Arthur C. Clarke 1999 Ego-Gram
ARTHUR C. CLARKE EGO-GRAM 1999



Received from Colombo, Sri Lanka via the ether:


1998 opened and closed well, but contained the most unpleasant episode of my life, which now seems like a bad dream.

On New Year's Day the British High Commissioner gave me the splendid news that Her Majesty was awarding me a Knighthood for "Services to Literature". I regarded this as a compliment to the entire genre of science fiction as much as to myself. The Eng. Lit. mandarins could put this piece of news in their pipes and smoke it....

I was looking forward to meeting Prince Charles at the official investiture when he came to Sri Lanka for the Independ- ence Day celebrations on February 4th, and wondered if he would recall our previous encounter in 1985, when he and Princess Diana attended the Premiere of 2010: Odyssey Two. However, just four days before the planned ceremony a London tabloid printed such disgusting allegations about me that I requested a postponement to avoid possible embarrassment.

Thanks to excellent work by the Sri Lankan police, who had more urgent calls upon their time, the whole edifice of lies was quickly demolished. I would also like to express my grati- tude to my Colombo, London and Washington lawyers, as well as to Rupert Murdoch for a much appreciated message of support.

The one heart-warming aspect of the whole miserable affair was the sympathy and good wishes I received from family, friends, and many complete strangers. And I was still able to have a pleasant meeting with Prince Charles: when he asked "Are you still writing?" I had to confess that I had just sent half a million words to my long-suffering agent. This (I'm so glad you asked) was the raw material for "Greetings, Carbon-based Bipeds!", a selection from my non-fiction over the last 65 years, plus an extensive collection of photographs recording my progress from first to second childhood. My old friend Ian Macauley (who astonished me by popping out of the woodwork in Buckingham Palace immediately after I'd received my CBE from the Queen) is now wrestling with this mass of material, scheduled for publication in August. Also due in 1999 is "Trigger", written by Michael Kube-McDowell from my outline.

I was involved in several satellite link-ups during the year: to the American Film Institute for the 30th anniversary of 2001; to NASA in connection with Galileo's survey of Europa; and to my old employer the Institution of Electrical Engineers for an evening of nostalgic reminiscences. To deal with the backlog of graduates, the University of Moratuwa had Convocations in May and Decdember, so the Chancellor had to give two performances....

More than half my time is now spent dealing with mail and visitors, and at least twice a week I have to send out a printed reply - the "Kindly drop dead" letter or the more polite "You may resume breathing" version - saying that I cannot con- tribute introductions or plugs for books. Especially fiction, which, alas, I now find almost unreadable. (I did manage to get through one novel last year, but can't remember what it was.) The only exceptions to this rule in 1998 were for "Justice with- out Frontiers" and "Dancing Naked in the Mind-field". I was flattered by the request from Judge Christopher Weeramantry, Vice-President of the World Court; and I couldn't turn down a "struggling young writer" (his description) who had won both the Nobel Prize and the Japan Prize for revolutionising medicine, genetics and criminology by his invention of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Kary Mullis tells me that my blurb for his very entertaining book "didn't hurt sales too badly."

The year ended with an unique tribute from my adopted country, when a stamp was issued showing my portrait superimposed on the geostationary satellite configuration. I certainly never imagined that this would happen, when I sorted the mail in Bish- ops Lydeard Post Office 65 years ago.

Though I am no longer able to walk without assistance, I still play table tennis daily, leaning against the table. Apart from occasional coughs and colds my health has been quite good: I wish I could say the same about my memory...

I have a couple of books and about ten TV and movie projects lined up, so boredom is the least of my worries. (One recent disappointment: although Steven Speilberg optioned "The Hammer of God", it received no credit in his "Deep Impact". I wept bitterly all the way to the bank.)

Perhaps surprisingly, I don't spend much time thinking about the future, though I have every intention of seeing a good deal more of it. I very seldom leave the comfort and convenience of the large house I share with my adopted family - Hector and Valerie Ekanayake and their three lovely daughters Cherene, Tamara and Melinda, who are growing up with terrifying speed. We will miss Cherene badly when she goes to college in Sydney, but at least we will be able to see and talk to each other through the video links on our computers.

Day and night (except when Melly steals her) I am seldom more than a few feet away from my beloved Chihuahua, Pepsi -- the most intelligent, endearing and demanding dog I've ever known, as well as the nearest approach to an ET you'll meet this side of Alpha Centauri. Though I never dreamed I would defect from German Shepherds and Rhodesian Ridgebacks (I still mourn my gentle, beautiful Rikki) Pepsi is the right size for me to handle now.

Finally, if I could be granted three wishes for the coming year they would be:

1. Peace in Sri Lanka - and the whole world, if that's not asking too much.

2. The first commercial prototypes of the clean, virtual- ly infinite energy devices which will end the fossil fuel age.

3. Proof of life elsewhere -- preferably intelligent, though I'd settle for anything that can put a couple of cells together.

There are indications that the first may be in sight - and I've been expecting No 2 "real soon now" for the past five years. As for the third -- well, your guess is as good as mine!

Arthur Clarke 1 Jan 99


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