Saturday January 5 8:49 PM ET
Life Beyond 2001 for Arthur C. Clarke
By Scott McDonald
COLOMBO (Reuters) - There is life beyond 2001 for Arthur C. Clarke. The
visionary, science fiction sage and eccentric has just turned 84. But
the author of ``2001, A Space Odyssey'' still has an eye on the future
while also enjoying his past delicious premonitions.
Now confined to a wheelchair, Clarke stays in touch with the world from
a high-tech den in his home in an exclusive residential area in the
center of Colombo.
``It is sort of a sigh of relief rather than a let-down,'' he said of
the end of 2001, which brought a re-release of the movie, plus numerous
special events for Clarke, widely acclaimed as a prophet of the space
Clarke is probably most famous to the general public for ''2001,'' which
became a film classic and won him an Oscar nomination with director
Stanley Kubrick in 1968, but is also a legend in the scientific and
space communities for forecasting many of the extraordinary achievements
of the past century. They include a then controversial 1945 theory of a
world linked by geostationary satellites, 20 years before they were
actually made, and the fact man would land on the moon.
``Ten other guys could have written the paper on satellites a year later
in 1946, I think I'll be known for '2001' and the books,'' said Clarke
who suffers from post-polio syndrome.
The author of more than 80 books and 500 short stories and articles,
both fiction and non-fiction, Clarke is considered the world's
pre-eminent science fiction writer and, along with others such as Ray
Bradbury and Isaac Asimov, has transformed the genre from the fringe
into mainstream literature.
While talking, Clarke will reel around to glance at his email -- ``I try
not to check more than once an hour'' -- or his assistant will interrupt
to bring in a fax, including one on a recent day from media tycoon
Rupert Murdoch. Clarke's home is set behind a high wall and he shares it
with his business manager and the manager's family.
Clarke's marriage in the 1950s ended in a divorce and he has made the
manager's family of three daughters his adopted family. ``It was the sea
that brought me here,'' he said of his first visits in the early 1950s
to the island then called Ceylon for diving off the coast of
Clarke, who was knighted in 1998, has lived in Sri Lanka for more than
40 years and his home includes what he jokingly called his ``ego
chamber'' filled with photos of him with Prince Charles, the Pope and
Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon.
Clarke loves to joke, loves to name-drop and loves to make fun of his
``Name-dropping is vulgar as I told the Queen last week,'' he
But Clarke, dressed in the traditional Sri Lankan costume of a shirt and
sarong, takes great pride in showing an amazing collection of mementos
from almost every trailblazing astronaut, and from an array of Hollywood
``To Arthur, who visualized the nuances of lunar flying long before I
experienced them,'' Armstrong wrote in one volume in a bookcase full of
similarly inscribed books.
While thanks from the space community could be expected, there is also
the unpredictable, such as an autographed photo from actress Elizabeth
Taylor, and several from Tom Hanks, including one from his Apollo 13
movie. Although physically a lot more frail and worried about being more
forgetful, Clarke is still active and upbeat.
``I'm pretty lucky really, I don't very often get depressed,'' he
``My agent is setting up a few things which I may or may not do, and
I've got a few books I will contribute ideas to.''
But Clarke does show signs of his age -- he turned 84 on December 16 --
and stops every few minutes to suck in deep breaths.
``I have to sleep up to 14 hours a day and the remaining time is spent
He still occasionally leans on a table tennis table to
``One game of table tennis tires me out and I used to play for hours,''
he said of one of his lasting hobbies.
Clarke is upbeat that this century will bring breakthroughs in new forms
of energy such as cold fusion or hot fission, but refused to say what
his worst fear for the world was. ``This terrorism is a frightful danger
and it is hard to see how we can get complete protection from it,'' he
said in a voice that still carries a trace of Somerset, England, where
he was born.
He admits he has written so much that he has probably contradicted
himself many times, and no longer bothers to correct errors by others,
such as the common one that HAL, the famous computer with feelings in
``2001,'' gets its name from each letter being one place before IBM in
And he admits to being spooked by the fact in 1973 when he wrote
``Rendezvous with Rama'' he picked September 11, the same date as the
attacks on the United States, as the date when an asteroid hits
``There was one chance in 365, that's all,'' he said of picking the
Clarke has stopped traveling off the island, although he appeared by
satellite at the Comdex Exhibition in Las Vegas in November and in a
videotape message at a gala dinner in his honor at the Playboy Mansion
in Los Angeles the same month. The celebrity guest list included Hanks,
director James Cameron, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and astronaut Edwin
``Buzz'' Aldrin, a close friend who visited Sri Lanka last
Date: Mon, 14 Jan 2002 08:32:07 +0300
From: Mark Shuttleworth
To: Eric Klien
That's a pretty wild idea, but you may just be right! Good luck with the