There were two authors I read extensively when I first started reading science fiction. The first was Isaac Asimov, because, well. Robots. Foundation. Reasons. The other was Arthur C. Clarke. The first story I really remember reading from him came from a thick anthology cultivated by Asimov, with one fantastic story by Clarke in it: Who’s There? I then ran through a bunch of his books: 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2010, 2061 and 3001 are the ones I checked out over and over again. Later, I dug into Rama and even later, Childhood’s End.
A while ago, I had some grand idea of doing a parallel column for another website on the history of SF film, but quickly found that I didn’t have the time or background to really get into it. I started writing an inaugural piece on – you guessed it – 2001: A Space Odyssey, before quickly realizing that I was really writing a column about the book.
There’s a lot out on Clarke, more than most of the authors I typically write about. As a result, this column’s quite a bit longer than what I usually put together.
There’s a lot of tie-in novels out there, from all the major franchises, but typically, the books come as a result of the film, or there’s a film based on the book. Far less common is when the book and film are created simultaneously, as is the case with Clarke’s book. It’s not his best work, but it’s probably his most visible.
Billion / Trillion Year Spree, Brian Aldiss. Aldiss comes out of the British scene, and has some interesting and good notes on Clarke’s works, although not as much on 2001 specifically.
Science Fiction Writers: Second Edition, Richard Bleiler. This book has a good section on Clarke and his life, which works as a good thumbnail for his life and where everything fits.
2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke. I have two editions of this book: a special release from 2001, and an original Signet Paperback from 1968. The latter has a good forward with some helpful details. The former is also neat, and it’s helpful to hold something one’s writing about in one’s hands.
Astounding Days: A Science Fictional Biography, Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke wrote a short autobiography of his time at Astounding, which helped with some of his earlier moments as a writer. This is pretty limited, only going up to the 1950s, but it’s a neat look at Astounding.
The Lost Worlds of 2001, Arthur C. Clarke. Not merely content to write a book to have a movie based on it, Clarke also did a book on how the movie came about. This has some particularly good details on the writing process, repent with dates and neat details. (Asimov’s 3 Laws in the movie? Think of how it could have changed!)
Olaf Stapledon: Speaking for the Future, Robert Crossley. Stapledon was a major influence on Clarke’s works, and this book recounts his encounter with Clarke, who invited him to a BIS meeting.
Arthur C. Clarke: The Authorized Biography, Neil McAleer. This book is a very good biography. Detailed and interesting, it provides a great amount of detail into how Clarke and Kubrick came up with the story.
History of Science Fiction, Adam Roberts. Clarke makes an appropriate appearance here, and Roberts has a good discussion of his works.