes. (It's also one of a few examples in Clarke's work of a rational mind struggling with an experience that borders on the supernatural, and never coming completely to terms with the scientific explanation.)

The author of Moving Images, Moving People! [7] who has worked with Clarke for about 21 years, writes wistfully about the last video message that was shot.

We had already donned him in a colourful bush shirt – and crew and I felt that this was the right attire for a message that was intensely personal and somewhat wistful. The shirt with large prints was far more characteristic of Arthur C Clarke than any formal suit. At that moment, I was the shoot’s director and not his long-standing spokesperson who would be more agreeable with his views and wishes.

A few tense moments passed. Then one of Sir Arthur’s valets had a brainwave. Why not don the casual NASA jacket that Sir Arthur often wore when he felt the air conditioning was getting a bit too cold?

[Photograph from Wikipedia [8]]