All tagged Arthur c Clarke

I had never taken the time to get truly acquainted with the work of Arthur C. Clarke, and so when I saw the "The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke" I decided it was time to rectify that, and I am glad that I did. I had largely not read his work because I didn't care all that much for 2001 a space odyssey. It's not that I disliked it I just didn't care all that much, but I suspect after having read a few of his short stories, including those that helped to define that book that the book he wrote would be more interesting. It is rare to pick up a collection of short stories, even by a single author and enjoy all of them. Typically even in classic works by famous authors I have found things that I didn't care for, and while there is certainly there are swings in quality in this story none of the stories were bad. One of the qualities that is important in an author, especially a science fiction author is to know how much space an idea deserves. I have read far too many short stories that would have been very good if only they had been written in half the length, but, I suspect, the authors had some set length they wanted their story to be and so it got stretched out. One of the stories that has stuck with me is "The Sentinel" which has a connection to the obelisk scene in the movie 2001, except in this story it is on the moon, left as a way to tell when humans have reached a technological level worth investigating. The story makes assumptions on why the object is there and it doesn’t show the aliens returning but none the less it is quite haunting. The other thing I didn't know was that Arthur C. Clarke wrote a quite a lot of funny stories. The White Hart stories were all fun, in part because he could tell stories that could be science fiction without having to be hard science fiction since they were lies. This could be a fun TV series and reminded me of Eureka in the tone. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who hasn't read enough Arthur C. Clarke to know which of his styles you most like. It has almost every type of science fiction you can think of and all of it is quite enjoyable. Picture from DarthFar on Deviant art

Science fiction is tailor made to discuss big ideas and ideas that are too controversial to discuss in the normal means. The intersection of these two points is religion and because of this, many of the greatest stories and novels use religion as one of their central points. Here are some of my favorite science fiction stories that discuss religion.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

If the themes of religion in these books were more centralized it would likely be higher on the list but most of the mentions of religion I these books are simply swipes at the ideas something that would bother me if it weren’t so funny. Yet many of the mentions of religion in these stories are devilishly funny. Perhaps the best is at the beginning of most of the books. "In the Beginning the Universe Was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and is widely considered a bad move." He then goes on to discuss how many people think it was created by some sort of God.

The Star by Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke often wrote about religion and his story Childhood's End is one of the best stories about religion but The Star is even more to the point. This is a story about a Jesuit Priest who has went on a trip with a survey team to an exploded star. Something he sees there makes him question his very religion. Any more than that would ruin the fun of the story but if you haven't read it and have any interest in religion you should.

(It's not all that long and the story is here)

Contact by Carl Sagan

After reading "Contact" it is almost hard to understand how so many books that discuss first contact ignore religion. His is a huge part of humanity and though contact with alien races wouldn't necessarily change the beliefs it would certainly impact religion. Although there are other things going on in "Contact" one of the most central themes is religious and what is remarkable is how fair it really is. This isn't Carl Sagan proving religion is for stupid people, it's him thinking about the ideas of religion carefully.

Science fiction is full of stories like these. Some, like "Stranger in a Strange Land" and "Lords of Light" and even "Dune" to some extent involve characters becoming sorts of gods while there are still more that question how the world and the universe came to be. TV and movies also use it well as a central theme in stories like "Deep Space 9" and "Battlestar Galactica" religion comes up often and we will almost certainly continue to see religion in science fiction because the question of God is one that will never be fully answered, and by nature of the theme the best place to think and look about it is science fiction.

Yesterday I looked at the top five books of the top 100 science fiction books. Today I'm going to finish off the top ten. 6. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A Heinlein If I were making this list Starship Troopers and thing would have switched places. (Starship troopers is 12) but it is still an interesting book. This is the story of a human who was raised on Mars by martians and his return to Earth as a young adult. There are 2 versions of this book. The orginial was cut by about 25% removing parts that were considered controversial, the full version was released in 1991. I don't know which of these I read as I didn't know there were two when I read it but it seemed plenty long. 7. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury The first thing I noticed the first time I picked up this book is how small it is. Mind you I had been reading the wheel of time series so anything seemed small but compared to modern science fiction it's short. Short isn't a bad thing, this is a well written novel with a central idea that is fully explored. A longer story wouldn't have added anything. This is the story of a fireman, which is someone who burns books. Fahrenheit 451 is the tempiture that books burn. Bradbury says that this is not a book about censorship but instead about how Television destroys interest in literature. 8. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke It's hard to think about this without thinking of the movie. The problem is that I don't really care all that much for the movie 2001. This is a case where the movie wasn't made from the book, instead the book and movie were made together and the book came out after the movie. As science fiction set in the near future(technically the past now) it is a book that is interesting to read for the advances that they predicted and how close they were in many ways. I think that the book holds up better because it's not reliant on effects but simple imagination. There are several more books in this series now. 9. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov It is appropriate that Isaac Asimov be the only writer with 2 books on the top ten list as he is one of the most prolific authors in history. This book is a collection of short stories about robots. There are a few reoccuring characters but they are largely stories that play on the three laws of robots. Although the best Asimov short stories aren't about robots these are still all good stories and a great place to start reading classic science fiction. I will avoid the movie I, Robot except to say that I would like to see a movie based on one of the stories from this book at some point in the future. 10. Neuromancer by William Gibson I haven't read this book mostly because I don't like to buy books new and it hasn't been in my local used bookstore when I have been. That said I've heard enough about this book I feel like i've read it. This is considered the origin of the cyberpunk subgenre. This genre is about high tech computer societies with criminals and hackers. This story is about a computer hacker in a japanise city who was given a drug that made it impossible for him to use a brain-computer interface and is searching for a cure. I can't comment on the quality of the book directly, but if you like cyberpunk this is said to be the best. Along with the first five books this would certainly give you a great overview of science fiction. You can see from this list how varied the genre is. Sadly it is number 26 before we get to Ursula K Le Guin the first woman on the list and I'm not even very fond of the left hand of darkness and the most recently published of these books was Ender's Game in 1985 but those are both largely because it takes time for books to become popular enough to reach the heights of the genre.
I haven't read any of these books yet so I can't have much of an opinion, though I do have Anathem in the pile. Still looks like a good list. Song of Time: Ian R. MacLeod - PS Publishing The Quiet War: Paul McAuley - Gollancz House of Suns: Alastair Reynolds - Gollancz Anathem: Neal Stephenson - Atlantic The Margarets: Sherri S. Tepper - Gollancz Martin Martin's on the Other Side: Mark Wernham - Jonathan Cape