In one of my opening pages I mentioned authors who have had profound effects on me and my writing style. Strangely, despite my well-entrenched faith in God, two of them had no faith, and one of them is the first I have chosen to discuss. In a parallel coincidence, the other agnostic author also had trouble writing a trilogy in three parts.
Two days ago we had an asteroid pass close to the earth. Close here is a relative term, it was astronomically close. My father, who has long used the pretentious initials TN behind his name (that one has its own long story) has been into astronomy since he was a Star Scout. In high school he built a telescope and went to the National Science Fair with it. Growing up I was often awakened in the middle of the night to see through it the moon, Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, and other passing stars. Twice a year I would go across the street to Uncle Jimmy’s yard (highest elevation in town at nearly 35 feet) to watch meteor showers. So it was natural (to me) when he warned me of the miss to tell him that I knew it was coming because Arthur C. Clarke had told me.There are many innovations and ideas that Clarke wrote in his books that became science fact rather than science fiction. Thankfully, his predictions of asteroids becoming meteorites have not yet come to pass.
The first Clarke book I read was Rendezvous with Rama where said predictions occur. It was a fascinating read that showed me the history of the future in an unadulterated form. The words leapt from the page and painted a deeply coloured picture of Clarke’s images. For those who haven’t read it, an oft-repeated point is that the Ramans do everything in threes. Most who know me probably think that my thought after reading it was “Is this was where we get the noodles from,” but that wasn’t it. It was, “Where are the other 2 books?”
I never got into a dedicated binge of reading Arthur C. Clarke, but I did read many of his works. I especially liked the off the wall works that no one ever talks about, like The City and the Stars and The Fountains of Paradise. After reading The City and the Stars, my American Eskimo puppy, Jake, chewed the book to pieces. I took it to the library and told them I didn’t mind paying for it, but ONLY if they bought another copy of it to put on the shelf. They did.
Years later he finally did come out with sequels to Rendezvous. Three to be precise. The fourth book seemed overkill, especially because of the errors I found in the story. That book was one co-written with Gentry Lee. I wrote Arthur C. Clarke after that one telling him of some problems in the book. Imagine that, a kid sending a letter to a world renown and famous author, telling him what was wrong with what he wrote. In reply, he sent me a form letter, which was a bit disappointing at first. Then I recognized, he had scratched out “Dear Respondent” and hand-written “Jonathan” as well as some other notes at the bottom. He signed it, then promoted a website he was promoting at the time.
Arthur C. Clarke wasn’t the first author I sent a letter to, and he wasn’t the last. He is one I only communicated with once, and part of that is my fault. Arthur C. Clarke was a great man, a great author, and his legacy continues to live on. He doesn’t, but his work does. My current work was spurred into creation after reading The Fountains of Paradise shortly after his death. Unlike him, my work contains hidden and obvious references to God and His path for eternal life through grace. What I learned from him was that when an altar boy tells the pope he’s messed up mass the pope can either put him in his place or thank him in a way that makes him realize what he did without making it look bad.