Science Fiction (mostly Asimov + Clarke)

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(A few noteworthy) Sci-fi Quotes

"Science Fiction is something that could happen - but usually you wouldn't want it to. Fantasy is something that couldn't happen - though often you only wish that it could"
Arthur C. Clarke
Forward to: "The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke"

"Fantasy involves that which general opinion regards as impossible; Science Fiction involves that which general opinion regards as possible under the right circumstances"
Philip K Dick

"You can't argue with mundanes because they do not appear to be fully aware".
Alfred Bester (Psi Cop from Babylon-5)
(Bester's quote refers to non-telepaths. According to Comic-Con attendees, mundanes are people who "don't understand or enjoy sci-fi")

Two 'Hard Sci-fi' Writers

What is hard science-fiction? Read this short Wikipedia article

Isaac Asimov (PhD Biochemistry; not an honorary degree)

Isaac Asimov PhDFrom the rear dust jacket of "The Caves of Steel"
Doubleday 1954 hardcover edition

For a long time the author has led a double life: one as one of the masters of the fast, terse, often humorous galactic melodramas, and as a biochemist and teacher at the Boston University School of Medicine, where he is engaged in cancer research. Mr. Asimov says: "Science Fiction invades most of the facets of my life, even my serious research. At my final examination for a doctorate in biochemistry (with seven professors asking profound and embarrassing questions) the last question concerned one of the incidents in one of my science-fiction stories. I got my degree." Mr. Asimov also says he is better known for such stories as Pebble in the Sky, The Stars, Like Dust and The Currents of Space in the science fiction world (which takes science fiction very seriously) than he is ever likely to be for his cancer research.


LIFE Magazine says there are more than TWO MILLION science fiction fans in this country. From all corners of the nation comes the resounding proof that science fiction has established itself as an exciting and imaginative NEW FORM OF LITERATURE that is attracting literally tens of thousands of new readers every year! Why? Because no other form of fiction can provide you with such thrilling and unprecedented adventures! No other form of fiction can take you on an eerie trip to Mars ... amaze you with a journey into the year 3000 A.D. ... or sweep you into the fabulous realms of unexplored Space! Yes, it's no wonder that this exciting new form of imaginative literature has captivated the largest group of fascinated new readers in the United States today!
From the "The Left Hand of the Electron"
Introduction to chapter 4 (The 3-D Molecule)

In the days when I was actively teaching, full time, at a medical school, there was always the psychological difficulty of facing a sullen audience. The students had come to school to study medicine. They wanted white coats, a stethoscope, a tongue depressor, and a prescription pad. Instead, they found that for the first two years (at least, as it was in the days when I was actively teaching) they were subjected to the "basic sciences." That meant they had to listen to lectures very much in the style of those they had suffered through in college. Some of those basic sciences had, at least, a clear connection with what they recognized as the doctor business, especially anatomy, where they had all the fun of slicing up cadavers. Of all the basic sciences, though, the one that seemed least immediately "relevant," farthest removed from the game of doctor-and-patient, most abstract, most collegiate, and most saturated with despised Ph.D.'s as professors was biochemistry. And, of course, it was biochemistry that I taught. I tried various means of counteracting the natural contempt of medical student for biochemistry. The device which worked best (or, at least, gave me most pleasure) was to launch into a spirited account of "the greatest single discovery in all the history of medicine" that is, the germ theory of disease. I can get very dramatic when pushed, and I would build up the discovery and its consequences to the loftiest possible pinnacle. And then I would say, "But, of course, as you probably all take for granted, no mere physician could so fundamentally revolutionize medicine. The discoverer was Louis Pasteur, Ph.D., a biochemist."
From the dust jacket of "Robots and Empire"
Doubleday 1985 hardcover edition

Isaac Asimov's ROBOTS AND EMPIRE heralds a major new landmark in the great Asimovian galaxy of science fiction. For it not only presents the trilling sequel to the best-selling ROBOTS OF DAWN, but also ingeniously interweaves all three of Asimov's classic series: Robot, Foundation, and Empire. This is the work Asimov fans have been waiting for - an electrifying tale of interstellar intrigue and adventure that sets a new standard in the realm of SF literature.

Two hundred years have passed since THE ROBOTS OF DAWN and Elijah Baley, the beloved hero of Earthpeople, is dead. The future of the Universe is at a crossroads. Though the forces of the sinister Spacers are weakened, Dr. Keldon Amadiro has never forgotten -- or forgiven -- his humiliating defeat at the hands of Elijah. Now, with vengeance burning in his heart, he is more determined than ever to bring about the total annihilation of the planet Earth.

But Amadiro had not counted on the equally determined Lady Gladia. Devoted to Elijah Baley, the Auroran beauty has taken upon the legacy of her fallen lover, vowing to stop the Spacer's at any cost. With her two robot companions, Daneel and Giskard, she prepares to set into motion a daring and dangerous plan . . . a plan whose success -- or failure -- will forever seal the fate of Earth and all who live there.

Culminating in a stunning surprise climax, ROBOTS AND EMPIRE is singular science fiction that excites the mind and stimulates the imagination. It is Isaac Asimov at his triumphant best, proving him, once again, the true Master of the genre.
Back in 2004, Isaac Asimov (already dead for 12 years) sent humanity a message from 1988.

