Tuesday, 2 January 2007

tales from planet earth

I've not been that fussy about the Arthur C Clarke I've read, including Tales from Planet Earth, which I've just finished, and which I bought secondhand largely because of this little exchange kicked off in the introduction by Isaac Asimov:
- Last year a plane crashed in Iowa and roughly half the passengers were killed while half survived. It turned out that one of the survivors had kept calm during the perilous attempts to land by reading an Arthur C Clarke novel and this was reported in a news article.
- Arthur, as is his wont, promptly Xeroxed five million copies of the article and sent one to everyone he knew or ever heard of. I got one of them and at the bottom of the copy he sent to me, he wrote in his handwriting, 'What a pity he didn't read one of your novels. He would have slept through the whole wretched ordeal.'
- It was the work of a moment to send Arthur a letter which said, 'On the contrary, the reason he was reading your novel was that if the plane did crash, death would come as a blessed release.'

Arthur C Clarke responds:
- As he says, I'm the writer who most resembles him. To repeat a remark I made before, we're both almost as good as we *think* we are.
- One minor correction: I didn't send out five million copies of the Time article Isaac refers to. I sent only one - to Isaac himself, knowing full well that he would pass on the news to the rest of the world.

In the introduction to another story, ACC says, 'In recent years, the total absence of any genuine evidence for life elsewhere has prompted a number of scientists to argue that intelligence is very rare in the universe. Some (such as Frank Tipler) have gone so far as to argue that we are completely alone - a proposition which can never be proved, but only disproved. (Wasn't it Pogo who said "Either way, it's a staggering thought"?)'

And in another: 'I don't think I yet qualify for the cheeky description that appeared recently in an essay deploring the sad state of modern science fiction: "those famous undead - Clarke and Asimov."
'Needless to say, I gleefully sent this to my fellow Transylvanian, with the comment "Well, that's a lot better than the alternative."'

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