Arthur C. Clarke was an imposing figure of the twentieth century. His chosen field was science and its effects on us. He used the medium of science fiction to explore it.
He is being remembered in the media for the book behind the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey," but he wrote many, many other science fiction short stories and novels.
I read somewhere that we mourn not so much for the people themselves who have died, but for the parts of ourselves that end with their death.
He was not my favorite science-fiction writer. I think that my love of science fiction came too early in my life to appreciate his writing, which required more maturity than I had in my teens. I did enjoy "The Nine Billion Names of God," which packed the punch I enjoyed at the time, in a simple, but mind-bending concept: that if all the names of God could be enumerated, the universe would have served its purpose and would end. A computer is programmed to enumerate those names. It succeeds, and the stars begin going out, one by one.
That's a very current story for today in multiple dimensions, many years on from the writing. I still get that same shiver down the back of my neck as I write this.
He imagined geosynchronous satellites long before they were a reality and looked forward to meeting aliens in space in more realistic ways (perhaps - we still don't know what will happen) than other writers. He combined the self-assurance of prediction with the profound humility of knowing that we really don't know what will happen, in the best way that science can.
He was a figure who I paid attention to, someone to be looked up to, someone whose name I noticed in the news, part of my intellectual world. I lost my interest in science fiction a long time ago, but Arthur Clarke continued. I tried to reread some of his books, recognizing that my immaturity might have contributed to my lukewarm response to them, but the science fiction part no longer resonated.
Here are obituaries and tributes from others.
Shane Deichman. Further links here.