Okay so it was only a few paragraphs from a just-delivered 1988 book (time vault?) but I was "in the zone" so took it seriously because it reminded me of the posthumous messages sent by Hari Seldon to all of humanity, via the Time Vault, in Asimov's Foundation Trilogy. Sci-fi fans should read this message too because Asimov's Favorite Fifteen are the basis for a provocative humanistic-robotic philosophy so awe-inspiring that I could, if I so desired, create a religion based upon it (although I would not because Asimov would not have approved). Although half of Asimov's stories were written in the 1940s and 1950s, they do not seem anachronistic in any way. In fact, they seem to have been written last week.
Neil Rieck
Asimov's Message (in the gray box) follows...
From "Author's Note" (pages ix to x) of "Prelude To Foundation"
Doubleday 1988 hardcover edition © 1988 by Nightfall Inc.

When I wrote Foundation, which appeared in the May 1942 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, I had no idea I had begun a series of stories that would eventually grow into six volumes and a total of 650,000 words (so far). Nor did I have any idea that it would be unified with my series of short stories and novels involving robots and my novels involving the Galactic Empire for a grand total (so far) of fourteen volumes and a total of about 1,450,000 words.

You will see, if you study the publication dates of these books, that there was a twenty-five-year hiatus between 1957 and 1982, during which I did not add to this series. This is not because I had stopped writing. Indeed, I wrote full-speed throughout the quarter century, but I wrote other things. That I returned to the series in 1982 was not my own notion but was the result of a combination of pressures from readers and publishers that eventually became overwhelming.

In any case, the situation has become sufficiently complicated for me to feel that the readers might welcome a kind of guide to the series, since they were not written in the order in which (perhaps) they should be read.

The fourteen books, all published by Doubleday, offer a kind of history of the future, which is, perhaps, not completely consistent, since I did not plan consistency to begin with. The chronological order of the books, in terms of future history (and not of publication date), is as follows:

Syllabus reading order as suggested by Isaac Asimov:
# Title G
Asimov's Comments
(NSR comments and/or changes in RED)
0 The End of Eternity (1955) 0 One hardcore Asimov fan told me this book was listed before all the others in a recommended list published in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine link
1 I, Robot (1950) 1 I, Robot is a collection of nine short stories presented as the memoirs of robot psychologist Dr. Susan Calvin (an employee of U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men Corporation).
  • Most people will not understand this book's title until they read chapter 8 ("Evidence").
  • All modern citizens should read chapter 9 ("Evitable Conflict"). Click here for more details.
The Complete Robot (1982) The Complete Robot is a collection of thirty-one robot short stories published between 1940 and 1976 and includes every story in my earlier collection I, Robot (1950). Only one robot short story has been written since this collection appeared. That is Robot Dreams, which has not yet appeared in any Doubleday collection. link
2 Caves of Steel (1954) 2 This is the first of my robot novels. link
3 The Naked Sun (1957) 2 The second robot novel. link
4 The Robots of Dawn (1983) 2 The third robot novel. link
5 Robots and Empire (1985) 2 The fourth robot novel. link
6 The Currents of Space (1952) 3 This is the first of my [Galactic] Empire novels. link
7 The Stars, Like Dust (1951) 3 The second [Galactic] Empire novel. link
8 Pebble in the Sky (1950) 3 The third [Galactic] Empire novel and first novel. link
9 Prelude to Foundation (1988) 4 This is the first Foundation novel. link
10 Forward the Foundation (1993) 4 This is the second Foundation novel. [ this title was not in Asimov's original list; Fourteen books become Fifteen ] link
11 Foundation (1951) 5 The is the third Foundation novel but most of the world knows this book as the first book of the Foundation Trilogy. Actually, it began as a collection of four short stories, originally published between 1942 and 1944, plus an introductory section written for the book in 1949. link
12 Foundation and Empire (1952) 5 This is the fourth Foundation novel, made from of two short stories, originally published in 1945. link
13 Second Foundation (1953) 5 This is the fifth Foundation novel, made from two short stories, originally published in 1948 and 1949. link
14 Foundation's Edge (1982) 4 This is the sixth Foundation novel. link
15 Foundation and Earth (1986) 4 This is the seventh Foundation novel. [ Asimov's list shows a publishing date of 1983 but this is a typo ] link

Will I add additional books to the series? I might. There is room for a book between Robots and Empire and The Currents of Space, and between Prelude to Foundation and Foundation (which turned out to be Forward the Foundation), and of course between others as well. And then I can follow Foundation and Earth with with additional volumes -- as many as I like. Naturally, there's got to be some limit, for I don't expect to to live forever, but I do intend to hang on as long as possible.

