Questions we've been asked about Sir Arthur C. Clarke
* Updated 25 Jan 2007 *
DISCLAIMER: These replies are the views of MysteryVisits.com and John C. Sherwood, and reflect information available at the time of writing. They should *not* be construed as authoritative replies from Sir Arthur C. Clarke, his agents, his associates or household. MysteryVisits and John C. Sherwood act solely as volunteers with a long-standing "fan" interest in Sir Arthur's writings, ideas and life.
Send a COMMENT or QUESTION about our content. If you have a question, we ask that you (please!) *first* check this page to see if we've addressed your issue. If we have, it's *unlikely* you will get a reply.
DO YOU WANT TO CONTACT ARTHUR C. CLARKE OR HIS
We will *NOT* provide Sir Arthur's e-mail address. We do *NOT* relay messages. Sir Arthur has asked that all messages to him be curtailed except in special circumstances. If you have business to conduct with Sir Arthur, please consult the file he has shared with us HERE. This contains contact information for Sir Arthur's agent and answers frequent questions.
QUESTION: Do you know ACC's email address? I'd like to ask him his opinion of "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep" by Philip K. Dick.
Those who've had regular contact with Sir Arthur are guarded about giving out his e-mail address. At 85 [as of Dec. 16, 2002}, with post-polio syndrome, Sir Arthur must sleep up to 12 hours a day, so his time is spent on major projects (see his schedule through the links below). Also, because the Web is a slow process for the Sri Lankan server, he tends to go online only to deal with e-mail he finds of personal and professional interest. His staff handles the rest, including surface-mail correspondence.
QUESTION:I am emailing you to let Mr. Clarke know how much I have enjoyed his work over the years and I am very glad to know he suppported Mr. Gene Roddenberry when Star Trek was first being produced in the late 1960s.
Thanks, but we're not able to serve as an intermediary for correspondence. See the relevant material above.
QUESTION: How is Mr. Clarke's health recently?
Sir Arthur tells of his recent health tests at a link from our main page.
Has anyone heard about a Childhoods End movie?
Kimberly Peirce, who co-wrote and directed "Boys Don't Cry," has been reported to be in final negotiations to direct a big-screen adaptation for Universal Pictures/Beacon Pictures. Producers are reported to be Armyan Bernstein and Rudy Langlais, but there's no reported script writer -- although certainly there are plenty of scripts, at least three having been written since the late 1950s. Actress Hillary Swank could get further involved, as she reportedly bought the option rights, which (happily) puts some cash in Sir Arthur's pocket up-front.
With so much unknown, there's no release date. Other attempts to film "C.E." -- ca. 1960 and again in the early 1970s -- have fallen through, and this attempt may become just one more, sad to say.
Here's a report from early 2002: http://www.canoe.ca/JamMoviesArtistsP/peirce_kimberly.html
A more recent report, chiefly about Pierce: http://www.filmstew.com/Content/DailyNews/Details.asp?ContentID=4524
I am a video producer who needs to find some footage of
Arthur C. Clarke. Any idea where any of his footage resides? I'm looking for anything where he may make a statement that goes "it's
called a satellite."
Sir Arthur's aides in Colombo may be able to help you far better. See the information above about contacting him. Also, any major TV network -- particularly CBS -- may have such footage on file.
I am trying to locate a copy of a show Sir Arthur narrated in 1995 about the Mandelbrot Set and fractal geometry. It is awesome and I want to get a copy of the video. It was out of PBS Saint Louis but they need the full title to do a computer search. Can you help?
We encourage questioners to visit the chief Internet search engines -- Lycos, AltaVista, Yahoo, GoTo, Google, etc. -- to make such inquiries rather than to ask us to do it for them. In the above case, as it turns out, a quick Web search-engine query yielded the following, and it looks like the right one --
"Colors of Infinity (VHS)"
"In this 52-minute VHS Dr. Arthur C. Clarke, screenwriter of
2001: A Space Odyssey, chronicles the 1980 discovery by Dr.
Benoit Mandelbrot of a geometrical shape which can be used
to better understand the physical world. Dr. Clarke
explores the impact fractal geometry has had on the world
and its future implications for health care,
communications, computer technology, and the military.
