Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Open The Pod Bay Doors, HAL

Arthur C. Clarke, the great science fiction writer best known for 2001: A Space Odyssey, has died at age 90.Clarke collaborated with Stanley Kubrick on 2001, and while the brilliant and expository book is worth reading, I prefer the poetry of the film, which I first saw in a theater when I was very young. It made me a science fiction addict for life, and was my first introduction to a computer, though the mainframes available when the movie was released in 1968 (before a man walked on the moon) had far less brainpower than today's average cellphone.

“The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible,” Clarke, a trained physicist who came up with the concept of the communications satellite, once observed. That strikes me as an excellent motto for creativity - and for life.

Today's obituaries also included news of the death of director Anthony Minghella at 54, best known for The English Patient. Like Kubrick, he took a novel (by the poet Michael Ondaatje) and turned it into a hallucinatory revelation of a movie that won nine Oscars, including Best Picture.

For some years now, I've read the obits to celebrate and be inspired by the likes of these two. Both men of great talents and imagination, one lived into a productive old age, one was taken too soon. I hope to be the former; if I am the latter, I'd be pleased to be have accomplishments worth being remembered publicly at all, and even happier to be remembered fondly.

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