NSR Subscripts:
  1. Even though this book {I, Robot} was originally published in 1950, the pre-1950 stories contained within seem to stand the test of time. This might have something to do with the fact that Asimov usually glosses over technological details while concentrating more on the human side of things. Remembering that these stories were written during the age of vacuum tubes which predates transistors and integrated circuits (chips), Asimov never mentions these components but he does refer to "the Positronic Brain" which is just a literary device for "unknown technology". One dated phrase he uses is "robot psychologist" which should probably have been "computer programmer" but who really knows if my criticism is correct. Artificial Intelligence (AI) programming may become so complex that "robot psychology" may become a programming discipline.
  2. The story Robot Dreams did appear in a robot compilation published by Byron Press in 1986 titled Robot Dreams. A second robot compilation was published by Byron Press in 1990 titled Robot Visions.
  3. Books 6-8 are part of Asimov's Galactic Empire series. Asimov thought that these books were not very good (as far as the Robot-to-Foundation story line is concerned). He once stated "You can skip these books and still have a very enjoyable read [of the other 12]"
    • Primarily due to the book clubs of the 1950s and 1960s, there once was a time when Asimov was better known for these three books than he was for the Foundation Trilogy
    • Book 8 (Pebble in the Sky) was republished in hardcover on January 2008 and I enjoyed it immensely.
    • Book 7 (The Stars, Like Dust) was republished in hardcover on December 2008 and I enjoyed it as well.
    • Book 6 (The Currents of Space) was republished in hardcover on April 2009 and think it was worth every penny.
  4. Book 10 (Forward the Foundation) was not in Asimov's original list because he had not yet written it. This means that books 11-15 reflect new numberings. Forward the Foundation was Asimov's last book. Click here for suppressed information about Asimov's death in 1992 at the age of 72.
  5. Books 11-13 are known by the public-at-large as The Foundation Trilogy. Even still, for maximum enjoyment you should read books 9-15 in order. Since some well known Robots pop up here, you should read books 1-5 (or 1-8) first.
  6. It is unfortunate that we cannot able to travel back in time to convince Asimov to get 45 minutes of daily exercise so he could avoid the triple bypass surgery responsible for infecting his blood with a deadly virus. I cannot imagine this collection without Forward the Foundation and now can only wonder about what he had in mind for these other insertion points. Generally speaking, Asimov fans have been very critical about the work done by other authors commissioned by Asimov's estate.
  7. If you are a hard sci-fi fan like me then every one of these 15 books are worth reading today. They seem to stand the test of time and do not seem dated in any way. Locate rare and out-of-print books:
Readers familiar with the Sherlock Holmes stories will already know that Doctor Watson referred to himself as Holmes' biographer. People who have immersed themselves in those stories will have come to the realization that Arthur Conon Doyle was, in effect, Watson. The fact that Doyle was a real-world doctor was just icing on the cake.

Isaac Asimov = Hari Seldon in the Foundation Novels?

It has not escaped my attention that "stumbling upon Asimov's suggested reading order in an original imprint from 1988" is very much like "receiving a posthumous message from Hari Seldon". Yes, Asimov still speaks to humanity today but I am certain he wouldn't want you to turn his humanist-robotic philosophies into a religion even though you could.

A few more thoughts on Asimov's Favorite-15 in 2019: As a computer technologist, I find it amusing that most people today are confusing A.I. (artificial intelligence) with artificial consciousness. While A.I. has brought fully autonomous vehicles close to general use, such a vehicle that accidentally causes a crash will not be able to be interviewed by an investigating police officer or dragged into court to give testimony.

It appears to me that Asimov already broached these issues in his stories which are dominated by robots (A.I. is everywhere) but only these two robots possessed artificial consciousness:  Together, they co-develop the zeroth law of robotics which is used (over the course of 15 books) to save humanity from itself
Neil Rieck

Behind the Foundation
From the introduction to "Foundation and Earth"
Doubleday 1986 hardcover edition

On August 1, 1941, when I was a lad of twenty-one, I was a graduate student in chemistry at Columbia University and had been writing science fiction professionally for three years. I was hastening to see John Campbell, editor of Astounding, to whom I had sold five stories by then. I was anxious to tell him of a new idea I had for a science fiction story.

It was to write a historical novel of the future; to tell the story of the fall of the Galactic Empire. My enthusiasm must have been catching, for Campbell grew as excited as I was. He didn't want me to write a single story. He wanted a series of stories, in which the full history of of the thousand years of turmoil between the First Galactic Empire and the rise of the Second Galactic Empire was to be outlined. It would all be illuminated by the science of psychohistory that Campbell and I thrashed out between us.

The first story appeared in the May 1942 Astounding and the second story appeared in the June 1942 issue. They were at once popular and Campbell saw to it that I wrote six more stories before the end of the decade. The stories grew longer too. The first one was only twelve thousand words long. Two of the last three stories were fifty thousand words apiece.

By the time the decade was over, I had grown tired of the series, dropped it, and went on to other things. By then, however, various publishing houses were beginning to put out hardcover science fiction books. One such house was a small semiprofessional firm, Gnome Press. They published my Foundation Series in three volumes: Foundation (1951); Foundation and Empire (1952); and Second Foundation (1953). The three books together came to be known as The Foundation Trilogy.

The books did not do very well, for Gnome Press did not have the capital with which to advertise and promote them. I got neither statements nor royalties from them.

In early 1961, my then-editor at Doubleday, Timothy Seldes, told me he had received a request from a foreign publisher to reprint the Foundation books. Since they were not Doubleday books, he passed the request on to me. I shrugged my shoulders. "Not interested, Tim. I don't get royalties on those books"

Seldes was horrified, and instantly set about getting the rights to the books from Gnome Press (which was, by that time, moribund), and in August of that year, the books (along with "I, Robot") became Doubleday property.

From that moment on, the Foundation series took off and began to earn increasing royalties. Doubleday published the Trilogy in a single volume and distributed them through the Science Fiction Book Club. Because of that the Foundation series became enormously well known.