There are interviews with such notables as Dr. Benoit
Mandelbrot, Stephen Hawking, and Dr. Michael Barnsley."
QUESTION:Could you email our computer guy a hi-res reasonably current photo of Mr. Clarke (and the appropriate credit)? It was our hope to dedicate our upcoming issue to him and we really wanted
an image to go with it -- preferably the dignified image at the upper right corner of your site.
That photo is not original to our site and is more or less generic on the Web. We don't own an original and therefore can't provide a high-res copy. We've also seen better color images at other sites. However, you're welcome to peruse our Clarke Image Archive and borrow a generic photo, with the corollary that we aren't in Sir Arthur's employ and have no authority to release rights. We suggest you telephone Sir Arthur's agent (see the link from our site).
QUESTION: Are you aware of any work which has been
done on Arthur's family tree? My last name is Clarke and
my ancestors came to North America in the 1700s.
We have no information about Sir Arthur's ancestry other than what is printed in Neil McAleer's biography, which does not extend back far. Sir Arthur's brother might help. If you write to him, we recommend you provide return postage via international reply coupons.
Dene Court, Bishops Lydeard
Taunton, Somerset TA4 3LT, England
QUESTION: Did Arthur C. Clarke ever meet J.R.R. Tolkien?
The first meeting between Clarke and Tolkien occurred at the Eastgate pub at Oxford, probably in mid-1954. The event was a challenge between members of the British Interplanetary Society and C.S. Lewis, who had been critical of the early rocketry and space travel champions, as Lewis believed mankind should try to become less destructive before inflicting its evils on other worlds. Val Cleaver and Clarke offered to discuss the subject with Lewis, and the gathering was arranged. Lewis and Tolkien were friends so it's likely Tolkein attended more out of respect for Lewis than from interest in space travel. Lewis -- author of the "Perelandra" series -- used fantasy and sci-fi motifs in his fiction considerably.
Clarke wrote about the meeting in a "short history" of the B.I.S.. The meeting amounted to a discussion between Tolkien-Lewis and Cleaver-Clarke about whether mankind possessed moral and spiritual suitability for space exploration -- in short, could mankind avoid creating havoc beyond Earth. Naturally, Clarke and Cleaver took the "pro" view and the Oxford dons took the "con" view (those familiar with Lewis will understand why).
As the "debate" took place in a pub, one wonders how intellectual the argument actually was.
Neil McAleer writes in "Arthur C. Clarke: The Authorized Biography" that Clarke met Tolkien a second time a few years later, at a luncheon for the International Fantasy Awards. He writes: "'And his publisher was there,' says Clarke. 'His publisher was a tiny little man. And Tolkien leaned over and said, 'Do you know where I got the idea for the hobbits?' and gestured toward his publisher." Another paragraph later in the McAleer bio: "For pleasure, Clarke completed reading Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings.' Says Clarke: 'It's the only book I read three times -- very readable -- he's done it once and for all. But I didn't think much of his poetry in 'The Lord of the Rings.' "
In the collection "Greetings, Carbon-based Bipeds," Clarke writes in "Aspects of Science Fiction" that fantasy literature had "an unexpected revival" during the 20th century because of the influence of LOTR.
Sadly, ACC's influence on Tolkien wasn't sufficient to sway
him to full-fledged support of space exploration. But Sir
Arthur *did* persuade another British literary genius to
join the BIS -- playwright/essayist Bernard Shaw. No debate was necessary. Shaw had written sci-fi of a sort, and those who've read his huge play "Back to Methuselah" (an eight-hour script rarely staged) can see how Shaw may himself have been influenced by Wells and Stapledon. During the 1940s, Shaw responded positively to ACC's appeal for support, and sent in his dues regularly until he died in 1950.
QUESTION: I`ve read most of Sir Arthur's major books and a few of his shorter stories, and wondered what is considered to be his finest work, so I can pick out what I haven`t read.
Although the challenge is tempting, we consider it impossible to select one book that is Sir Arthur's "finest," so here's another approach. Here are his "finest" ...
