I’ve decided to write like Arthur C. Clarke

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2002 Writing

MOONS WAXED AND WANED, gibbous and crescent, locked in their eternal mechanisms over the centuries as Man expanded his reach, erecting spires and bridges on a narrow isle on the coast of a landmass that would come to be known as America. When Man built his towers of Manhattan, surely he strived toward a state of profound understanding (as, just as surely, he would fall tragically short…only to try again).

Mr. Jordan Orlando stood looking out his apartment window at the vital, teeming thoroughfare beyond, wryly musing that, if Man could create such complexity, the ineffable mysteries of life (and of The Stars) would perhaps remain forever beyond his reach.

How long? Orlando thought, as was his wont when considering the towering metropolis that contained him. How long before we know the truth of the universe?

Willfully shaking off the inevitable dark musings that lay at the end of that line of speculation, Orlando turned to his desk, determined to return to his work. As a novelist, Orlando had deliberately joined the ranks of those whose lives were spent in solitary labor, like deep sea divers, he supposed, or the wizened monks in Sri Lanka whose epiphanies were forever unrewarded and unrecognized (but whose considerable cognitive gifts were among the most precious of Man’s gifts). Before him, a row of computer screens allowed him to continue typing his novel but also allowed (by means of ersatz “windows” set into their unyielding glass surfaces) him to peruse the news and issues of the day, as well as exchange small textual messages with his acquaintances and family members. (Orlando did not need to stop to consider the enormous ingenuity and complexity of computer systems that allowed all this to happen: like most denizens of his time, he simply relaxed, confident that the machines would do their work.) The “windows” aped their real-world counterparts with uncanny skill—they even had “shadows,” he wryly noted—but he knew that they were as real as the gossamer faeries that illuminated the fantasies of the Romantics, in earlier, darker epochs in Man’s history.

The telephone gave its familiar trilling sound and Orlando sighed. He had really hoped to get some work done…but, since the phone’s electronic display readout revealed that the caller was his good personal friend Brendan Kennedy, a resident of upstate New York who shared Orlando’s yen for technology, the arts, and the deeper contemplations of the future of Man in the universe, he reached for the telephone reciever and removed it from its cradle, bringing it to his ear. Kennedy was also possessed of a cutting wit and a devastating sense of irony, and Orlando had learnt over time to avoid his gibes.

“Have you seen the latest reviews of The Last Airbender?” Kennedy wanted to know, without preamble. This was typical of the video producer’s conversational style; frequently, Orlando found himself shaking his head in quiet disbelief at the idiosyncrasies of his friends (since, after all, he was well aware that he possessed his own compliment of foibles and irregularities of expression). “Apparently it’s only gotten four percent on Rotten Tomatoes! I should like to be present when those responsible are discussing their future cinematic plans.”

“And how are you today, Kennedy?” Orlando responded into the small electronic receiver. “Far be it for me to expect you to begin a conversation at the beginning!”

“Now, Orlando, as I’ve told you many times, one can exhibit too much Mediterranean forbearance, as I’m sure your grandfather knew!”

Orlando threw back his head and laughed. “My dear Brendan, your references to my Italian-born father won’t dissuade me from pursuing you towards a more logical conversational style.”

“Has it occurred to you,” Kennedy continued excitedly, his voice distorted by the orbiting satellites and roadside cables that Man had constructed for the purpose of bringing one friend’s voice across miles of inhabited land, by way of the ionosphere, “that just forty-one years ago, Man took his first step onto another world, and yet already these actions are regarded as commonplace? Have you considered the incredible social development that this points to?”

“Not this old argument again,” Orlando laughed. “Why, it was just two weeks ago that you tried to convince me that the Internet had prematurely outlived its cultural novelty!”

The easy banter was suddenly interrupted by a darkening of the clouds beyond the window glass. Orlando watched, utterly fascinated, as the pendulous clouds shifted to grey. The Hooded clouds, like friars, tell their beads in drops of rain, he mused, recalling the words of Longfellow. A storm was coming, and even the ancient cave dwellers, turning their mute faces helplessly towards the heavens, knew the truth of the poet’s words, aeons before Man reached the stars.