Worlds & Time

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke & Queens

Having read the Rama series straight through, I couldn't really understand why people considered Arthur C.Clarke one of the great masters of science fiction. The first one was good, after all, but the subsequent three books went way too far and subverting some of the most interesting premises of the first book. It turns out that the alien race doesn't believe in triple redundancy. Oh, and God is a museum collector. And God exists, obviously, in a mindbogglingly weird way.

I just finished Childhood's End, and now I can sort of see why he's so warmly regarded. That book was sort of like Rendezvous with Rama, but with a slightly longer perspective and some brilliant characterization of the "Overlord" creatures and some of the notable characters.

There's still a lot of myth thrown in, but then again, I tend to like to use myth as well, so I can't really complain about that.

This book was originally published in 1953, but the prescience about some modern technology is quite impressive. For example, I couldn't get over the fact that some of the things that they use computers for are things that we use computers for. It was hard to imagine that this was written before the advent of the modern microchip.

There was one other brilliant prophecy that's been fulfilled. Quoting from page 141 of my version (Ballantine 1969):
Do you realize that every day something like five hundred hours of radio and TV pour out over the various channels? If you went without sleep and did nothing else, you could follow less than a twentieth of the entertainment that's available at the turn of a switch! No wonder that people are becoming passive sponges [...]

Reading that, isn't it amazing to think that there was no cable and satellite television? There were really only the Big Three television networks in operation at that time. Fox wouldn't be around for more than 30 years after the writing of this book.

Yeah, I know that probably isn't that big of a deal, but it's still amazing to me, especially the part about people becoming passive sponges in front of television sets.

Also, I saw a Spanish movie called "Queens" which also predicted the future: the legalization of gay marriage in Spain. The movie was released in April 2005, and gay marriage was legalized in July 2005. It was cute and certainly very well presented, but I can't get over the cool name of one of the actors: Unax Ugalde. That's an awesome name, and it belongs to a really, really hot guy too. Great movie.

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