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Book Title: The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke|
The author of the book: Arthur C. Clarke
ISBN 13: 9780312878214
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 419 KB
Edition: Tor Books
Date of issue: February 10th 2001
Read full description of the books The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke:There are over 100 stories in this impressive collection ranging from 1937 (aged 20) to 1999 (aged 82) but the golden age of Clarke (as a short story writer) starts in the second half of the 1940s and ends in the early 1960s.
The falling off is not a matter of ability (since he could pull off some excellent work when he wanted to later in life) but lack of will in this medium. By the mid-1960s, he had made his name, was living well, basking in adulation and could concentrate on enjoying life and consulting.
Of course, the classic novels are of equal importance and these did continue well into the 1990s so, to some extent, what we see is as much about the decline of the short story-based science fiction magazine as anything else. In the 1970s, he is writing more for Playboy than the fans.
Fortunately, the vast bulk of stories in this collection come from this long Golden Age and only 11 or so stories are from after 1970 and some of those are good.
The stories of the late-1940s, 1950s and early 1960s are, however, fascinating, partly because what comes across is both Clarke the Briton and Clarke the Humanist. And, of course, he remained busy on books and influencing popular culture - there was certainly no falling off of the intellect.
There is material here for a major study of the relationship between scientific aspiration, a declining Britain and a rising America but this is not the place - suffice it to say that Clarke's slightly outsider status (as genre writer, perhaps as gay, as creative) provides major insights here.
There are themes, of course. There are surprisingly few references to aliens or alien perspectives (though there are some). The corpus concentrates above all on human aspirations and human reactions, human follies and human courage.
Of course, he cannot write well about women though he adapts well to changing mores in his last years (Clarke is nothing if not open-minded) but he can write brilliantly about the heroic engineer in ways that would do credit to the Soviet tradition.
Indeed, it is clear that he refuses to demonise Sovietism throughout while remaining someone who clearly loves America. His stance seems to be one of continuous humanistic scientific optimism and that there is no reason why capitalists and communists cannot share equally in what is to come.
One repeated theme is the scientist-engineer or the practical pilot or worker, faced with mortality (there are as likely as not to be no last minute rescues) and choosing existentially just to finish the job to provide that extra bit of knowledge for the species in its flight to the stars.
We should also note that Clarke is always a hard science writer. The fact that the predictions may not always come true (he often gets the idea right but not the timing) is irrelevant - most of what he proposes is not (at the time of writing) impossible or truly fantastic.
His attitude to the paranormal was famously open-minded: that possibility in science fiction can permit strange things if it can be rationally drawn from what is known - the classic 'magic as undiscovered science' meme - but there is very little of that in these stories. All is science.
It is no accident that the penultimate collaboration is with Stephen Baxter, another fine British hard science fiction writer, in a superb piece of alternate history that plays brilliantly with Clarke's 'pseudo-weaknesses' and shows them to be imaginative strengths.
In The Wire Continuum Baxter (since one suspects he is driving the narrative here) pays tribute to Clarke by taking the latter's first ever story about teleportation and creating from it a structured alternate history as if Clarke's mentality had been true to actual history.
In this case, Baxter has used something that is impossible or fantastic (teleportation) but the way it is 'played' acts as beautiful counterpoint to the hard science, shining a light on Clarke's themes in a way that can only be understood if you had read the preceding 948 pages.
Perhaps (roughly) a quarter of the stories are to be regarded as humorous in a rather 'jolly jape' English academic sort of way, exemplified by those collected as Tales from the White Hart' centred around its engineer-scientist Harry Purvis whose tall tales all seem to be based on hard science.
These Tales are early stuff but very well crafted with a distinctive style, including at one point a classic of the 'perfect murder' genre. They reflect the clubbability and conviviality of the early science fiction community in London. Later humour may often be more heavy-handed.
There are too many stories here to comment on any in particular. There are very few duds. Some are undoubted literary masterpieces. Most will stand the test of time and give insights not just into the man but his time. Some became the basis of books and, famously, films.
The abiding images he leaves are two-fold - the word painting of other worlds (mostly in our own solar system) so that you feel, rightly or wrongly, that 'you have been there' and of a sense of the heroic, of men for whom knowledge and discovery are greater than life itself.
Personally, I am less simpatico with this progressive heroism in reality but only a philistine would not see its beauty aesthetically much as even an atheist can see the beauty in a Baroque martyrdom or hear the beauty in a seventeenth century religious cantata.
The age of heroes is probably now dead even though the space travel exponents (who I tend to support for practical reasons related to the asteroid problem rather than out of ideological sentiment) would like it to be otherwise.
The Baxter story links the Clarkian universe - the travel to the stars in a world changed forever by hive minds and quantum technology - back to its roots: an older heroism of gallant spitfire pilots defending a soil that no longer has much meaning but where past heroism stands on the record.
Clarke, despite his adoption by American progressives and technologists, starts off as a quintessentially British writer and transforms himself - you can trace it in the trajectory of the stories - stage by stage into a cosmic universalist. Tracing that trajectory is fascinating in itself.
In Hegelian terms, British wartime heroism and scientific prowess is the thesis, the universal destiny of mankind is the antithesis and the synthesis is a heroic humanistic progressivism. I remind the reader that the motto of the Royal Air force was and is Per Ardua Ad Astra.
As a British reader of a certain age reading Clarke from 1937 to the end of the last century is a bitter-sweet experience. On the one hand, it reminds us of the death of an England which scarcely exists now and, on the other, offers an amazing world of possibilities on its funeral pyre.
Finally, you realise in reading these stories that Clarke was unusual in another respect - high intelligence capable of understanding and expanding imaginatively on extremely complex contemporary science and a humane understanding of human (or rather male) motivation.
Yes, his women are generally ciphers. His is a male universe and one suspects he knew that this was not the whole story from the hints in the later tales. Perhaps he knew that he could only think like a male but in every respect he was decent - anti-racist, anti-imperialist, anti-militarist.
The bottom line is that the collection shows that Arthur C. Clarke deserves his place as one of the great writers in the science fiction genre. The book is highly recommended albeit requiring considerable patience to get through its 966 relatively small print pages.
Read information about the authorArthur C. Clarke was one of the most important and influential figures in 20th century science fiction. He spent the first half of his life in England, where he served in World War Two as a radar operator, before emigrating to Ceylon in 1956. He is best known for the novel and movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, which he co-created with the assistance of Stanley Kubrick.
Clarke was a graduate of King's College, London where he obtained First Class Honours in Physics and Mathematics. He is past Chairman of the British Interplanetary Society, a member of the Academy of Astronautics, the Royal Astronomical Society, and many other scientific organizations.
Author of over fifty books, his numerous awards include the 1961 Kalinga Prize, the AAAS-Westinghouse science writing prize, the Bradford Washburn Award, and the John W. Campbell Award for his novel Rendezvous With Rama. Clarke also won the Nebula Award of the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1972, 1974 and 1979, the Hugo Award of the World Science Fiction Convention in 1974 and 1980, and in 1986 became Grand Master of the Science Fiction Writers of America. He was awarded the CBE in 1989.
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