Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Golden Age of Science Fiction

The golden age of science fiction is twelve. - Peter Graham

I was actually thirteen when I became aware that my favorite genre of fiction was, and still is, science fiction. The author I was reading when I made this discovery was one of the giants of the days when SF first became popular, its "Golden Age". The author? Arthur C. Clarke. The novel? Childhood's End.

Clarke passed away earlier this month at the age of 90. He was not only a justly celebrated writer but also a visionary scientist. He wrote a paper in 1945 that postulated communications satellites in geosynchronous orbits (now called Clarke orbits).

His writing is marked by a boundless optimism, by vast vistas of time and space, and by that old fashioned hallmark of science fiction, sense of wonder. You don't read Clarke for character development or emotional depth; you read him for ideas and plot. Don't get me wrong, he was a competent wordsmith. He just wasn't elegant.

He was one of the first three giants of science fiction, along with Asimov and Heinlein. He was the last of the three to pass away. Those of us who enjoy SF were enriched by his presence in the world.

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