Friends, Earthlings, ETs -- lend me your sensory organs!
I send you greetings and good wishes at the beginning of another year – and we’re getting closer to 2010, 'the year we make contact' (according to the movie 2010: Odyssey Two).
Making contact, or at least receiving some evidence of extra-terrestrial life, was one of three wishes I included in a short video released online in December reflecting on my 90th birthday. I said: “I have always believed that we are not alone in the universe. But we are still waiting for ETs to call us – or give us some kind of a sign. We have no way of guessing when this might happen – I hope sooner rather than later!”
I added two more developments that I would like to see accomplished – kicking our addiction to oil by going for clean energy sources, and achieving peace in Sri Lanka. That makes up Clarke’s Three Wishes, neatly complementing the well-established Clarke’s Three Laws.
My 90th birthday celebrations went extremely well. My business partner Hector, his wife Valerie and their children Cherene and Melinda returned from Melbourne in time for 16 December. They joined my staff and a few close friends for cake and champagne that morning. The same evening, the government of Sri Lanka held a felicitation ceremony in my honour, which was chaired by the President and attended by over 150 people including several cabinet ministers, diplomats as well as scientists, artistes and the media. The space agencies of India, Pakistan, Russia and the US sent senior representatives. It took all my well known modesty to survive over 90 minutes of raving remarks about my life and times from half a dozen speakers! The highlight was when my old friend cosmonaut Alexei Leonov turned up representing both the Russian space agency and the Association of Space Explorers – and presented me with the latter's highest honour.
One morning two weeks later, I suddenly found myself unable to rise from bed after a good night’s sleep. The unexpected back injury forced me to enter Colombo’s Apollo Hospital where doctors found I had a cracked vertebra. This puzzled everyone as there was no accident or incident - perhaps it was all that walking with dinosaurs that I now do in my vivid dreams… I returned home 10 days later, but full healing would take many weeks during which I have to be extremely careful.
I’m now surviving on 16 hours of sleep everyday, and getting used to doing some reading and light work from my semi-reclined position. I’m very well looked after by my doctors, physiotherapists, staff and valets, and am in no pain or discomfort. But I can’t wait to get back to my hover-chair…
One of my current priorities is to get through the heavy manuscript of The Last Theorem, written by Frederik Pohl expanding on my story line developed four years ago. Our publishers and agents were remarkably patient and supportive as Fred and I swapped ideas and comments from opposite sides of the planet for much of 2007.
Meanwhile, Firstborn – the third in the 'Time Odyssey' series written with Stephen Baxter – came out from Del Rey in December. During the year, Stephen also wrote a delightful tall story using the same London pub setting that formed the backdrop to my collection Tales from the White Hart, first published 50 years ago. This new story is included in an anniversary edition just brought out by the UK's PS Publishing.
I was involved in marking other golden jubilees during the past year. In April 2007, my old friend Patrick Moore completed hosting The Sky at Night programme on BBC TV for 50 years without a break – a broadcast world record. I filmed a tribute with the BBC and wrote an essay recalling some of our celestial adventures. In October, Patrick and I joined worldwide celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Space Age. In an essay written for the official commemorative volume published by the Russian Academy of Sciences, I noted that in spite of many impressive accomplishments in the past half century, the best is yet to come. The same month, New Scientist listed me as one of the top 10 influential space thinkers of all time 'who really made the Space Age happen' - the list included Tsiolkovsky, Korolev, Tsien and Spitzer. In November, I joined (by video) the 50th anniversary meeting of the Pugwash movement held in Bari, Italy – after thanking its members for preventing our self-destruction from nuclear warfare, I suggested they also address the spread of 'techno-porn' that glamourises violence.
Despite limitations of time and energy imposed by Post Polio, I joined via video selected global events on topics close to my heart. Among them were the 20th anniversary of International Space University, the birth centenary of the late Robert Heinlein, and NASA-JPL Cassini spacecraft’s flyby of Saturn's moon Iapetus, where astronaut Dave Bowman discovered the larger monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The Arthur Clarke Foundation continued its good work to promote my vision, and pursued plans for the Arthur C. Clarke Center "to investigate the reach and impact of human imagination". The Board members of the Foundation, led by Tedson Meyers, have taken on the challenge of raising US$ 70 million for this project. I thank them for their hard work and persistence.
My brother Fred, Chris Howse, Angie Edwards and Navam Tambayah look after my affairs in England. My agents David Higham Associates (http://www.davidhigham.co.uk/) and Scovil, Chichak & Galen Literary Agency (http://www.scglit.com/) insulate me from rapacious editors and media executives.
Here in Colombo, I am well supported by my staff and I want to thank them all:
Office Manager: Rohan De Silva
Executive Officer: Nalaka Gunawardene
Executive Officer: Nalaka Gunawardene
Secretary: Dottie Weerasooriya
Valets: Saman, Chandrasiri, Dharmawardena
Drivers: Lalith & Anthony
Domestic Staff: Jayasiri, Mallika & Sumana
I have always had mixed feelings about posterity (as a cynic remarked, what good does it do to me?). Yet completing 90 orbits around the sun was a suitable occasion to reflect on how I would like to be remembered. As I said in my birthday reflections video: “I’ve had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer, space promoter and science populariser. Of all these, I want to be remembered most as a writer – one who entertained readers, and, hopefully, stretched their imagination as well.
“I find that another English writer -- who, coincidentally, also spent most of his life in the East -- has expressed it very well. So let me end with these words of Rudyard Kipling:
If I have given you delight
by aught that I have done.
Let me lie quiet in that night
which shall be yours anon;
And for the little, little span
the dead are borne in mind,
seek not to question other than,
the books I leave behind."
Arthur C Clarke
Colombo, Sri Lanka: 30 January 2007
 Full video here.
"Sir Arthur and I at his place last december 16th..."