Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Arthur C. Clarke is a writer who I found highly influential back in high school. I read his 2001 series, Rendezvous with Rama, Childhood's End, and a massive number of his short stories, even though I wasn't particularly a fan of short stories at the time. The last time I read anything by Arthur C. Clarke, however, was probably more than a decade ago when 3001: The Final Odyssey came out.

I know that many of the books I loved in high school have paled some with age -- others, that I couldn't stand in high school, I've come to realize have profound depth and subtlety. (Such as the entire works of Jane Austen and The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Leguin.) In fact, over time, I've come to suspect that I preferred a certain type of 2-dimensional, cardboard character when I was younger. I found them easier to understand. Science interested me more than people, so I preferred authors who wrote about science (Clarke, Asimov) to those who wrote about people.

My tastes have changed some over the years. Deep Space Nine taught me to appreciate politics, handled well. Jane Austen and an excellent college professor taught me to appreciate irony. And I think that simply spending more time on this planet filled with people has taught me to have more interest in the stories of other humans. (Though, I do still prefer animals and aliens.)

All of that said, I have found it extremely pleasant, comforting, and downright restful to revisit Arthur C. Clarke by way of reading The Songs of Distant Earth this week. (A book that I'd never read before.) I don't believe, by any means, that it's his best work, but it's written in a voice that I haven't listened to in many years. And, no matter how much I've changed in the last decade or so, I still find it to be a really wonderful, thought-provoking and thoughtful, intelligent, well-considered voice. The words that Arthur C. Clarke had to share with the world are words worth hearing. It's an amazing treasure that there are still words of his for me to discover so many years after his death.

Arthur C. Clarke, you are still missed.

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