In the 1966 World Science Fiction Convention, held in Cleveland, the fans were asked to vote on a category of "The Best All-Time Series". It was the first time (and, so far, the last) the category had been included in the nominations for the Hugo Award. The Foundation Trilogy won the award, which further added to the popularity of the series.

Increasingly, fans kept asking me to continue the series. I was polite but I kept refusing. Still, it fascinated me that people who had not been born when the series was begun had managed to become caught up in it.

Doubleday, however, took the demands far more seriously that I did. They had humored me for twenty years but as demands kept growing in intensity and number, they finally lost patience. In 1981, they told me that I simply had to write another Foundation novel and, in order to sugar-coat the demand, offered me a contract at ten times my usual advance.

Nervously, I agreed. It had been thirty-two years since I had written a Foundation story and now I was instructed to write one 140,000 words long, twice that of any earlier volumes and nearly three times as long as any previous individual story. I re-read The Foundation Trilogy and, taking a deep breath, dived into the task.

The fourth book of the series, Foundation's Edge, was published in October 1982, and then a very strange thing happened. It appeared in the New York Times bestseller list at once. In fact, it stayed one that list for twenty-five weeks, much to my utter astonishment. Nothing like that had ever happened to me.

Doubleday at once signed me up to do additional novels and I wrote two that were part of another series, The Robot Novels. - And then it was time to return to the Foundation.

So I wrote Foundation and Earth, which begins at the very moment that Foundation's Edge ends, and that is the book you now hold. It might help if you glanced over Foundation's Edge just to refresh your memory, but you don't have to, Foundation and Earth stands by itself. I hope you enjoy it.

Isaac Asimov,
New York City, 1986


Some Useful Multimedia Links:

Isaac Asimov - Cover of Skeptic Magazine - Vol 1 - No 1

Sad Information About Isaac Asimov's Death

In 2002-08-10 it was revealed by Dr. Asimov's widow, Dr. Janet Jeppson Asimov, in the new biography It's Been a Good Life, that his death was in fact due to AIDS. In 1983 he had triple bypass surgery and received blood transfusions containing HIV. (Ironic that the city he loved was the cause of his death; doubtless nowhere else in the United States had a higher incidence of HIV in the blood supply than New York at that time.) As Dr. Jeppson Asimov states, after his triple bypass "the next day he had a high fever... only years later, in hindsight, did we realize that the post transfusion HIV infection had taken hold." In the mid-Eighties Dr. Jeppson Asimov noted that her husband had some AIDS symptoms and brought them to the attention of his internist and cardiologist, who pooh-poohed and refused to test him. He was finally tested in February of 1990, prior to further surgery, when he presented HIV-positive with his T-cells half the normal level. The astonishing fact of Dr. Asimov's AIDS was kept secret at the advice of his physicians - they apparently strong-armed him in his sickbed with the threat that his wife would be shunned as a suspected PWA (person with AIDS) as well. The secret was kept not till after Dr. Asimov's death in 1992, nor till after the death of his widow and daughter (indeed they are still alive), but till after the deaths of his physicians (see Dr. Jeppson Asimov's letter to Locus magazine). You can draw your own conclusions, but that makes me feel that it was primarily the physicians' reputations that were being protected by this secret.
So there you have it. The whole world has been deprived of probably another dozen books by Isaac Asimov. In wished we could have convinced him to diet and exercise so he could avoid both "the triple-bypass surgery" as well as "the associated blood transfusions". Since he was smarter than us we can only ask ourselves why this PhD didn't take action to prevent this situation? 
Caveat Section: start (runs for ~ 300 lines)
Caveat: Don't bother reading between the two orange lines marked "caveat section". Some time after creating my own online review of Isaac Asimov's books as I reread/read them in 2004, I discovered a much better collection of reviews at Wikipedia.

Click: skip over this section.

My "Isaac Asimov" Book Reviews and Observations (2004)

Most of the information comes from dust jackets or things I noticed while re-reading the books in 2004.

Locate rare and out-of-print books:

Book-0 of Asimov's 15-book "boot up"
The End of Eternity (1955)

One hardcore Asimov fan told me this book was listed before all the others in a recommended list published in Asimov's SF Magazine

Robot Series
I, Robot (1950)

Chapters (some lists count the introduction as chapter #1)

Robot Trilogy (a.k.a. Elijah Baley Detective Series)
Caves of Steel (1953, 1954) The Naked Sun (1957) The Robots of Dawn (1983)
Fourth book of the Robot Trilogy :-) (not part of the Elijah Baley Detective Series)
Robots and Empire (1985)
More Robot Stories
The Rest of Robots (1964) The Bicentennial Man (short story, 1975) Robot Dreams (1986) Robot Visions (1990)
Galactic Empire Series
Pebble in the Sky (1950) The Stars, Like Dust (1951,2008) The Currents of Space (1952,2009)
Foundation Series
Foundation Prequels
Prelude to Foundation (1988)

Second Foundation Trilogy (commissioned by the Asimov estate after Isaac's death)

In the 'Second Foundation' trilogy, a series of books authorized by the estate of Asimov, a race of Aliens within the Foundation Universe is mentioned who appear to be in circumstances similar to the Cepheids. Although they are not mentioned by name, a major character in this story is. A subplot in Foundation's Triumph investigates the problem raised in this story.
Forward the Foundation (1993)
The Foundation Trilogy
Hari Seldon's holographic image, pictured on a paperback edition of Foundation, appears at various times in the First Foundation's history, to guide it through the social and economic crises that befall it. The holographic image of Hari Seldon appears at various times in the First Foundation's history, to guide it through the social and economic crises that befall it.
The book series started as a series of nine short stories, eight of which were published in Astounding Science Fiction 4 magazine between May 1942 and January 1950, and a ninth which was written a few years later when the series was first published in book form. The stories vary in length from about 7,000 words to about 50,000 words. The early stories are very closely based on Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Asimov said he did "a little bit of cribbin' from the works of Edward Gibbon" when describing the influence of that work on the Trilogy).

