Who was A.C. Clarke?

A few days ago, we had a joiner in to fix an old real wood floor. It had that sound which I sometimes referred to as the ‘haunted house creak’, which at one stage might have acted as an inspiration for a story.

However, after a period of extended procrastination, complaining almost daily, every time we walked across a creaking board, we finally decided to do something about it. My wife, the practical one who always finds the right tradesman to fix a household problem, found one. Lo and behold … he had the problem fixed within a matter of hours!

What was interesting for me, though, was his reaction to the books he saw on my shelves. He wanted to know what they were all about; giving me the impression he probably wasn’t a regular book reader. I explained that many of the books were to do with my writing, mainly science fiction and fantasy, as well as other interests.

His reaction was not untypical. He said he only liked to read ‘real stories’ about real people, not ‘far-fetched’, crazy-looking characters. It’s not uncommon to hear such comments, even though the genre is one of the most popular in the world.

I’d heard this sort of response before, especially when there is some confusion between sci-fi and fantasy. So, I told him, if he wanted to know more about the subject, he might take a look at a blog I’d written, where I’d put forward my own thoughts on the subject. You can find it here  https://williamlongbooks.co.uk/science-fiction-or-fantasy/

I added that he might also be interested to know, there were world-famous scientists who had written science fiction, and had contributed through their research to the real world.

Two of the greatest were A.C. Clarke and Carl Sagan. Both of whom, had written bestsellers. Sagan, for example, was an astronomer, and one of the scientists involved with the Apollo programme, to land a man on the moon. He also wrote a sci-fi bestseller, called Contact.

He’d never heard of them, but his curiosity had been aroused. So, who then, was A.C. Clarke?

Well, it’s hard to put into a few words all that Clarke accomplished in his lifetime. For example, in 1945, he proposed that geostationary satellites could be placed in space around our world, to beam all sorts TV and communications into our homes, an achievement we all take for granted today. He smiled in surprise at that.

And when I mentioned that Clarke, as a sci-fi writer, was also the co-writer of the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, one of the most famous films of all time; I think he realised that not all sci-fi is about ‘far-fetched crazies.

W.L.