Tag: obituaries

Sir Arthur C. Clarke: the last of the Big Three

I just read the sad news that Arthur C. Clarke has died at the age of 90.  He was the last surviving member of the Big Three of science fiction writers, Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov being the other two, both of whom died more than a decade ago.  I’m not sure I can quite express my sorrow to hear that Clarke has passed.  It markes the end of an era in science fiction.  I’ve read 7 of his books, my favorite being 3001: Final Odyssey.  I very much enjoyed his short science fiction, in particular his classics such as “The Star”, “The Nine Billion Names of God”, and “The Longest Science Fiction Story Ever Told”.

Back in December, Clarke posted a Happy Birthday video on YouTube that I interpreted to be his “farewell” to his fans.  I guess that was, in fact, the case.

He was, perhaps, most famous for his collaboration with Stanley Kubrick on the 1969 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.  He was also the first to write a serious scientific paper on the use of communication satellites, something he wrote about more than 10 years before the Russians launched Sputnik.  His science fiction, like Isaac Asimov’s focused on science and ideas.  In fact, Asimov and Clarke maintained the Treaty of Central Park for years:  By this treated, Isaac Asimov was required to say that Clarke was the best science fiction writer in the world, but that he was breathing down his neck.  Clarke was required to say that Isaac Asimov was the best science writer in the world.  Their witty banter at conventions is the stuff of legend.

Although he has passed, he will still have something new to say to the world of science fiction.  In December 2008, according to Locus, a new novel, The Last Theorem by Arthur C. Clarke and Frederik Pohl (another old-timer from the Golden Age) is due to be released in hardcover by Del Rey books.  And of course, he will live on in the memory of science fiction writers, fans, and scientists for generations to come.

Goodbye, Arthur

Gary Gygax

As several others have already reported, Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, died today. For a brief time in my life, say from about age 10-14, I played quite a bit of D&D. I stopped playing at about the time I started reading more, and noticing girls, but during the time that I did play, I always had a great time. Though I remember few details now, I can recall some of the modules I played fondly, “Keep on the Borderland”, and of course, my favorite, “Castle Amberville(?)”.


I had a fairly productive work day today and that felt good. Tomorrow, I’ll be in meetings for much of my work day.

I ran over to the bookstore today to see if they had the August issue of Locus in yet, but they didn’t. While there, I did a bit of browsing and added two more books to my list of books to read: (1) Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and The Reagan Diaries. This last deserves a brief explanation. Those who know me know that I am not a fan of Ronald Reagan’s politics. But I have a fascination with diaries that seems to get the best of me. I skimmed the book and it does look interesting. I think that when (some) diaries are kept, there is a questions as to who (if anyone) will ever read them. (I’m sure there’s no question when it comes to my own diaries–unless you consider this blog.) Even so, it is a place that reveals the non-public, non-persona thoughts of public figures. After they are dead, the information revealed, while perhaps not flattering, takes on a new light. So eventually, I’ll get a hold of that book and end up reading it. At any event, it’s on the list.

TiVo recorded the 2-hour Dustin Hoffman episode of Inside the Actor’s Studio from 2006. I’d never seen it before but it was a great episode. One of the better ones that I have seen.

I wrote about 1,000 words this evening, still feeling pretty good about it. At this point, I’m just trying to finish the story and decide whether or not to end it the way I originally intended, or to alter the ending somewhat. I’ll wait and see how the rest of the story goes.

I’m about 140 pages through Spook Country and I’m enjoying it.

Zeke appears to be doing well and that is a relief, although I still get anxious every time I see him go into the litter box. But he appears to be urinating without difficulty or discomfort.

As Doug pointed out in an earlier comment, Yankee great Phil Rizzuto has died. Growing up, I remember him best for the commercials he did for The Money Store.

I was watching the Yanks lose to Baltimore a little while ago. Their offense is hot enough that there is plenty of time for them to have a chance to come back, but I’m calling it an early night tonight. We have our last softball game of the year and it may mean the difference between first and second place. I want to get a good night’s rest.

