[SFRA-L] SFRA-L Digest, Vol 13, Issue 24
ehull at harpercollege.edu
Mon Aug 29 12:05:39 EDT 2011
I have frequently used the question of whether the ending of CE is happy or not as a final exam question, stressing that there isn't a right or wrong answer, but that the student would be judged on his/her arguments and evidence in support of the chosen position. I also warn students that don't allow for mugwumps! I've gotten good answers defending both positions.
Myself, I think the reason Clarke focused at the end on the Overlords is that they are stuck evolution-wise with their own isolation, being able to see greater-ness, but not achieve it, which seems to be an essential part of the human condition. For although we may yet evolve into something greater than ourselves and we may yet join in a union with others to form a greater being, in our very short lifetimes we are born alone and die alone and always yearn for union, like the corporate polyp in The City and the Stars and the aliens species of "Rescue Party," who figure out how to save the spaceship and its varied species crew. It is a position very much opposed to American individuality, but it is in the traditions of American history which show that Bradford's colonists would not have survived without mutual support from each other and from the indigenous people.
From: sfra-l-bounces at wiz.cath.vt.edu on behalf of Rabkin, Eric
Sent: Sun 8/28/2011 5:22 PM
To: sfra-l at wiz.cath.vt.edu
Subject: Re: [SFRA-L] SFRA-L Digest, Vol 13, Issue 24
IMO most of Clarke's works indulge a magical homocentrism. Childhood's End--WE can wonderfully evolve but the Overlords just can't--exemplifies this. This humanity-is-the-best-and-essential-no-matter-what attitude can be very appealing to readers, especially the young. But it leads ACC, one of the "deans of hard SF" and a person well and truly educated in modern science, to scientifically preposterous positions, as exemplified by his know-nothing "Additional Note" to Imperial Earth in which he borrows what he calls the "Bradbury Defense" against someone who points out a basic scientific error (in IE, utterly ignoring modern genetics): "So I hit him."
To my mind, then, Rendezvours with Rama, with in its comparative omission of magical homocentricism, is the least typical of ACC, yet his best book. The hard SF produces awe and the fact that the universe ignores homo sapiens is as sobering as the visit to 30,000,000 in The Time Machine.
Nonetheless, in my SF course, which takes an historical approach, I use CE because it is captivating, provocative, and typical of this crucial writer when he was making his mark on the field. Also, it's always fun to wonder if ACC did or didn't intend the ending to be "happy," whether or not it is "happy," and what difference our sense of authorial intention makes in our reading.
In short, the book (even with the new opening) seems to work well for the course and for my students.
"'Enjoy them while you may....'"
Eric S. Rabkin
Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and
Professor of English Language and Literature
Univ of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1003
From: sfra-l-bounces at wiz.cath.vt.edu [mailto:sfra-l-bounces at wiz.cath.vt.edu] On Behalf Of sfra-l-request at wiz.cath.vt.edu
Sent: Sunday, August 28, 2011 12:00 PM
To: sfra-l at wiz.cath.vt.edu
Subject: SFRA-L Digest, Vol 13, Issue 24
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