Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the science fiction author best known for 2001: A Space Odyssey, started writing at the end of World War II and the beginning of the nuclear age, a time when technology promised to bring untold benefit to humanity and had the potential to utterly destroy it. So he wrote science fiction with some actual science in it, tales about space travel, alien encounters and human evolution.
The future was a continuing object of fascination for Clarke. He proved to be uncannily accurate at making divinations about the course of technology. Back in 1964, he predicted virtual surgery, 3D printers and the internet. Of course, he also predicted that we would have an army of monkey servants to cater to our every whim. You can’t always be right.
The former tale, written in 1953, is about a mysterious alien race that brings the Cold War to a screeching halt and kick starts human evolution. But at what cost? Stanley Kubrick was reportedly interested in developing the book until he settled on 2001. Listen to Clarke read long excerpts from Childhood’s End at the top of this post.
The latter story, published in 1955, might very well be the best sci-fi Christmas story ever. It was adapted into a Twilight Zone episode that thoroughly freaked me out as a kid. Listen to "The Star" just above.
Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads. The Veeptopus store is here.