Thursday, September 07, 2006

Forty Years of Star Trek by Arthur C Clarke

Blog #40 by Arthur C Clarke

Forty years of Star Trek

(© Arthur C Clarke – all rights reserved.
Photos © by Jeff Greenwald. May not be used without permission.)
I still can’t believe that it’s now forty years since Star Trek entered our lives – and we started roaming the universe of Star Trek.

Photos © by Jeff Greenwald. May not be used without permission.How things have changed! Star Trek was born at a time when the Space Age was less than a decade old, and humans had just taken a few faltering steps into near space. The United States and the late, unlamented USSR were locked in the Space Race, itself a product of the Cold War. The spectre of nuclear war loomed large, and the civil rights and women’s movements were still struggling for equality among humans.

Appearing at such a time in human history, Star Trek popularised much more than the vision of a space-faring civilisation. In episode after episode, it promoted the then unpopular ideals of tolerance for differing cultures and respect for life in all forms – without preaching, and always with a saving sense of humour.

Photos © by Jeff Greenwald. May not be used without permission.Over the years, the sophistication of storylines and special effects has certainly improved, but Star Trek retains its core values – still very much needed in our sadly divided and quarreling world.

There are purists who say that Star Trek isn't science fiction, but science fantasy -- and they have a point. Genuine science fiction should describe things that could happen according to present knowledge, and today we are fairly certain that we won't be able to dash from one star system to another in time for the next week's episode. We can also be sure that the inhabitants of other worlds won't look anything like human beings -- or speak fluent American.

Photos © by Jeff Greenwald. May not be used without permission.But we have to remember that much that once seemed fantasy has now become fact. Seventy years ago, if anyone had written a story in which a whole city was destroyed by banging two small pieces of metal together, virtually all physicists would have said: "Utter nonsense!" Yet this is how the greatest of wars was ended in 1945. Today there are many other examples of my Third Law: ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’ (I’m amused to hear from a friend that the villain Lex Luthor utters these very words in the latest Superman movie, which I haven’t yet seen. My agents will be following this up.)

Although Gene and I met only a few times, we had a warm friendship that lasted twenty years. I am proud to have played a part in creating one of the great icons of our time – as Gene reminded my biographer, Neil McAleer, when he made an extremely generous assessment of my contribution. Nor was this the first time; in 1987, he wrote for my seventieth birthday felicitation volume: “Arthur literally made my Star Trek idea possible, including the television series, the films, and the associations and learning it has made possible for me.”

He continued: “My association with the Clarke mind and concepts began in 1964 with his book Profiles of the Future. In 1969, I traveled to Arizona to listen to a Clarke lecture on astronomy, where….I was persuaded by him to continue my Star Trek projects despite the entertainment industry’s labeling the production as an unbelievable concept and a failure…It was a friendship that deepened into the most significant of my professional life.”

That was indeed how it happened. After attending my lecture, Gene introduced himself and told me that his series was being cancelled because the television executives, in their inscrutable wisdom, had decided that there was no audience for it. Poor Gene was broke and about to mortgage his home. I introduced him to my lecture agent, who was skeptical but booked him into a small hall -- which couldn't hold the audience he attracted.

Photos © by Jeff Greenwald. May not be used without permission.The rest, as they say, was television history. I am very glad that Gene went on to achieve professional success and world respect. What must have given him even greater satisfaction is that he lived to see so many of his ideals triumphantly accepted. As I wrote in my tribute to Gene upon his death: “Few men have left a finer legacy. The Enterprise will be cruising the galaxy for centuries to come.”


  • Here, here! Thank you to Mr. Clarke for all you've done for Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek, and the world in general. Your writings, and work, have touched my father, and myself, in wonderful ways that allowed us to imagine a world that could be. As well as gave us respite from the world we were in through our imaginations. For all these things I will always be grateful. I believe my father would agree, though I'm sure he would love you asking him yourself!

    Thanks for all you've given us, Mr. Clarke. It's a hell of a ride!

    With warm regards,
    Garland L. Thompson Jr.

    ("Ensign, Hand Me Your Phaser!"
    Star Trek 40th Anniversary Blog #33 by Garland L. Thompson, Jr.)

    By Blogger radiodogg, at 7:45 PM  

  • Many thanks, Sir Arthur, for your spot on observations on Star Trek, the link for which was sent to me by a friend who knows I am one of your many fans. Thank you also for your thought provoking and entertaining SF, which I have read eagerly since the early 1950s – ever since my dad (now 95) said, “Here you might enjoy this book.” It might have been Childhoods End or Against the Fall of Night or perhaps Tales from the White Heart. Your writings helped spark my curiosity about the universe and our place in it. We are almost certainly not alone. We wish you good health, much happiness, and many more birthdays.

