Not long before his death in April, 1992, Isaac Asimov wrote a “farewell” essay to all of his “gentle readers”. This essay appeared a few months after his death in the August 1992 issue of F&SF as “Farewell, Farewell”. Isaac was one third of a triad of science fiction writers known as The Big Three. Robert Heinlein (whose centennial was celebrated this year) was another of the Big Three, and the first to pass away, back in 1988.
Today is the 90th birthday of the third member of The Big Three: Arthur C. Clarke. And from his home in Colombo, he released this video which seems to echo the sentiment of Isaac’s “Farewell, Farewell”.
While a hopeful message, it is also rather somber, a gathering of shadows in which Clarke portends the final fate that all men face. Certainly, he is not gone yet, but his message seems to indicate that his is taking a further step back into shadows from which he will not emerge.
After Heinlein died, Isaac used to tease Arthur that he’d find himself very lonely if he was ever the Big One. Arthur Clarke has been the Big One for the better part of two decades now. His somber birthday message makes me think, sadly, that we are not far from a time when the last living member of the Big Three will be gone. They say there will never be another Big Three, and that’s probably true in the context of how these three men helped to define the Golden Age of our genre. But movements ebb and flow, genres change and grow and I think that the Big Three of a new generation are out there somewhere, as yet undiscovered. They are the ones who will bring readers back to the magazines. They are the ones who will capture our imaginations in ways we cannot yet see. They are the ones that will make the older generation of fans and writers pause and say:
“This fellow reminds me of another Robert.”
“That fellow reminds me of another Isaac.”
“And this one, this one here, she reminds me of another Arthur.”