... collection of technical writings: "Ascent to Orbit" (1984)
... early non-fiction book about space: "The Exploration of Space" (1951)
... later non-fiction book about space: "The Promise of Space" (1968)
... later non-fiction book about oceanic studies: "The Challenge of the Sea" (1960)
.... reminiscence of true oceanic adventure: "The Treasure of the Great Reef" (1964)
.... reminiscence of science-fiction history: "Astounding Days" (1989)
... collection of non-fiction essays: "Greetings, Carbon-based Bipeds!" (1999)
... single essay: "Extra-Terrestrial Relays" (1945)
Found in "Ascent to Orbit" and "Greetings..." listed above.
... non-fiction collaboration: "First on the Moon" (1970) with Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin Aldrin
May not be available -- publishers are Little, Brown and Co., New York
... collection of scientific prophecy: "Profiles of the Future" (1999 edition)
... short fiction collection: "The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke" (2000)
,,, short story: "The Star" (1955)
(in collection immediately above)
... non-sci-fi novel: "Glide Path" (ca. 1959)
... early sci-fi novel: "Childhood's End" (1953)
... later sci-fi novel: "The Fountains of Paradise" (1986)
... screenplay-and-novel collaboration: "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968)
... TV production/book tie-in collaboration: "Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World"
... novel-spinoff CD-ROM game collaboration: "Rama" (Sierra) with Gentry Lee
http://www.cdaccess.com/html/quick/ramapr.htm (very few appear to be available)
... "ghostwritten" novel collaboration: "The Trigger" (1999) with Michael Kube-McDowell
QUESTION:Why are there are no pictures and no mention of Mr. Clarke's father? Do you know his first name?
We have no scans of him at hand. There is considerable material about him elsewhere, though. Charles Wright Clarke died in 1931, when Sir Arthur was 13, from complications suffered during his service in World War I and from experimental hospital treatment involving mercury. There is a photo of him in Sir Arthur's biography, by Neil McAleer (Contemporary Books, 1992). Sir Arthur credits his father with inspiring his interest in science; his father gave him a set of "cigarette cards" with pictures of dinosaurs. The set is on display with the "Clarkives" at Dene Court near Taunton. Much of Sir Arthur's fiction was influenced by his relationship with his father, and the themes of fatherhood are prominent throughout his work, even though Sir Arthur has no biological children.
QUESTION: Is Sir Arthur in any danger because of the political situation in Sri Lanka?
Sir Arthur's past remarks have suggested that, while worrisome, the situation has not put him in danger. The Sri Lankan rebels, the Tamils, are largely anti-government and are not directed at others living in
QUESTION: What has he thought of the Star Trek
series and movies since Star Trek Generations? What does he
suggest we ask Paramount to do if he feels the quality of
the Star Trek genre needs to be improved?
Beyond some editing and background work for episodes of the "Captain Video" series during his 1950s visits to New York, Sir Arthur has not worked on any science fiction for television (his TV work has largely
been linked to the "Mysterious" series. When asked by us in the late 1960s whether he might write for any televised science-fiction series, Sir Arthur responded, "They couldn't afford me."
QUESTION: I am having a great deal of difficulty in tracking when and where Clarke's wonderful story, "The Nine Billion Names of God," first appeared in magazine and book form.
One reference is credited at the front of the anthology by that title. Another source may be David N. Samuelson's authoritative "Arthur C. Clarke : A
Primary and Secondary Bibliography," published in 1984.
One of the Library of Congress search engines could provide the answers.
I'm searching for the tale written by Clarke called "The Star." I've this beautiful tale in Italian and I want to share it with people who speak English. Can you help?
if memory serves, you'll find "The Star" in one of these anthologies of short stories: "The Nine Billion Names of God" - 1967 (collection) (more likely) "The Wind from the Sun" - 1972 (collection, revised 1987) (less
likely). Our full library is inaccessible at the moment, so please forgive us for being this vague!
QUESTION: Is Sir Arthur ever going to write anything new? I have enjoyed all of his previous work. (and am reading "Beyond the Fall of Night" ... Pretty good for just being based off Sir Arthur). I have a hunger for more.
Since about 1975, Sir Arthur has said repeatedly that "[title of most recent publication] is the last book I'll ever write." Then he thinks of an idea and takes everyone off guard ... except that, lately (with "3001" being the notable exception), he has been contracting with other writers to do the bulk of the prose on his behalf. Witness "Richter 10," writtten from an ACC outline. ACC apparently has taken a greater hand in helping his two most recent co-authors, and the results are excellent.