    Best regards,

    P.S. Since dogs can’t go to heaven, perhaps one day, I will see you wherever they go.

    By Blogger Karl, at 5:55 PM  

  • Sir Arthur,
    Don't be so silly --
    OF COURSE DOGS GO TO HEAVEN, depends on which one - you know that - there are other Buddhists who took their dogs to heaven. Two great sages in Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhism were intimately associated with dogs -- Kukkuripa and Kukuraja. Kukuraja was an adept who loved dogs and took his to heaven. See Keith Dowman's page - there is a old print of Kuruaja, (his name means The King of Dogs)

    And personally I have seen a much better illustration of this adept with his friendly dog, I think in one of Dowman's books. See this link of Shri Kukkuripa - it' will make you happy -

    Here's some more info on Kururaja I swiped off a site for you:
    There are many ways in which we could examine the meaning of the Fire Dog year. We could look at Kukuraja (ku ku ra dza / ku ku ra tsa – the Mahasiddha who lived with a cohort of dogs.) Kukuraja was one of the teachers of Marpa Lotsawa. Kukuraja—the Dog King—lived on an island in the midst of a swamp of poison. He was known also as Kukkuripa—the Dog Lover—he is famous for these lines:

    Where deliberate effort and self-conscious striving are present - Buddha is absent,
    In view of this all chanting, rituals, and offerings are futile.
    Within the peak experience of the Lama’s inspired transmission however,
    Buddha is ever-present - but who is there who wishes to see that?

    Kukuraja entered the sphere of Vajrayana through puzzling over the problems of existence – which inspired his itinerant life. One particular day—on the road to the next village—he heard the sound of whining emanating from the underbrush. He investigated the source of the sound and found a starving young Dog – so weak that she could not stand. He picked her up and carried her with him on his journey – sharing his food and watching with delight as she returned to health and strength. By the time they arrived in Lumbini—the town in Nepal where Shakyamuni Buddha was born—Kukuraja had become accustomed to her company and sought out a cave where they could both live. During one period in which Kukuraja was involved in continuous recitation of mantra, twelve years elapsed during one meditation session – and at its conclusion Kukuraja attained powers of prescience and unobstructed insight.

    And another:
    Hungkara (Skt. hung mdzad, hung chen ka ra). One of the Eight Vidyadharas; receiver of the tantras of Vishuddha Mind including Heruka Galpo. Having taken birth in either India or Nepal, at first he was erudite in a non-Buddhist religion and gained some attainments but later awakened to faith in the Buddhist teachings, took ordination from Buddhajnana at Nalanda and studied both the outer and inner aspects of Secret Mantra. His name derives from the chief deity of the mandala into which he was first initiated. At some point he took an outcaste girl as consort and practiced for six months the four aspects of approach and accomplishment. Through that practice he had a vision of the entire mandala of Vajra Heruka and reached the attainment of the supreme accomplishment of mahamudra. He wrote the Golden Garland of Rulu, the Vishuddha Accomplishment as well as other treatises and benefited beings with tremendous activity. Finally, he departed to the realm of Buddha Akshobhya in his very body. He was associated with Rolang Sukhasiddhi, Kukuraja and Buddhaguhya, while his lineage was transmitted to Padmasambhava and Namkhai Nyingpo who spread his teachings in India. Also known as Hungchen, Hungchen-Kara.

    (He may be associated with Manjushri, I am not certain.)

    No worries! I hope to meet you in person one lifetime or another, sweetie.

    By Blogger Wonderlane, at 1:47 AM  

  • Mr. Clarke -

    Thank you for this blog on Star Trek and for all you have contributed to Science Fiction in general. I currently teach the Anthropology of Star Trek course at Lake Tahoe Community College and have also discussed some of your work in the course. I have posted a link to this blog to our current Summer 2007 class site.


    By Blogger dfrazetti, at 2:04 PM  

  • when STAR TREK shall pay a homage to Sir Arthur C.Clarke baptizing a starship or a planet? Celebrities like Asimov or Bradbury have received such honour but not still Mr. Clarke. Remember that Clarke was a Gene Roddenberry´s friend and he mentorised Gene the idea of creating ST after Gene read "Profiles of the Future" ´s book.

    By Blogger Sikileia, at 6:17 PM  

  • Great article. Arthur C Clarke, you're one of the best of all time.

    By Blogger Andrew J Robertson, at 3:52 PM  

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