• Arthur C. Clarke Correspondence

  • SIR ARTHUR C. CLARKE is best known as a visionary of outer space. The author of the classics 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and CHILDHOOD'S END. The science writer whose 1945 article in the magazine "Wireless World" pioneered the concept of communication satellites to the degree that the fixed orbit at 22 thousand miles is called the Clarke Orbit.

    Less known is that he considered himself an "underwater explorer," writing non-fiction books like THE TREASURE OF THE GREAT REEF and the novels THE DEEP RANGE and DOLPHIN ISLAND. Even after Post-Polio Syndrome left him often using a wheelchair, he commented he was "perfectly operational underwater." His cable address in Sri Lanka, his home since 1956, was Undersea Colombo.

    When an editor sent him a copy of my novel THE EXPERIMENT, he wrote me the following personal letter. The J.S. and J.B.S. to whom he refers are the British scientist and philosopher John Scott Haldane, whose pioneering experiments are described in THE EXPERIMENT, and his son John Burton Sanderson Haldane.

    Clarke's knowledge of the vast library of science fiction and the real science that it projected into the future was extraordinary, encyclopedic. His range of acquaintances was broad and rich. When I made a reference in a later letter to THE SAND PEBBLES, the epic novel of a U.S. Navy gunboat in China prior to World War II, he wrote back that the author "Dick McKenna is one of the most impressive (and nicest) people I ever met."

    Our exchange of letters was private, because Sir Arthur did not want to be inundated with requests for quotes by authors and filmmakers. His death at age 90 in March 2008 released me from this agreement. I believe his comments are of interest to the admirers of this great writer and prophet.

    — RS

    • Arthur C. Clarke
      B. Sc., F.R.A.S., F.B.I.S.
      Fellow of King's College, London.
    • Tel:  94255
      Cable : Undersea
    • "Leslie's House"
      25, Barnes Place,
      Colombo 7

    Dear Richard Setlowe,

    Thank you very much for sending me THE EXPERIMENT, which needless to say I greatly enjoyed. It's brilliantly done and all the characters are completely convincing. It would also make a damned good movie, and give everyone a welcome change from the current space operas, good fun though they are.

    Which reminds me that I've seen The Amphibian (Soviet, color, 98 min, 1962) but I can't remember a thing about it. Belyayev's novel (about a man who has his lungs replaced by shark gills) seems to be the first in the field; it came out in 1928. Berkey's brilliant dust jacket, incidentally was anticipated thirty or so years ago in the illustration to a short story – it may have been Ron Hubbard's "The Indigestible Triton" (UNKNOWN Apr 1940). At least, I think so – but my memory may be playing tricks.

    Ken Bulmer's City Under the Sea (1957) also deals with surgical modification to live underwater; but until your's the best treatment of the theme I've read is Gordon Diokson's The Space Swimmers (1963; a.k.a. Return to the Shore.) – sorry, Home From the Shore.)

    You've certainly taken the concept further than anyone else, e.g. in considering the heat loss problem. But how would the guy drink? And what about body wastes, in a rubber suit?

    It's always seemed ironic to me that, after J.B.S. told me he'd volunteer for liquid breathing if he ever discovered he was dying of cancer – he did die of cancer. I'd always assumed that he, and not his father J.S., had made the observations on drowning baby mice. He also told me he thought that the experience would be painful; I don't know if the one man who's tried (with one lung only) has confirmed this.

    Again, my thanks for the book – I wish it every success.


  • Richard Setlowe
    c/o Karasik,
    Holt, Rinehart & Winston,
    383 Madison Ave.,
    NY 10017



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