cover image Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds!: Collected Essays, 1934-1998

Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds!: Collected Essays, 1934-1998

Arthur Charles Clarke, Clark. St. Martin's Press, $35 (544pp) ISBN 978-0-312-19893-0

Though best known as the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Clarke has been a scientist and writer of nonfiction for almost two-thirds of a century. This collection is organized chronologically by decade, affording the reader insights into Clarke's odyssey from gifted amateur to cultural icon. In his essays, Clarke promotes the notion that science fiction's role should be inspirational rather than informative, but that science itself is merely a tool to serve the higher ends of humankind. Clarke retains uncommon sense regarding scientific pursuits: ""We must not mistake ever-increasing scientific knowledge with `progress,' however that is defined."" Part of the Clarke legend springs from how much of our technology and its cultural effects he has foreseen. Included here is a 1945 paper that Clarke calls ""the most important thing I ever wrote,"" in which he invented the idea of geosynchronous satellites for telecommunications. Despite the length of Clarke's career, his language, like his thinking, is always fresh, even contemporary. When he critiques New Age believers, he does so because ""their New Age is exactly the opposite, a thousand years past its sale date."" As a whole, this collection provides an island of promise for those who fear technological disaster in their future, and a look into the mind of one of the leading intellectual lights of this half century. (Aug.)