SF author Arthur C. Clarke has died at age 90. At the very least, the following five books were on my Read Every Year list for a very long time -- 2001: A Space Odyssey, Rendezvous With Rama, Childhood's End, 2010: Odyssey 2, Against the Fall of Night. The short story "A Meeting with Medusa" was in an anthology I read and re-read for years -- I had forgotten about it until an editor commented that a story I had submitted was "Meeting with Medusa"-esque. Frankly, I was flattered, considering it hadn't been intentional.
I probably got serious into reading SF by age 8 or 9. There were the early greats, like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, who were dead. And then there were the living greats -- Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein and Herbert. I read all that I could get my hands on. And then they wrote more! The passing of Arthur C. Clarke is a passing of an era for me. Oh yes, there are other legendary SF authors who are older than I am who are still alive, Ray Bradbury comes to mind, but Clarke was the last of that personal First Pantheon.
On To Adulthood
In terms of my own writing, one of the most important Clarke books I ever read was the little-known The Lost Worlds of 2001, which traces how the short story "The Sentinel" morphed into the book/movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. In some respects, it's a hard sell. The two versions barely have anything in common other than something is found buried in the Moon which "shouldn't be there." It doesn't even look the same -- in "The Sentinel" I believe it is pyramid shaped. But you can see the gears turning and get to see a number of drafts, some of which work and some which don't. And in the end, the progression was made. Amazing.
In more recent years Sir Arthur has been the voice from the other end of the world. Eschewing travel in favor of using the global communications system he foresaw, many times I saw Clarke being interviewed from his home in Sri Lanka. Reading some of the obits and comments, a number of people have talked about Clarke's characters not being so memorable, save perhaps for HAL. It doesn't matter -- it was the settings and the ideas which made Clarke's novels so appealing to me.
They say you can't go home again. And that you can't return to the "Golden Age of Science Fiction". Perhaps that is true. Modern tastes are different. But you can pick up a book and visit, and for a time experience the realities of a giant rotating spaceship and alien first contacts, or the shocking truths behind your new alien overlord masters.
Yup. End of an era. Good night, Sir Arthur.