Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, writer of numerous books including the iconic 2001, passed away today in Sri Lanka at the age of 90. Reading various comments around the internet today, I almost get the feeling that Clarke will be remembered as much, if not more, for his influence on the perception of science as much as for his actual science fiction writing. This is certainly true for me personally.
I’ve read very little of Clarke’s work; outside of a number of classic short stories, the only novel I believe I’ve read is Childhood’s End. Clarke had a great influence on me, though, through his series Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World, which I watched in reruns as a teen (thanks to my dad for videotaping them!). The series, which first appeared in 1980, investigated a number of controversial and/or unexplained natural phenomena, some very well-documented (Tunguska blast) and some highly fringe and improbable (Bigfoot, UFOs).
The series introduced me to two topics which were obscure at the time but have now become much more ‘mainstream’, and remain an endless source of fascination for me. The first of these is Architeuthis Dux, or the giant squid. At the time of the series, most people would tell you that a 40-foot long squid is pure fiction, but today one can even see specimens preserved in an exhibit at the Smithsonian: