Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

2008: The Final Odyssey

I had breakfast with Isaac Asimov. I shook hands with Robert Heinlein. Kate Wilhelm did a tarot reading for me. I've workshopped with Gene Wolfe, George R. R. Martin, and A. J. Budrys. Nancy Kress is still a close friend. David Gerrold wrote for my magazine for ten years. I saw Keith Laumer from a distance once, and have had several conversations with Larry Niven and David Brin. But I have never been anywhere close to Arthur C. Clarke. Now I won't get the chance; as I learned on arriving at home this evening, he has died in Sri Lanka at age 90.

Arthur C. Clarke was my favorite SF writer for a long time. Asimov was a little dull, and Heinlein's stridency bothered me at times, but Clarke was as close to perfect as SF writers got for me, at least in high school—and maybe still. His SF was about ideas, and he let nothing else get in the way of those ideas. I began writing SF by imitating his short stories. When I later began writing SF novels I was imitating Keith Laumer, because I knew damned well that I could never imitate Against the Fall of Night or Childhood's End.

As I have reported here more than once, when I was seventeen I gulped and asked a beautiful girl to go out with me and see 2001: A Space Odyssey. She said yes. Seven years later, Carol said yes again, when I asked her to share a different kind of odyssey with me. Yup, Arthur C. Clarke landed me first a best friend, then a lover, and finally a spouse. (One doesn't get that kind of service from Barry Malzberg.)

There's not much more to say. When a man gets to be 90 before he dies, I don't mourn, I celebrate. We had him a long time, and now he is free of all the suffering and limitations inherent in flesh. I happen to think that I may meet him yet…but let that pass. We have his stories. He worked his magic on me, and I would not be the writer I am if he were not the writer he is.

Just one more word: Thanks, Sir Arthur. Really. And thanks again.

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