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2001 IN 2001: A LOOK AT CLARKE'S CLASSICS

CINESCAPE looks back at the literary series that first took us to 2001 and beyond

By James T. Voelpel     August 20, 2001


SF grandmaster Arthur C. Clarke and film director Stanley Kubrick looked into the future for 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
© N/A
The year 2001 is the big one for those within the genre universe, seeing as it's the setting for Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick's landmark film 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. It is perhaps surprising that more attention has not been paid to this classic of science fiction cinema; even Warner Brothers announced they were canceling the re-release of the film, and this after they had re-mastered a 70-mm print which was shown at the Berlin Film Festival a pity indeed. This leaves 2001 as a year when we were supposed to see two Kubrick films in theatres only to get .5 of one (the box office disappointment A.I.). But the first odyssey is not the beginning or the end of this much beloved story. Arthur C. Clarke published a short story before the release of the film and three novel sequels following it. CINESCAPE looks at all the versions and sequels of what has been called the greatest science fiction story of all time.


THE SENTINEL
The odyssey began in the early '60s with a short story called THE SENTINEL. This familiar story begins when an enigmatic monolith is found buried on the moon. Scientists are amazed to discover that it's at least 3 million years old. What's more, after it's unearthed the artifact releases a powerful signal aimed at Saturn. What sort of alarm has been triggered? To find out, a manned spacecraft the Discovery is sent to investigate. Its highly trained crew is assisted by a self-aware computer, the omniscient HAL 9000. But HAL's programming has been patterned after the human mind a little too well. He is capable of guilt, neurosis, even murder, and he controls every single one of Discovery's components. The crew must overthrow this digital psychotic if they hope to make their rendezvous with the entities that are responsible not just for the monolith, but maybe for human civilization itself.


2001

Arthur C. Clarke's cosmic 21st century saga began with 2001, an SF classic.

Shortly after it was published, Stanley Kubrick contacted Clarke about creating a "good" sci-fi movie. Hollywood was still exiting the era of flying saucer and alien attack films and considered SF nothing but drive-in fare. According to Clarke, Kubrick had already devoured several libraries of science fiction. He had also acquired rights to a property with the intriguing title SHADOW OF THE SUN, but instead decided to create something entirely new. Clarke gave him a list of his shorter pieces, and they decided that THE SENTINEL contained a basic idea on which they could build. Instead of starting on a screenplay, the partners decided they should write a novel first. They began months of brainstorming, after which Clarke would spend hours in room 1008 of the Chelsea Hotel in New York writing the novel. Clarke also attributes some of his other stories as source material for 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY ENCOUNTER AT DAWN and four others helped Clarke and Kubrick fill gaps while the lion's share of the story was composed of new material.

At one point Kubrick and Clarke were writing the screenplay and the novel simultaneously; Clarke even rewrote parts of the novel after viewing unfinished rushes from the film (a very expensive literary practice according to him). The finished novel/film had the same basic story points from THE SENTINEL but expanded them in a few key areas. The monolith's role in prehistoric Earth and the experiences of Dave Bowman as he evolves into the Star Child are examples of this tinkering, as is the substitution of Jupiter for Saturn in the original story. After the movie and novel were released in 1968, science fiction was looked upon differently, especially once Kubrick and Clarke garnered an Oscar nomination for the 2001 screenplay. This proved that science fiction was a genre that could be handled intelligently and still be mass marketed. Clarke felt that would be the last we heard from Monoliths, Dave Bowman or the HAL 9000, and he continued his prolific writing career.


2010

The secret of the Monolith was revealed in Clarke's 2010. Or was it?

Clarke's thoughts returned to the Monolith after viewing pictures of Jupiter taken by the Voyager probe in 1979-80. These close looks at the solar System's largest planet gave the science fiction Grand Master new ideas for a return to his 2001 universe, and in 1982, Clarke released 2010: ODYSSEY TWO. The story concerned a joint U.S./Soviet mission to Jupiter on board the Leonov. Their mission: to find out what happened to the Discovery and investigate the Monolith. Ahead of them are the Chinese, with their ship the Tsien racing to be the first at Jupiter. Along for the ride with the Russians are Doctor Chandra, the programmer of the HAL 9000; Kurnow the engineer, who built the Discovery; and Heywood Floyd, the man in charge of the first disastrous mission to meet the Monolith. After the Chinese reach Jupiter's moon Europa and land their ship, a strange "creature" destroys it. This thing turns out to be some fast-moving plant attracted by their ship lights. The last Chinese survivor radios the Leonov: "There is life on Europa!"

Floyd and Chandra find out that HAL "malfunctioned" because the government had told it to lie to the crew, an instruction which its programming would not let it do without difficulty. Dave Bowman returns to the Discovery to inform the crew that something "special" will be happening on Jupiter and they must leave immediately; the crew of the Leonov decide to heed Bowman's warning. Because their launch window will not arrive for a few weeks, they must use the repaired Discovery as a booster. This turns the villain of 2001, the repaired Hal 9000, into the hero of 2010, as he sacrifices his existence to save the Leonov. In the end, the Monolith's true purpose on Jupiter is exposed as it helps ignite the planet into a small star (afterwards called Lucifer), melting the ice on Europa's surface. Dave Bowman contacts Hal to send one final message: "All these worlds are yours except Europa. Attempt no landing there. Use them together. Use them in peace."

