Arthur C Clarke: The Dangerous Dreamer of Colombo

Image by Reuters, courtesy Down to Earth

Arthur C Clarke: The Dangerous Dreamer of Colombo.

That’s the title I gave to an 800-word obituary/tribute on Sir Arthur C Clarke that I wrote for India’s leading science and environment fortnightly, Down to Earth.

In this essay, I took a quick look at Sir Arthur’s legendary dream power. While there are no independent dream ratings as in television broadcasting, I always felt that he had one of the most active and imaginative dream machines east of Suez (millions of his satisfied readers might agree). When I turn up at his office two mornings a week, he would often relate a fantastic dream he’d just had — a few of these eventually found their way into his stories or even non-fiction writing.

I pegged this tribute on one of my favourite quotes by another British writer, T E Lawrence: “All men dream, but not equally…the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.”

The tribute has just been published, in the latest issue of Down to Earth datelined 15 April 2008. But the sub editors have chosen a less vivid title, which is of course their prerogative.

This essay was written during the weekend of March 22-23, within hours of Sir Arthur’s funeral. Pradip Saha, the magazine’s editor, contacted me soon after Sir Arthur’s demise and asked if I could do 800 words in 48 hours. He knew I’d worked closely with the late author, and years ago, I had done a Clarke interview for Down to Earth.

Talk about catching me at a busy moment. At the time, as Sir Arthur’s spokesman, I was coping with a deluge of media requests and queries from all over the world (and a few from other worlds – just kidding). But my own newsroom experience had trained me to keep a cool head and remain focused amidst turbulence. So I agreed, and wrote this on 23 March 2008 while still recovering from the sheer exhaustion of a 4-day media-marathon (mediathon?).

This is how I start off the essay:

“In his 1992 book How the World Was One, Sir Arthur C Clarke described a dream he once had: one day, CNN founder (and then owner) Ted Turner is offered the post of the President of the world, but he turns it down politely—because he didn’t want to give up power.

“The trouble with Clarke’s dreams was that many kept coming true, often faster than his own vivid imagination envisaged. Like Albert Einstein, Clarke believed that imagination was more important than knowledge—he called himself an extrapolator, one who expanded from current knowledge to what was scientifically plausible.”

Read my Down to Earth tribute to Arthur C Clarke: The Dangerous Dreamer of Colombo