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Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds!: Collected Essays, 1934-1998

Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds!: Collected Essays, 1934-1998

by Arthur C. Clarke, Ian Macauley (Editor)

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Arthur C. Clarke is one of this century's most visionary and versatile thinkers. In the crowning achievement of his extraordinary career, Clarke has collected his ground-breaking non-fiction pieces into one volume. Charting an exceptional career of over six decades, the essays in Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! reveal Clarke's piercing mind and lively wit as


Arthur C. Clarke is one of this century's most visionary and versatile thinkers. In the crowning achievement of his extraordinary career, Clarke has collected his ground-breaking non-fiction pieces into one volume. Charting an exceptional career of over six decades, the essays in Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! reveal Clarke's piercing mind and lively wit as well as the march of science through our modern age.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Though best known as the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Clarke has been a scientist and writer of nonfiction for almost two-thirds of a century. This collection is organized chronologically by decade, affording the reader insights into Clarke's odyssey from gifted amateur to cultural icon. In his essays, Clarke promotes the notion that science fiction's role should be inspirational rather than informative, but that science itself is merely a tool to serve the higher ends of humankind. Clarke retains uncommon sense regarding scientific pursuits: "We must not mistake ever-increasing scientific knowledge with `progress,' however that is defined." Part of the Clarke legend springs from how much of our technology and its cultural effects he has foreseen. Included here is a 1945 paper that Clarke calls "the most important thing I ever wrote," in which he invented the idea of geosynchronous satellites for telecommunications. Despite the length of Clarke's career, his language, like his thinking, is always fresh, even contemporary. When he critiques New Age believers, he does so because "their New Age is exactly the opposite, a thousand years past its sale date." As a whole, this collection provides an island of promise for those who fear technological disaster in their future, and a look into the mind of one of the leading intellectual lights of this half century. (Aug.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Written over seven decades, these essays by Clarke, most famous for his sf novels (e.g., 2001: A Space Odyssey), cover a range of science topics--especially space exploration. Arranged chronologically with an introduction by Clarke for each decade, they provide a kind of eyewitness history of how the scientific community's dreams and hopes changed over the course of the 20th century. The book isn't a detailed accounting of events but a scholar's reflections. It is interesting to see where scientific vision has been mistaken over the years--and even more interesting to see how often the vision was correct. Recommended for academic libraries supporting history of science programs and for large public libraries.--William Baer, Brigham Young Univ. Lib., Provo, UT Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Gerald Jonas
Science in our time has been given the franchise for explaining how the world works. This awesome responsibility includes translating the insights and equations of scientists into language the rest of us can understand. No one carries off this task with more authority and good humor than Arthur C. Clarke, who turned 82 years old on Dec. 16. Arranged chronologically, ''Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds!,'' a compilation of previously published essays, reviews and other opinion pieces, serves as a kind of intellectual autobiography. In selections from the 1930's and 40's, we meet Clarke the ardent promoter of space travel, trying to convince the skeptics and bean counters that going to the moon is not only possible but worth the cost. Later, when he has become a celebrity of sorts -- thanks to more than 20 nonfiction books and landmark science fiction novels like ''Childhood's End'' and ''2001: A Space Odyssey'' (which he wrote while writing the movie with the director Stanley Kubrick) -- Clarke broadens his scope considerably. But whether he is warning about the dangers of asteroid impacts or evoking the pleasures and perils of scuba diving, he teaches a lesson all but forgotten in today's culture wars: an open mind and strongly held opinions need not be incompatible. Arguably, Sir Arthur (he was knighted in 1998) has done more than anyone in the 20th century to explain science to the multitude.
The New York Times Book Review
Scientific American
...Among his topics, suggesting the breadth of [author Clarke's] range, are space exploration, thinking machines, the uses of the moon and his adventures in scuba diving. Looking back over his work, he finds that it has often "been more interesting ro see where (and why) I went wrong than where I happened to be right." Serious in his thinking, lighthearted in his approach, he has composed his own epitaph: "He never grew up, but he never stopped growing."
Gary K. Wolfe
...[S]erves as a useful reminder of the astonishing fecundity of Clarke's mind over some six decades....[S]prinkled with plenty of fascinating bits...but as a resource on Clarke's life and intellect, it's a bit of a jumble sale.
Kirkus Reviews
A science fiction giant (3001: The Final Odyssey, 1997, and many others), Clarke has always been equally at home in nonfiction. This selection shows his remarkably wide range of interests during seven decades. The early pieces include fannish appreciations ("Dunsany, Lord of Fantasy") as well as book and film reviews ("The Conquest of Space," "Destination Moon") that tend to elevate scientific accuracy above artistic impact. A talk on the history of fictional space travel shows a wide range of reading, well beyond what usually ends up on a library's sci-fi shelves; later articles include prefaces to classic works by Wells and tributes to such colleagues as Robert Bloch and Gene Roddenberry. Clarke has also been an active force in creating the future, as the 1948 paper in which he invented the idea of artificial communications satellites reminds us. He has also been a speaker for rational investigation of the fringes of science: two articles on UFOs from the 1950s show an impressive knowledge of unusual optical and meteorological phenomena, as well as of scientific history. Clarke's pioneering interest in underwater exploration finds expression in an early article on the future of scuba-diving resorts and in excerpts from several books that grew out of his own diving expeditions. This collection is also a reminder of Clarke's rarely matched knowledge of the nuts and bolts of space travel, from the days when the V-2 rocket was state-of-the-art to the shuttle era. Topics range from a look at astronautical fallacies (e.g., the difference between orbital weightlessness and "escaping gravity"), to the potential of the space age in opening a new Renaissance, to a proposal to safeguardEarth from meteor and comet impacts, to orbital sex. This just scratches the surface of this fascinating collection, in which Clarke's reasonable, witty, and often elegant approach illuminates subjects from fractal math and Martian geology to advanced communications—all given context by Clarke's entertaining prefaces. Essential Clarke; highly recommended.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.28(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

Sir Arthur C. Clarke, CBE was born in England in 1917 and has lived in Sri Lanka since 1956. He is the author of such bestselling books as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Childhoods End and Rendezvous with Rama.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
December 16, 1917
Date of Death:
March 19, 2008
Place of Birth:
Minehead, Somerset, England
Place of Death:
Sri Lanka
1948, King's College, London, first-class honors in Physics and Mathematics

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