Main | Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke, 90

Science fiction legend, the world's most famous futurologist, and gay man Sir Arthur C. Clarke has died at the age of 90 in Sri Lanka, his adopted home for the last 50 years. I began devouring Clarke's novels at the age of 12 when a friend pointed out that the spacey lyrics of David Bowie's 1971 song Oh! You Pretty Things were a reference to the plot of Clarke's novel Childhood's End. Intrigued, I checked the book out of the school library and it remains one of my all-time favorites to this day. Overlords! Scary!

By the end of high school I had read and reread almost all of Clarke's work, with special fondness for The Nine Billion Names Of God, The Sentinel (which is the short story that later became 2001: A Space Odyessy), and Rendevous With Rama, which will finally be made into a movie this year.

Clarke was known to be gay, but always remained coy with the press, never officially coming out. In his later years he was fond of saying, "At my age, now I'm just a little bit cheerful." In 1997, the Sunday Mirror claimed that Clarke had paid young boys for sex, a story that was later disproven by the Sri Lankan police, but still forced Clarke to postpone his knighthood ceremony with Prince Charles. With the stipulation that they not be published until 50 years after his death, his "Clarkives" should tell the story of his gayness, finally, even though it's a widely accepted fact among fans.

It was Clarke who in 1945 invented the concept of geostationary satellites in a paper titled Extra-Terrestrial Relays — Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage? When others later attempted to patent the concept, their applications were denied when Clarke's writing was cited as "prior art." When satellites are launched today, they are put into Clarke Orbit. Obviously, without satellites, most of today's communications, weather, and defense technologies would not be possible. Credit Sir Arthur C. Clarke, a gay man.

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