Foundation (1951)
Foundation and Empire (1952) Second Foundation (1953)
Foundation Sequels
In 1982, following a thirty-year hiatus, Asimov gave in and wrote what was at the time a fourth volume: Foundation's Edge. This was followed shortly thereafter by Foundation and Earth. Foundation and Earth (which takes place some 500 years after Seldon) ties up all the loose ends, but opens a brand new line of thought in the last dozen pages. As a result, many fans (wanting a tidy end to the series) consider this finale to be a failure. According to his widow Janet Asimov (in her biography of him, It's Been a Good Life), he had no idea how to continue after Foundation and Earth, so he started writing prequels

Foundation's Edge (1982)
Foundation and Earth (1986)
Superscript Notes:
  1. Initially written as a series of short stories based on Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
  2. Rereading this book in early 2004 was somewhat refreshing. Except for occasional references to "smoking tobacco" or "non-metric measurements", the material does not appear to be dated in any way.
  3. I wonder if this idea is an extrapolation of the investment science of "technical analysis" which attempts to predict the future actions of the stock market?
  4. "Astounding Science Fiction" was renamed "Analog Science Fiction" in 1960


Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics (From the 1942 short story "Runaround")

  1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Note: In Isaac Asimov's book "It's Been A Good Life", Isaac states that Astounding Magazine publisher John W. Campbell deserves joint credit in the creation of the Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics

Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Humanity (From the 1946 short story "Evidence")

Because, if you stop to think of it, the three Rules of Robotics are the essential guiding principles of a good many of the world's ethical systems.

  1. Of course, every human being is supposed the have the extinct of self-preservation. That's Rule Three to a robot.
  2. Also every 'good' human being, with a social conscience and a sense of responsibility, is supposed to defer to proper authority; to listen to his doctor, his boss, his government, his psychiatrist,  his fellow man; to obey laws, to follow rules, to conform to custom -- even when they interfere with his comfort or his safety. That's Rule Two to a robot.
  3. Also, every 'good' human being is supposed to love others as himself, protect his fellow man, risk his life to save another. That's Rule One to a Robot 1

To put it simply -- if Byerley follows all the Rules of Robotics, he may be a robot, OR 2 may simply be a very good man.

Superscript Notes:

  1. I wonder how many humans would support the zeroth law? Stephen Byerley is elected mayor at the end of "Evidence" but reappears as World Coordinator in "The Evitable Conflict" and I suspect he rises to that position for just that reason.
  2. Asimov wrote "AND" but anyone familiar with Boolean logic knows he meant "OR" (providing he was using Boolean logic :-)
  3. According to a quote by Dr. Fastolfe in Robots of Dawn, the planet Aurora is the Spacer world that has come closest to implementing the Three Laws of Robotics as the Laws of Humanics.

It's Been a Good Life (2002)

Caveat Section: End (started ~300 lines up)

Arthur C. Clark

To film buffs, Arthur C. Clarke is best known as the author who collaborated with Stanley Kubrick to produce 2001: A Space Odyssey. The scientific community remembers him as the man who first conceptualized geosynchronous communication-satellites, in a 1945 paper that became the foundation for modern communications technology. But science-fiction fans have any number of touchstones for the British author: He's one of very few to be designated a Science Fiction Grand Master, he's the author of the classic novels Childhood's End and Rendezvous With Rama, and he first created the popular axiom "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." By his late 80s, Clarke had written or collaborated on more than 70 books, including three 2001 sequels, three Rendezvous With Rama sequels (co-authored with Gentry Lee), two autobiographies, a wide variety of essays, short stories, and two video games. His non-fiction includes collections of his correspondence with C.S. Lewis and Lord Dunsany, as well as many books on physics, science, and space travel, from 1950's guidebook Interplanetary Flight to 1994's The Snows Of Olympus, a graphic look at a terraformed Mars. His latest, Time's Eye, is a new collaboration with Stephen Baxter, the first in a series of novels involving a cataclysm that slices Earth into segments from across history, leading cosmonauts and prehistoric humans to mix in an epic struggle. From his home in Sri Lanka, Clarke spoke (2004-02) with The Onion A.V. Club about religion, transcendence, the possibility of life on Mars, and the dinosaur that was named after him.

