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SKYBIRD:
Dale Brown’s Ops Report
February 2003
Copyright © 2003, TDPI

COMBAT CREW REST AND RECUPERATION: Fallen Heroes: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and nuclear war

I think I’ve read every book ever written by Isaac Asimov. I think I watched the movie “Fantastic Voyage” a hundred times (and not because I wanted to see Raquel Welch in her skin-tight low-cut jump-suit). I knew the Three Laws Of Robotics long before they were ripped off for the movie “Robocop.”

Similarly, books by Arthur C. Clarke such as “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “2010: Odyssey Two” were inspirations for me to get into writing myself. Although I didn’t venture into pure science fiction, I recognize the influence of these two great writers in my work—I like to tread the boundary of science fact and science fiction, just as Clarke and Asimov masterfully have.

So it was with great glee that, while doing an Internet search on nuclear war, I came across interviews and quotations on the subject by Arthur C. Clarke—and I really couldn’t believe what I read, although in retrospect, I should have.

Obviously nuclear war is bad, but Clarke says all war is bad. This is crazy. It’s like saying disease and death are bad—of course they’re bad, but they exist, and we as humans must learn how to control and avoid it and deal with it as rational beings, rather than be fearful of it. According to Clarke, not only are guns bad, but anyone with a gun is a brainless cowardly Neanderthal. His famous quote is, “Guns are the crutches of the impotent.” Not even armies should have guns, he argues—if armies are sent to fight, they should fight with long sticks, like Robin Hood’s quarterstaff.

Asimov had no hobbies, no interests, and no activities other than writing, eating, sleeping, and talking with his wife. He hated to travel. He feared that the human race might someday annihilate itself, and he trusted machines to possibly keep that from happening. He was often credited with a social conscience, mostly I suspect because he spoke out in favor of human rights and the environment and against war, pollution, and the military-industrial complex.

But after reading many of his interviews and essays, it appears to me that Isaac Asimov was a highly intelligent yet rather narrow-minded writer who tolerated the world and most of the people in it as long as they kept their distance and didn’t offend him.

Arthur C. Clarke, on the other hand, is not afraid to engage his ideological opponents—and he takes them head-on. Anyone watching the Gulf War on TV, he writes, was guilty of watching nothing but “techno-porn.” The B-2 stealth bomber is the reason why we have millions of malnourished and uneducated children in the United States. The German V-2 rocket that decimated London during World War Two was “beautiful,” yet the Stealth fighter and the Abrams tank are abominations…

… and then he goes to his home in Sri Lanka, e-mails and faxes his work in to his publishers using the technology that he condemns so much, and contemplates his navel while slamming yet another aspect of modern Western culture and society from long range.

I hope I can someday pick up a copy of Arthur C. Clarke’s great novels and get lost again in the forward-thinking technology, the masterful suspense, and the unfettered imagination of a truly great and finely crafted work of fiction—and keep the man separate from his works. But I probably won’t.

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Robert Gottlieb
Trident Media Group
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