Entertainment Sci-fi

[1863] Of 2001: A Space Odyssey

Some rights reserved. By Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams

They do not make good films like this one anymore.

Books & printed materials Sci-fi

[1593] Of space elevator and Arthur C. Clarke

The one book that brought me to the path of environmentalism was Red Mars. The science fiction, along with Green Mars and Blue Mars as its sequels affected my worldview so profoundly. The Martian Trilogy as the three books are collectively known is more than an entertaining science fiction. It touches on various issues, ranging from the environment to technology, liberty to ethics, economics to politics, war to love. But I do not plan to write about the Martian Trilogy. Instead, I write to remember the great Arthur C. Clarke.

Is it not odd to remember Clarke through somebody else’s — Kim Stanley Robinson — work?

Not so.

I cannot recall where exactly it occurs in the trilogy but the space elevator played a central role in developing the plot of the Martian Trilogy. The facility was a symbol of colonization of Mars by humanity but it was hugely despised by some fraction of naturalized humans. These humans whom played pivotal role in making the colonization possible were the new environmentalists called the Reds. They would like to preserve Mars as it is while the Greens sought to terraform Mars into another Earth. Notice the word play. Great struggle immediately ensued with friends became foes and down came the space elevator.

There are many ideas that piqued my interest in the book and one of them is the space elevator. The idea of a vehicle transporting people and goods alike to and fro a planet and outer space sounds astoundingly amazing to me; it connects a geosynchronous spaceport to another surface-based port on a planet that acts as an anchor. In the Martian Trilogy, the spaceport was the Martian moon Phobos and the planet was Mars. Later, Earth itself had an elevator and that initiated greater space exploration and Solar System-wide colonization.

A space elevator is present in Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri but the superstructure does not have any real role in the turn-based game.

One book which the space elevator took the center stage was Arthur C. Clarke’s The Fountains of Paradise. While the idea of a space elevator first appeared in late 19th century, it was Clarke through this novel whom popularized the concept of space elevator.

The atmosphere of the novel is set in Sri Lanka though in the book, Clarke called it Taprobane. In any case, Taprobane is the ancient Greek name for Sri Lanka.

The storyline switches back and forth between Vannevar Morgan and Kalidasa; the former is the mastermind of the space elevator in the 22nd century while the latter is a prince of Taprobane seeking to construct a tower in ancient times. What ties the two characters together is ambition; building a monument in the face of opposition.

I will not speak so much of the elevator since I have done so just over 6 years ago. And I think, the best way to give respect to a great author is to encourage others to read his works rather than unfairly paraphrasing it. So, I recommend The Fountains of Paradise for your leisurely reading.