It all began at Christmas 1948 - yes 1948 - with a four-thousand-word short story that I wrote for a contest sponsored by the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). The Sentinel described the discovery of a small pyramid on the Moon, set there by some alien civilization to await the emergence of mankind as a planet-faring species. Until then, it was implied, we would be too primitive to be of any interest. The BBC rejected my modest effort, and it was not published until almost three years later in the one-and-only (Spring 1951) issue of "10 Story Fantasy" - a magazine that, as the invaluable Encyclopedia of Science Fiction wryly comments, is "primarily remembered for its poor arithmetic (there were thirteen stories)."
From "Valediction", "3001: The Final Odyssey"
Ballantine Books (1997) hardcover edition

"Astrologers used to believe that Man's destiny is controlled by the stars. But one day it may come to pass that the stars' destiny is controlled by Man."
Arthur C. Clarke
IEEE Spectrum: Final Thoughts from Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) - Clarke's very last interview

Odyssey Series

Space Odyssey (published before y2k)
Time Odyssey (a sinister retelling of the Space Odyssey series)

Rama Series

Odyssey-Rama Subscripts

  1. Coauthored with Stephen Baxter
  2. Coauthored with Gentry Lee
  3. Locate rare and out-of-print books:
Rama (the 1996 PC-based Game)

Based on the novel by Arthur C. Clarke. By now, the year 2130, all of the largest asteroids in the solar system have long since been discovered. Smaller ones are being downed at the rate of a dozen a day. So when a huge new asteroid appears the only surprise is that is was overlooked for so long. It is duly assigned the next available name, Rama, and is promptly forgotten about - but not for long. As Rama approaches the Earth, every question about it seems to have an answer that raises more questions. And as observations continue, the most impossible explanation becomes the only one: Rama is actually a spaceship. The next step is obvious: mankind must attempt a rendezvous. But only one of our spaceships is close enough. As fate has it, that ship is Endeavor - the ship that you command. Without even reading them, you know what your orders will be: to rendezvous with the giant ship, to explore it, to meet with its inhabitants, and to return home before it speeds on its orbit away from the solar system. Yet even in your excitement, you realize it is not an easy mission. You will have to make difficult decisions - many of them. And you will have to work very fast - because if you stay on Rama too long, returning home will be impossible. From the first moment it has been clear: this is the mission of your lifetime. Thousands would gladly sacrifice anything for the chance. Only you can explore Rama. Rendezvous with Rama is the first computer adventure to be produced in collaboration with Arthur C. Clarke. The program allows you to talk with three other crew members. Multiple disks offer extended play - and the game may be played with or without graphics. Arthur C. Clarke, world-famous author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, continues to be a major force in science fiction; over twenty-million copies of his books have been printed World-Wide. The novel Rendezvous with Rama has won three highest science fiction awards: the Hugo, the Nebula and the John W. Campbell Awards. The adventure game Rendezvous with Rama was developed and produced by Byron Preiss Video Productions, Inc., leading designers of entertainment and educational software. Their technical director is Lee Jackson.


One highly note-worthy non-fiction book

How the World was One (1992)

Some Useful Links:

Clarke's First Law:

"When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."

Clarke defines the adjective 'elderly' as :"In physics, mathematics and astronautics it means over thirty; in other disciplines, senile decay is sometimes postponed to the forties. There are of course, glorious exceptions; but as every researcher just out of college knows, scientists of over fifty are good for nothing but board meetings, and should at all costs be kept out of the laboratory". (in Profiles of the Future.)

Clarke's Second Law:

"The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible."

Clarke's Third Law:

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Though he wrote after the laws that "Since three laws was sufficient for both the Isaacs - Newton and Asimov - I have decided to stop here", he continued to write laws, as we can see in the Appendix 2 of The Odyssey File where he states the Clarke's 69th Law:

"Reading computer manuals without the hardware is as frustrating as reading sex manuals without the software."

Clarke's Fourth Law:

“For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert.”

Cool quote:

A hundred years ago, the electric telegraph made the United States of America possible if not inevitable. The communications satellite will make a United Nations of Earth equally inevitable. Let us hope that the transition period will not be equally bloody.

Arthur C. Clarke, "First on the Moon", 1970

Star Trek fan reboot


Fan-based Creations

TRON (actually Science-Fantasy, but still really neat)

TRON (1982 movie)

TRON uses the I/O tower to
communicate with his user,
"Alan1" (Here is my disc)
TRON is probably the best science-fantasy computer theme ever made into a movie (what else would you expect from Disney?). People studying computer science, working in IS/IT, or just hacking will recognize many more metaphors. This must be why TRON is an underground cult classic with computer engineering students.

Computer Trivia:

  1. In the early days of computing many video terminals had TRON (trace on) and TROF (trace off) keys
  2. In the early days of BASIC interpreter programming, the developer could issue TRON and TROFF commands at the command prompt prior to using a RUN command. Later on, some BASIC dialects allowed tracing to be enabled/disabled by inserting TRON control statements within the source program.
  3. In the 1970s and 1980s, DEC PDP-11 minicomputers running the RSX-11M operating system signaled readiness to the operator with an MCR> prompt. MCR is an acronym for Monitor Console Routine. In the TRON movie, the computer's operating system is the MCP which stands for Master Control Program. Coincidence?
    p.s. in the movie, the MCP was always seen rotating even when it appeared to stop and stare at TRON. In a single CPU system only one process (program instance) can run at any time. So the OS runs a scheduler which allocates a small slice of time (10-100 mS) to each waiting user process. A programmable RTC (real time clock) interrupts the active thread (putting the just-running-process back to sleep) then handing control back to the scheduler. The scheduler would then rotate to the next waiting process.

