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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The stars were going out

Also from the Science Times today, and related to Ben's incredibly informative and thoughtful post on Arthur C. Clarke's legacy in science fiction, is a wonderful article about Clarke by Dennis Overbye. Overbye says that Clarke wrote great conclusions to his stories, and the last lines of his own article are really moving. I won't ruin the effect of the conclusion, but here's the intro:

On the night last week after Arthur C. Clarke, the science fiction writer and space visionary, died at the ripe age of 90, it was cloudy and threatening rain in New York. I was frustrated because I wanted to go outside to see if the stars were still there.

In his short story “The Nine Billion Names of God,” published in 1953, Clarke wrote of a pair of computer programmers sent to a remote monastery in Tibet to help the monks there use a computer to compile a list of all the names of God. Once the list was complete, the monks believed, human and cosmic destiny would be fulfilled and the world would end.

The programmers are fleeing the mountain, hoping to escape the monks’ wrath when the program finishes and the world is still there, when one of them looks up.

“Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out.”

That was a typical Clarke ending, and it seemed only natural upon his death that nature might want to reciprocate.

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