Although Stephen Baxter wrote "The Light of Other Days," we detected paragraphs and structure that could only have come from Sir Arthur himself; a great deal of the scientific speculation was his, too. So, although there was a good deal to dislike about "Light" -- especially aspects of the ending -- we still had a great time with it. The same could be said of "Trigger," which -- while obviously written by an American with insight into the U.S. political situation -- still showed much input from Sir Arthur. As for the future, who knows? Given his health, we would be surprised if Sir Arthur wrote a new novel himself.
Very interesting page, but I didn't find anything about that Star Wars "writer meeting" which Arthur C. Clarke arranged. I would like to have a name list
of those writers who were at the President Reagan's 1980s-era space-based defense program nicknamed the "Star Wars meeting."
Our page is a directory for all things Clarkean on the Web, and isn't meant to supplant, reiterate or replace the material in other venues -- specifically, in this case, Neil McAleer's "Arthur C. Clarke: The Authorized Biography."
You'll find much of what you want on pp. 324-328. There's no complete list of names, although several are mentioned (Robert Heinlein, Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, etc.), although there's no suggestion Clarke arranged the meeting. Pournelle is given the credit for making the arrangements for the meeting of the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy. In fact, Clarke, as a British subject, wasn't a member of the council, and arrived late for the meeting -- which was largely remarkable for the verbal battle between Heinlein and Clarke. Because it happened at Niven's home, we suggest contacting Niven or Pournelle for the information!
QUESTION: Where can I find geographical sites of
themes described in the "Mysteries" book by Clarke? Where on the Internet is there information about this book?
The books "Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World" and "Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious Universe" were by Simon Welfare and John Fairley. The books do not provide good geographic maps that show how to find the sites; however, the text does provide information about where the sites are, and some work with an atlas or book of maps should help. We do not know of any Internet pages devoted to these books, which are no longer in print. However, they may be available either through Amazon.com, other Internet bookstores and perhaps on auction through an Internet service such as eBay.
QUESTION: I've read conflicting stories about how the "Asimov-Clarke treaty" began. Can you tell the true story?
We've seen on the Web some false statements about this, including the claim that Clarke and Isaac Asimov had each agreed to call the other "the best science-fiction writer." That's not true at all. An excellent account of the actual 1950s-era "treaty" -- which corresponds with Clarke's accounts in various writings -- used to be found in the old Isaac Asimov FAQ online. Here's what was stated there:
"The Asimov-Clarke Treaty of Park Avenue, put together as Asimov and Clarke were travelling down Park Avenue in New York while sharing a cab ride, stated that Asimov was required to insist that Arthur C. Clarke was the best science fiction writer in the world (reserving second best for himself), while Clarke was required to insist that Isaac Asimov was the best science writer in the world (reserving second best for himself).
Thus the dedication in Clarke's book 'Report on Planet Three' reads:
" 'In accordance with the terms of the Clarke-Asimov
treaty, the second-best science writer dedicates this book
to the second-best science-fiction writer.' "
QUESTION: I've heard that "Rendezvous with Rama" is
being turned into a movie. When is it going to be released?
[Since the answer that follows was written, news has developed about this project, which appears to be edging closer to reality. See the NEWS page linked from the main Clarke LINKS page, as well as the chief "2001" links page.]
Actor Morgan Freeman's company optioned the rights to "Rama" some years ago, with the goal of releasing the film in 2004. Freeman recently said he believes the story would be a very visual film experience -- which of course is correct. However, judging from his comments in 2000, the financing still has not been obtained -- which means key filming has yet to begin and there can be no schedule (no matter what you may have heard about previous release dates!). Our view is that this film will go the way of past attempts to film "Childhood's End" -- attempts which stretch back into the late 1950s, with another attempt made about 1970 when the
late Howard Koch actually was working on a script.