Memorable Lines (and more trivia):

The Personification of Software
Program User Actor
CLU Kevin Flynn Jeff Bridges
TRON Alan Bradley Bruce Boxleitner (Captain John Sheridan in Babylon 5)
SARK Ed Dillinger David Warner
YORI Lora Baines Cindy Morgan
DUMONT Dr. Walter Gibbs (tower guardian) Barnard Hughes
RAM Roy "RAM" Kleinberg
(never seen in the movie)
Dan Shor
CROM Mr. Henderson, a full branch manager
(never seen in the movie)
Peter Jurasik (Ambassador Londo Molari in Babylon 5)
BIT ??? CGI (computer generated graphics)
MCP ??? CGI (computer generated graphics)
Spiders ??? (anti-virus) CGI (computer generated graphics)
Recognizers ??? (system monitors?) CGI (computer generated graphics)
Tower Guards ??? (part of the scheduler?) CGI (computer generated graphics)

More Thoughts (comparing the real world to the computer paradigm)

The earliest developers of any OS (operating system) write the device-driver software. So it makes sense that Walter Gibbs would appear as the I/O tower guardian since that I/O Device driver would probably have been written by him.


TRON: Legacy (2010 movie)

It seems me that corners were cut in the TRON: Legacy storyline. What's up with movie producers these days? Don't they realize that without a perfect story there will be no market to fleece for the next 10-20 years? (witness Star Wars Prequel and Blade Runner to only name two of many). I watched TRON: Legacy in 3d and although the graphics were superb, the story was no where near as good as the original TRON movie from 1982.

A writer once told me "if it wont work on the page then it wont work on the stage"
My advice to sci-fi movie producers: only allow comic book people to write your screen plays and have them do all the story-boarding in a comic book format. If the story won't work in a comic book (where there is no CGI to lean on) then the movie will not work on the silver screen or anywhere else.

Program User Actor
CLU (Codified Likeness Utility) Kevin Flynn Jeff Bridges

TRON: Evolution (2010 game)

Graphic Novels (Comic Books)

A few (of many) books responsible for warping my brain as a child

Magnus, Robot Fighter 4000 AD

Space Family Robinson

Miscellaneous Stuff

  1. Interocitor @ wikipedia
  2. Visit my Blade Runner page

  3. Klaatu's Speech: I am leaving soon and you'll forgive me if I speak bluntly. The universe grows smaller every day and the threat of aggression by any group anywhere can no longer be tolerated. There must be security for all or no one is secure. Now this does not mean giving up any freedom, except the freedom to act irresponsibly. Your ancestors knew this when they made laws to govern themselves and hired policemen to enforce them. We, of the other planets, have long accepted this principle. We have an organization for the mutual protection of all planets and for the complete elimination of aggression. The test of any such higher authority is, of course, the police force that supports it. For our policemen we created a race of robots. Their function is to patrol the planets in spaceships like this one and preserve the peace. In matters of aggression we have given them absolute power over us. This power cannot be revoked. At the first signs of violence they act automatically against the aggressor. The penalty for provoking their action is too terrible to risk. The result is we live in peace without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war, free to pursue more profitable enterprises. Now, we do not pretend to have achieved perfection, but we do have a system, and it works. I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet, but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you.
  4. As George Winston, the beleaguered hero of George Orwell's "1984", leafed through Emmanuel Goldstein's subversive tract "The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism" he learns the rationale that underlies the mobilization for perpetual war. According to the principles of doublethink (synonym for American Neo-Con Newspeak?), Winston reads, it does not matter if the war is not real or real, victory is not possible – what matters is that the masses are kept are kept in a relative state of deprivation. Thus the purpose of war is to destroy surplus wealth (+US$400 Billion in Iraq?) in order to maintain the hierarchical structure of society – the status quo. As George Orwell baldly puts it, "A hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation - the war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or east Asia but to keep the very structure of society in tact"
    1. 1984 by George Orwell: A searchable online version at The Literature Network
    2. The Complete Newspeak Dictionary
  5. Art imitates Life:
    I just might get to like this place. Let's see if the Braves are on. How do you turn on this here teevee?
    Riker: Teevee?
    Sonny: Yeah, boob-tube... you know. I'd like to find out how the Braves are doin' after all this time. Probably still finding ways to lose.
    Data to Riker: Oh -- I think he means television, sir.
    Sonny: Or maybe catch up on the soaps.
    Data to Sonny: That particular form of entertainment did not last much beyond the year Two Thousand Forty.
    Reference: STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION - Episode 126 - Titled: "The Neutral Zone"
    Reality: Television died in 2004; not 2040
    Reason: in order to maximize their profits, the networks decided to replace programs based upon "professional writing and acting" with "so-called Reality TV"
  6. Cool quote from Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones:

