Liberal Arts Blog — Hugo Gernsback, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke
Liberal Arts Blog — Wednesday is the Joy of Science, Engineering, and Technology Day
Today’s Topic — Hugo Gernsback (1884–1967), Robert Heinlein (1907–1988), Arthur C. Clarke (1917–2008)
After writing last week’s post on Isaac Asimov, I decided to learn a bit more about the two other members of the “Big Three” of “hard” science fiction — Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke — as well as to find whom the “Hugo Award” (the premier Science Fiction award) was named after. It turns out Hugo was his first name not his last and that he was in fact a scumbag. Today, a few quotes from each author as well as some random footnotes. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
ARTHUR C. CLARKE (1917–2008) — “Prophet of the Space Age”
1. “Any sufficiently advanced scientific technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
2. “I can never look now at the Milky Way without wondering from which of those banked clouds of stars the emissaries are coming. … I do not think we will have to wait for long.”
3. “One cannot have superior science and inferior morals. The combination is unstable and self-destroying.”
NB: “The greatest tragedy in mankind’s entire history may be the hijacking of morality by religion.”
The screen play for Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) was based on Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel” (1951) which was expanded into a short novel that was released concurrently with the film which would inspire both George Lucas (“Star Wars”) and Stephen Spielberg (“Close Encounters” and “ET”).
ROBERT HEINLEIN (1907–1988)
1. “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
2. “Progress isn’t made by early risers. It’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.”
3. “A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.”
NB: “The most preposterous notion that Homo sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history.”
Heinlein is known for popularizing the phrase “pay it forward” meaning to repay a kindness not to the original benefactor but to a third party. The concept has been traced back to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ben Franklin, the Bible, and ancient Greece. The text from Between the Planets (1951): “The banker reached into the folds of his gown, pulled out a single credit note. “But eat first — a full belly steadies the judgment. Do me the honor of accepting this as our welcome to the newcomer. His pride said no; his stomach said YES! Don took it and said, “Uh, thanks! That’s awfully kind of you. I’ll pay it back, first chance.” “Instead, pay it forward to some other brother who needs it.”
HUGO GERNSBACK (1884–1967) — “The Father of Science Fiction”
1. “What descriptions of clouds and sunsets was to the old novelist, description of scientific apparatus and methods is to the modern Scientific Detective writer.”
2. “I started the movement of SF in America in 1908 through my first magazine, ‘Modern Electrics.” At that time it was an experiment. Science fiction authors were scarce. There were not a dozen worth mentioning in the entire world.”
3. “You have a perfect right to use your imagination as you will in developing the principles, but the fundamental scientific theory must be correct.”
NB: “By ‘scientifiction’ I mean the Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Edgar Allan Poe type of story — a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision.”
Gernsback was born in Luxembourg of Jewish ancestry and came to America at age 20. An early entrepreneur in the electronics industry he imported radio parts from Europe and launched “the world’s first magazine about electronics and radio” in 1908. “In January 1909, he founded the “Wireless Association of America” which had 10,000 members within a year.” He has been called “Hugo the Rat” and a “contemptuous crook” for his shady business practices.
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