March 19, 2008
I think I read everything Clarke wrote from then up to Fountains of Paradise (1979). Science fiction, like opera, is a thing not everybody "gets." To those who "get" it, though, Clarke was a great grand-master. He wrote "hard" sci-fi: no magic, fantasy, or weirdness, nothing that contradicted what is known. He scoffed at UFOs and other popular delusions of the time. He had a true scientist's respect for the evidence, yoked to a wonderful gift for speculating within the evidence. His feet were always planted firmly in known fact, while his mind soared through infinite space and time. (One of his novels takes place a billion years in the future.)
Clarke's unwavering respect for evidence showed up in his famous 1984 falling-out with Robert Heinlein over the Strategic Defense Initiative. Heinlein was for SDI, Clarke was against, and there was an ugly spat, with both men standing their ground. Later Clarke went over the evidence carefully, saw flaws in his math, changed his mind, and did his best to make up with Heinlein. (Making up with Heinlein unfortunately required extraterrestrial powers.)
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