As the monolith had once helped life on Earth millions of years in the past, it was now doing the same for Europa. This was the perfect ending for the 2001 universe and was quickly adapted into a film by director Peter Hyams. Arthur C. Clarke helped Hyams with the screenplay using early modem technology way back in 1984. This was necessitated by Clarke's situation he had taken up residence in Sri Lanka, and Hyams was in Los Angeles. The movie, starring Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, Keir Dullea returning as Dave Bowman, and Douglas Rain returning as the voice of HAL, remained faithful to the novel except for the omission of the Chinese subplot. Not regarded on the same level as the classic 2001, and a far more straightforward adventure film than the surreal mindscape of the first movie, the film is still an excellent, intelligently crafted piece of science fiction. Once again we thought this was end of the Star Child's saga...but again we would be proven wrong.


2061

Clarke's star-spanning saga continued in 2061: Odyssey Three

While 2010 was inspired by the real-life Voyager missions, the second sequel to 2001 seemed to be motivated by less idealistic reasons. In 1988, 2061: ODYSSEY THREE was published, once again following the exploits of Heywood Floyd. Floyd is now a man over a hundred years old who can never return to the gravity of Earth, and must once again deal with Dave Bowman and a newly independent HAL (a buddy of the Star Child) as a ship has crashed on the off-limits Europa. Floyd helps to mount a rescue mission to this forbidden moon and discovers many of its secrets, including a mountain made of diamond left over from the core of Jupiter. This book exhibits the writing style of Clarke in the latter part of his career, featuring lots of neat and well explained scientific ideas with a distinct lack of drama or suspense. The reader never gets the feeling that any of the characters are in danger, but the things they uncover about the Monolith's part in a planet's evolution are very interesting. The book has no real lasting impact, unlike its two predecessors, and you never really understand what the point behind it all. Clarke once again retired the characters, but this time anyone reading 2061 realized that it was probably not the end.


3001

3001 concluded the story of the Monolith and brought an end to Arthur C. Clarke's mind-expanding series

Nine years would pass until 3001: THE FINAL ODYSSEY would be published in 1997. Admittedly, the fourth book has a great premise: Frank Poole, the astronaut murdered by HAL in 2001, is found frozen in space and reanimated. Frank awakens to find he's a celebrity in an age of peace and plenty, with space elevators, inertia-less space drives, and plug-in-your-brain teaching devices. Frank visits Jupiter (transformed into the mini-sun Lucifer in 2010: Odyssey Two) and ponders Europa, where a giant Monolith is attempting to develop intelligence among the native lifeforms. There he also meets the strange entity composed of Star Child Dave Bowman fused with a copy of HAL. Dubbed Halman by Frank, the entity warns of bad news arriving from the Monolith's guiding intelligences 450 light-years distant: they've decided to destroy humankind. Europa's Monolith, though, is just a supercomputer that is neither intelligent nor self-aware, so Frank's associates decide to use Halman as a Trojan horse to infect the Monolith with an irresistible computer virus that then causes all the Monoliths to vanish.

This is another novel with some intriguing ideas of what our world will be like a thousand years from now, but it lacks suspense. Like some of Clarke's RAMA novels, 3001 is more of a travelogue about Poole's journey through the fourth millennium. The story arc of the Monolith's malfunctioning downright idiotic these objects are supposed to be technology and spirituality wrapped into one, not mere toasters. The Monoliths are incomprehensible to us that was their magic in 2001 and 2010 and they should not be easily destroyed by some human-made computer virus. The title of the novel does tell us for certain that this is the end of the saga, but the classic story goes out with a whimper instead of a bang. Rumors abound in Hollywood that 3001 will be coming to a theatre near you, although 2010 was not exactly a blockbuster, but we shall see.

The 2001 saga is another series that teaches us what sequels can do to an original idea; the first novel and film are classics, the first book/movie sequel quite good, and the rest forgettable. In this title year, however, we should once more look upon 2001 as one of the most important books/movies in science fiction history. Demonstrating that the genre could be handled with intelligence and as a work of art, 2001 set a new standard in literary and cinematic terms. Without it, we might still be watching EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS instead of BLADE RUNNER.















THE SENTINEL

Grade: A

Author(s): Arthur C. Clarke


Publisher: Ibooks


Price: $14.95

 

















2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

Grade: A

Author(s): Arthur C. Clarke


Publisher: ROC (Re-issue)


Price: $6.99

 

















2010

Grade: B

Author(s): Arthur C. Clarke


Publisher: Ballantine Books


Price: $6.99

 

















2061

Grade: C+

Author(s): Arthur C. Clarke


Publisher: Ballantine Books


Price: $6.99

 

















3001

Grade: C-

Author(s): Arthur C. Clarke


Publisher: Ballantine Books


Price: $12.95

 

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