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The Shining Ones


Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) was known both for writing the hardest of hard science fiction stories and also for visionary far-future stories showing the influence of Olaf Stapledon. One of his passions was the sea, demonstrated by his being an enthusiastic SCUBA diver, by the nonfiction books he wrote on the subject, and such stories as “Big Game Hunt” and “The Man Who Ploughed the Sea” (both in Tales from the White Hart), the novelet “The Deep Range” (later incorporated in his novel with the same title), and other works, such as the story which follows this introduction.

In Astounding Days, his memoirlike salute to the magazine Astounding Science-Fiction, Clarke discusses the possibility of very large creatures of the deeps which are still unknown to us. After noting that the few specimens of the celebrated giant squid that have washed ashore may not represent full-grown adults, who might be up to one hundred and fifty feet in length according to one expert, he cited evidence that even bigger creatures might be hiding below the waves. In 1896 a badly decayed sea dweller washed ashore, weighing in at six or seven tons. It was thought to be a dead whale, and samples were taken and preserved. When one of the fragments was examined in 1971, the creature turned out to be an octopus, possibly two hundred feet in size. Incidentally (or perhaps not), shortly before I wrote this introduction, news came out about a Great White, the superstar of sharks since Jaws, that had been tagged with a tracking device and was suddenly pulled down into really deep water, as if grabbed by a more formidable predator. The tracking device, without the shark attached, later washed up on a beach. With that cheering thought, I leave you to Sir Arthur’s story of yet another marine titan . . .

Known for being one of the “Big Three” writers of modern science fiction (along with Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov), co-author of and technical advisor for the now-classic movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, author of many best-selling novels, commentator on CBS’s coverage of the Apollo missions, and winner of numerous awards, Sir Arthur C. Clarke surely needs no introduction (though I just snuck one in anyway). In a technical paper in 1945, he was first to describe how geosynchronous satellites could relay broadcasts from the ground around the world, bringing a new era in global communications and television. His novels are too numerous to list here (but I’ll plug three of my favorites: The City and the Stars, Childhood’s End, and Earthlight), let alone his many short stories. He was equally adept at non-fiction, notably in his The Exploration of Space in the early 1950s, his frequently reprinted Profiles of the Future, and another bunch of books also too numerous to mention. So, instead of not mentioning them further, I’ll just say, go thou and read.

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