R.I.P. Tom Snyder

I’m still behind in the news and discovered during a meeting that I just attended that Tom Snyder has died. I used to watch his late, late night show and always thought he was terrific. I think that Harlan Ellison appeared as a guest on his show more times than anyone else.

Over at the Webderland message boards, Harlan Ellison had some nice words for his friend:

There was this one time, I’m pretty sure it was 1980, and I was in New York to promote the publication of SHATTERDAY, and I was in the makeup chair in preparation for going on-camera, and I was under a sheet so no pancake would get on my shirt collar, and all at once the makeup lady stepped aside, behind me, and I was looking in the wall-to-wall mirror, looking at myself in the chair, and suddenly there was Tom, standing behind me. (It was, and still is, the practice of most tv talk show hosts not to pre-greet the guests of the evening with anything more than a perfunctory hello and I’ll see you in a minute; they just don’t mingle much, I suppose on the show-biz theory “Don’t leave your best stuff in the Green Room.”) Seeing him there behind me was startling. He laid his hands on my shoulders, and I saw tears in his eyes. He was crying. “Geezus, Tom, what the hell’s wrong? Something happen?”

He said, “I just re-read ‘Jeffty is Five,’ and every time it just wipes me out,” and he leaned down and kissed the top of my head; and he left the room, and when we did the show he was my old friend again.

In all the years I’ve been doing television, radio, DVD extras, and internet interviews, from Larry King to Merv Griffin to Joe Pyne and all John Nebels, Jessica Savitches and Studs Terkels in-between, the ONLY interviewer who ever read the book of the interviewee–not the stooge-supplied precis–or the publisher blurb packet–but the BOOK, and usually ALL of the book … was

Tom Snyder.

What he said to me was, he had “re-read” Jeffty. Not JUST read it, but had re-read it from its magazine publication.

Thank you again. But oh how I miss him.

(There’s no direct link to the message so if you visit the boards, you may have to scroll around a bit.)

William Kershner

I was sad to learn this morning that William Kershner died a few days ago. For those who don’t know, Kershner was a life-long pilot and flight instructor and is famous within aviation circles. When I was 8 or 9 years old, my dad was taking ground school and as part of that ground school, he had a text book called, A Student Pilot’s Flight Manual. The book was by William Kershner. Even at 8 or 9, I devoured that book, and I had it virtually memorized. I recall taking a practice written test in the back of the book and doing execeedingly well for a 9-year old. It was my first introduction to the fact that anyone who wanted to could learn to fly an airplane. Nearly 20 years later, I got my pilot’s license, and though I had other text books to work from, I would still pull out my old, tattered Student Pilot’s Flight Manual every now and then and study from that.

Gerald Ford

Of the 7 U.S. Presidents that have been in office since I was born, Gerald Ford is the one about which I know the least. He was the first President to come into office after my birth (Nixon was President when I was born.) I have read biographies of Nixon, Carter, Reagan and Clinton. I am familiar with both Bush’s as I have had the opportunity to vote against each of them. That leaves Gerald Ford as the one mystery. I don’t know if he was a good President, or if he was a less exaggerated version of how Chevy Chase portrayed him on Saturday Night Live. I know that he pardoned Nixon, something with which I have philosophical problems, but which I also am told helped to “heal” the nation and put Watergate into the past. If nothing else, he was a life-long public servant, and that has to count for something.

The one piece of trivia that sticks most in my mind with regards to Gerald Ford is that he is the answer to the following trivia question: “Who is the only person to serve as both Vice President and President, and yet was never elected by the people?”

Jack Williamson, 1908-2006

I awoke this morning to the sad news that the dean of science fiction, Jack Williamson, had passed away at his home in Portales, New Mexico. Jack Williamson had a remarkable career in science fiction. He published his first story, “The Metal Man”, in 1928 and has continued to publish stories and novels in every decade since then. His last novel, The Stonehenge Gate was serialized in ANALOG in 2005. He was already a well established writer when 18 year old Isaac Asimov published his first story. The last thing I read by Jack Williamson was his novel Terraforming Earth.

There are not very many old-timers remaining and it is always sad to see them go.