Sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke is dead

Clarke, who wrote, among other things, '2001: A Space Odyssey,' has died, according to news reports.

Daniel Terdiman Former Senior Writer / News
Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at CNET News covering Twitter, Net culture, and everything in between.
Daniel Terdiman
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This post was updated at 3:52 p.m. PST with more details.

Science fiction impresario Arthur C. Clarke is dead, according to published news reports.

And as of 3 p.m. PDT Tuesday, the Wikipedia article on Clarke has also already been updated with a banner across the top that reads, "This article is about a person who has recently died."

Science-fiction great Arthur C. Clarke has died, according to published reports Clarke Foundation

Clarke was the author, or co-author, of dozens of fiction and non-fiction books. But he will likely always be best known for his novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, which he later turned into a landmark film with Stanley Kubrick.

But Clarke also was known for works such as Rendezvous with Rama, Childhood's End and The Fountains of Paradise, according to Wikipedia.

In a 2001 interview Clarke gave to CNET News.com, he talked at length about his then-current work in Sri Lanka as a "champion for gorillas" because of what he saw as a link between global cell phone use and the plight of gorillas in Central Africa due to prospectors hunting for tantalum, a material used in making many gadgets.

On the Web site for his foundation, the Clarke Foundation, he had a prominent quote, "If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run--and often in the short one--the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative."

The fact that he was known as a writer yet spent some of the later years of his life fighting for the rights of apes and warning humankind that innovation is conservative might surprise people who think of him as always forward-looking.

But for someone with so much work under his belt, it probably shouldn't be surprising.

In a YouTube video in which Clarke talks about his reflections on life on the occasion of his 90th birthday, the author joked about his age. He said that many people had asked him what it was like to have completed 90 orbits around the sun.

"Well, I actually don't feel a day older than 89," Clarke said.

There's no doubt that Clarke was seen as one of the leading lights of science fiction and even of pure science.

In the comments section of a post on his reported death on Boing Boing, a poster calling him or herself Padster123 wrote, "Rest in peace, voyager! You've always been an inspiration."

Another poster, Jeff, wrote, "May he have a glorious experience as he travels to the world beyond, something like the star-gate scene from 2001. All hail Hal's daddy!"

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Of course, Clarke, who was born on December 16, 1917, had just turned 90 three months ago. So the thoughts in his YouTube video very likely reflect much of his state of mind upon his death. He was born in Minehead, Somerset, England, and in 1988 was knighted by Queen Elizabeth of England.

"In 1945, a UK periodical magazine, Wireless World, published (Clarke's) landmark technical paper 'Extra-terrestrial Relays,'" his biography on his foundation's Web site reads, "in which he first set out the principles of satellite communication with satellites in geostationary orbits--a speculation realized 25 years later. During the evolution of his discovery, he worked with scientists and engineers in the USA in the development of spacecraft and launch systems, and addressed the United Nations during their deliberations on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

"Clarke's work, which led to the global satellite systems in use today, brought him numerous honors including the 1982 Marconi International Fellowship, a gold medal of the Franklin Institute, the Vikram Sarabhai Professorship of the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, the Lindbergh Award and a Fellowship of King's College, London. Today, the geostationary orbit at 36,000 kilometers above the equator is named The Clarke Orbit by the International Astronomical Union."

According to Wikipedia, which cited one of Clarke's aides, "Clarke died on the morning of March 18, 2008, after suffering from breathing problems."