Clarke's work is cerebral and does not translate well into visual imagery without intense insight, as occurred with both "2001" and "2010." The stories of both "Rendezvous with Rama" and "Childhood's End" do not incorporate the elements of action and adventure that are so much a part of the film industry's marketing needs this days. Consequently, it is our deduction that "the suits" in the movie industry will look askance at both stories and choose not to be involved. We deeply hope we are wrong, and faithful film versions of these two essential Clarke works someday will reach mass audiences.
QUESTION:Why does Sir Arthur churn out inferior novels like "3001" and allow his name to be attached to such inferior novels as "Cradle" and the "Venus Prime" series?
The following is a highly personal opinion that the creator of this site -- John C. Sherwood -- has stated in online forums and elsewhere.
The great actor Laurence Olivier once was asked why he agreed to act --
even be featured -- in such lowbrow films as "The Betsy" and "The Jazz
Singer." His reply was: "I needed the money."
Granted, Sir Arthur has made himself wealthy writing sci-fi. He also
has raised this particular reader's awareness and understanding of the universe, and imparted to me a viewpoint I treasure. As a result, I owe him one. I actually owe him more than one. Long ago, I vowed I would continue to read his books. Along the way, I discovered I enjoyed some of his books more than others. In fact, I read some I probably would never read again. But I was glad I had bought and read them the first time, because I wanted this Clarke fellow to get my money.
I reminded myself of that vow after reading "3001." I, too, had been
disappointed this particular novel didn't seem to "live up" to either the first or second in the series -- although I thought it *did* "live up" to
"2061." Then I thought -- "Maybe he needs the money."
Sir Arthur has had some outrageous medical bills in recent years. He has had to travel across the world to get the medical attention he needs. He also has had to support a family, a staff -- and a business. That's a tall order when you're in your late 70s and early 80s. Imagine yourself doing it, and ask yourself "How will I do it?"
Well, because I owe Sir Arthur one, or two, I congratulated myself on buying "3001" -- and to admit that, while I may never read it again, a certain part of me did love reading it the first time (indeed, I loved just
holding it in my hands). That's because this is a man I want to get my
money, if only so he can continue to maintain his career and possibly
churn out that next insightful idea, that next thought-provoking novel,
that next wise speech, that next proclamation to the planet about the
dangers and wonders of the future.
I, too, wonder what Hollywood will do with Sir Arthur when and *if* it
produces films of "Randezvous with Rama" and "3001." I shudder to think of what the Hollywood machine did with Olivier late in his life. But then I remind myself of what Hollywood did with Olivier *early* in his life -- that
is, give him the capability of becoming known and celebrated, allowing
him to continue practicing his art. That's what Hollywood did with Sir
Arthur as well, some 33 years ago. We could get lucky again. If we
don't, we will shudder, but no one will die and the sun will rise the
So, like Sir Arthur, I prefer to remain optimistic, and to support the
choices he makes with his career. When it comes to that career,
he's a practiced helmsman. I'm content to pay him the price of the ticket, sit back and see where he takes us. It may not be precisely where *we* want to go, but no doubt his choices will be interesting -- and, meanwhile, we get to help the helmsman stay in business so he can continue to ply the waters -- and his trade.
QUESTION (posted recently by John Sherwood to two Clarke lists):
I recently purchased the "Childhood's End" screenplay sold on eBay. I wonder whether anyone might solve the mystery it presents. Sir Arthur told me 30 years ago that Howard Koch was preparing such a script and MGM was involved (if memory serves), but the project failed. This script doesn't seem old enough to be the Koch script, but could be a more recent copy. It appears to be the work of a professional adapter in the 1970s or 1980s, and to be an 'in-house' or studio script, as it's prepared for ring binding and has an identification number -- # 85362 -- on each of 175 pages; a few additional pages list cast and scene needs. There are 373 scenes, all numbered. There is no backing or cover. I still communicate with Sir Arthur at times, but I've learned *never* to trouble him when I can find my answers elsewhere. I have an inquiry about the script heading to his brother, who oversees Sir A's manuscript depository in Taunton. If anyone here has any ideas about this -- or knows or someone who may -- I would appreciate the input. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(From Mike Ackerman): Your post got me curious, so I did a little web searching and found this page, which says Abraham Polonsky (of the Hollywood blacklist) wrote a screenplay for "Childhood's End" about the time you suggest:
Click to go to information.