    00:12:24   I'd much rather dream about Padmé.
    00:12:27   Just being around her again is... intoxicating.
    00:12:31   Be mindful of your thoughts, Anakin. They betray you.
    00:12:34   You've made a commitment to the Jedi order, a commitment not easily broken.
    00:12:38   And don't forget, she's a politician, and they're not to be trusted.
    00:12:41   [ Anakin ] She's not like the others in the senate, Master.
    00:12:44   [ Obi-Wan ] It is my experience that senators...
    00:12:46   focus only on pleasing those who fund their campaigns...
    00:12:50   and they're in no means scared of forgetting the niceties of democracy...
    00:12:53   -in order to get those funds. - Not another lecture.
    00:12:55   At least not on the economics of politics.
  7. First a little Star Wars movie history: The first three movies (SW1-3 :: 1977-1983 :: EP4-6) are titled episodes 4-6. The second three movies (SW4-SW6 :: 1999-2005 :: EP1-3) are titled episodes 1-3. In my world, sci-fi fans are split down the middle: some prefer the first three movies while others prefer the second three. There is no right or wrong here, it's just a matter of preference (some people hate Jar Jar Binks while others hate the Ewoks; some loved watching Yoda training Luke on Dagobah while others like me preferred the martial arts of Darth Maul; some thought the first three were targeted at children while others thought the politics of the second three made them more appropriate for adults). SW7 (2015) follows the story SW3 (1983) and was co-written with Lawrence Kasdan (who also co-wrote SW2 + SW3) so I suspect that only half the audience will love it.

    comment-1: Okay so I just saw the film in 3D and can tell you all that SW7 is better than any of the first three movies (1977-1983) but not better than any of the second three (1999-2005). I have no idea why people where watching it multiple times when it opened.
    comment-2 - Recently I have found that if you prefer the movies from 1977-1983 then you probably like SW7 (the force awakens) and SW8 (the last jedi). But I am not one of these people although I like the idea of a female warrior. IMHO, Star Wars is going to end up like Mickey Mouse. Parents are going to drag their kids to the movies as well as the theme parks but the kids aren't going to have a clue. But Disney will make money.
  8. I just watched the first season of The Man in the High Castle and was very impressed (like all good science fiction, this story is very thought provoking)Click here to learn about more German-related stories as told by Philip K. Dick

  9. The Expanse might be the best science-fiction story ever put on TV (or best since y2k). So here's what I don't understand: the SyFy Channel in the USA cancelled the Expanse after season #3. I'm not certain of the reasons but they mentioned returning to their roots which assumes more of "zombies" and "teenage girls in love with vampire bad-boys" which are more science-fantasy than science-fiction. This is a long roundabout way of say that if you are a sci-fi nut like me, and have limited entertainment funds, then you may need to cancel your SyFy subscription then subscribe to Amazon Video where season 4 of the Expanse will be shown in 2019 (all three seasons are there already). BTW, be sure to watch all three seasons of that Philip K Dick classic "The Man in the High Castle" which I discussed just above. Apparently, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (who is also the head of the space hardware firm, Blue Origin) is a sci-fi fan. It seems to me that he, at least, knows what sci-fi is whilst the people at NBC Universal do not. Perhaps the SyFy channel should change its name name one more time: call it SyFan (Science-Fantasy)

All I need to know about life, I learned from STAR TREK


I have always been into cyberpunk and do not know why. Here is s short list of my cyberpunk entertainment (in chronological order)

Year Title Author/
Media Notes/Comments
1962 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K Dick book  
1982 Blade Runner Ridley Scott movie this movie was updated and rereleased over 25 -years
1982 TRON Disney movie  
1984 Neuromancer William Gibson book  
1995 Blade Runner 2: On the edge of human K. W. Jeter book  
1996 Blade Runner: Replicant Night K. W. Jeter book  
1999 The Matrix The Wachowski Brothers movie  
2010 TRON: Legacy Disney movie  
2010 TRON: Evolution Disney Interactive movie  
2011 Deus Ex: Human Revolution Eidos Montréal video game still available for PS3 purchase in 2018
2013 Deus Ex: Human Revolution - Director's Cut Eidos Montréal video game still available for PS3 purchase in 2018
2014 Ex Machina Alex Garland movie  
2016 Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Eidos Montréal video game still available for PS4 purchase in 2018

A few lost-then-found gems


After season 3 of The Expanse finished on SPACE, I was going through a sci-fi dry spell so I decided to watch one episode of Babylon 5 each night. The current box set "Babylon 5: The Complete Series + The Movie / Crusade Collection [DVD] [2004]" contains 39-disks so if you buy that along with "Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers" and "Babylon 5: Lost Tales" you will be in for a special treat. Especially if you watch everything in this order (one movie comes first, one comes last but needs to be watched before you start Crusade)

My wife has only a passing interest in sci-fi but hearing the well-written dialog from the next room made her a Babylon-5 fan before I finished season-1. One morning she asked me "do you think John Sheridan died at Z'ha'dum?". At other times she has asked "do you think we should watch two episodes tonight?"

Sure, no problem!

Total Recall 2070

By 2019-02-xx my wife and I had made it through all of the Babylon 5 media but there still wasn't anything neat on TV (well, there's Star Trek Discovery but only a die-hard trekor like me would watch it because there isn't much of a story). So I was rooting through my DVD collection when I happened upon Total Recall 2070. What a treat. This series from 1999 was released (uncut) to DVD in 2011 but is only shown in 1.33:1 (4x3). But at least there are some decent stories.


Okay so this was a surprise to me. During Christmas vacation I met some people who mentioned Serenity (2005) but didn't know about Firefly (or that it was available on DVD). Once again let me yell out "STORIES can be found here"

p.s. I lent my Serenity DVDs to these people and they were totally blown away


The TekWar series was created by William Shatner and shown between 1994 and 1996. Like Total Recall 2070, TekWar was release on DVD in 2011. STORIES - STORIES - STORIES

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Neil Rieck
Kitchener - Waterloo - Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.