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The Sentinel ()

In 1948, Arthur C. Clarke submitted a short story, The Sentinel, to a BBC contest;  which he did not win.  However, the story was published in the Avon Science Fiction and Fantasy Reader in 1951, and in 1964 he returned to the story and began expanding it into a novel.  He and the filmmaker Stanley Kubrick used this as the basis for a movie script which, in 1968, became 2001 : A Space Odyssey; for which both received Oscar nominations.

Especially considering the opacity for which the movie is notorious, the story is remarkably spare and straightforward.  The narrator, a lunar geologist, recalls cooking sausage one morning at a research base on the Moon, when the rising sun revealed a metallic glimmer on the rock wall of Mare Crisium.  He and a compatriot climbed the crater rim and found :

    [A] roughly pyramidal structure, twice as high as a man, that was set in the rock like a gigantic,
    many-faceted jewel.

Though they initially believed it to be a relic of a lost lunar civilization (notice it is much different than the black obelisks which were eventually used in the movie), they soon realized that it must have been placed there billions of years ago by an advanced race from another planet.  It took twenty years, but finally they were able to penetrate a protective shield around the crystal by using atomic upon it.  Now they understand the structure to have been a kind of sentinel, waiting to alert the beings who placed it there that finally the human race has achieved a sufficient level of development to be worthy of their notice.

I particularly like the way that this tale, written by a renowned futurist at the dawn of the space age, actually resonates with age old religious concerns.  The simple idea at its core is that it is by increasing our knowledge and developing our technological prowess that we will become superior beings, even gods.  The geologist sagely worries, as must anyone who recalls the Fall of Man and the Tower of Babel, that the beings who left behind this early warning signal may even be jealous of our advances and may not be all that happy to find that they finally have company.  Like all of the best tales of the fantastic, The Sentinel, though ostensibly about the future, illuminates the very mundane concerns we've always had about the nature of our being and our role in the order of things.


Grade: (A)


Book-related and General Links:
    -ARTHUR CHARLES CLARKE (1917-)  pseudonyms: Charles Willis, E.G. O'Brien (kirjasto)
    -The Arthur C. Clarke Foundation
    -Arthur C. Clarke Foundation of the U. S.
    -FEATURED AUTHOR : Arthur C. Clarke (NY Times Book Review)0
    -ESSAY : The Ascent of Man (Arthur C. Clarke, 12/31/00, Books Unlimited uk)
    -ESSAY : In The Beginning Was Jupiter (Arthur C. Clarke, NY Times Book Review, 1983)
    -INTERVIEW : The World Keeps Up With Arthur Clarke (S. James Blackman,, December 1999)
    -INTERVIEW : An Odyssey of Sorts (Fred Guterl, Discover, 1997)
    -INTERVIEW : 2001 Double Take: I wasTeenage Centenarian  (Jeff Greenwald, Wired)
    -Literary Research Guide: Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - )
    -Sir Arthur C. Clarke at
    -Arthur C. Clarke Unauthorized Homepage
    -PROFILE : Man on the moon : He wrote 2001 with Stanley Kubrick, he inspired Star Trek and the satellite revolution. Now Arthur C Clarke lives in Sri Lanka, plugged into e-mail, fighting accusations of paedophilia, and living in the past (Tim Adams, September 12, 1999, The Observer)
    -PROFILE : Arthur C. Clarke, big-picture man (JANE SULLIVAN, The Age)
    -PROFILE : Salon People | Arthur C. Clarke (Salon)
    -PROFILE : Colombo Journal; A Nonfiction Journey to a More Peaceful World  (JOHN F. BURNS, The New York Times)
    -ESSAY : RANDOM MUSINGS  On Arthur C. Clarke  (Robert J. Sawyer, SF Writer)
    -ESSAY : HUMANITY'S  SURROGATE SPACE  PROGRAM : Science fiction master Arthur C. Clarke agrees that if we can't cruise outer space ourselves, "Star Trek" is the next best thing to being there. (JEFF GREENWALD, Salon)
    -LYRICS : David of the White Rock
    -REVIEW : of 2001: A Space Odyssey By Arthur C. Clarke (ELIOT FREMONT-SMITH , NY Times, July 5, 1968)
    -REVIEW : of 2010: Odyssey Two (1983)(Gerald Jonas, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of 2061: Odyssey Three (1987)(Gerald Jonas, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of 3001 The Final Odyssey By Arthur C. Clarke  (1997) (RICHARD BERNSTEIN, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of 3001 The Final Odyssey. By Arthur C. Clarke (John Allen Paulos, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE COLLECTED STORIES OF ARTHUR C. CLARKE By Arthur C. Clarke (Thomas Disch, LA Times)

    -BUY IT : 2001 : A Space Odyssey (1968) DVD (
    -FILMOGRAPHY : Arthur C. Clarke (Imdb)
    -INFO : 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)  (Imdb)
    -The 2001 Internet Resource Archive
    -REVIEW : of 2001 : A Space Odyssey (Renata Adler, NY Times, April 4, 1968)

    -Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999)(kirjasto)
    -FILMOGRAPHY : Stanley Kubrick (Imdb)
    -BUY IT: Spartacus (1960) DVD (
    -BUY IT: Spartacus (1960) VHS (
    -INFO: Spartacus (1960)(imdb)
    -INFO: Mr Showbiz Movie Guide: Spartacus
    -INFO: Spartacus (Noam Chomsky)
    -MOVIE GUIDE: (Teach with Movies)
    -ESSAY: Masculinity in Dune, Spartacus, and Lawrence of Arabia
    -REVIEW: of Spartacus (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
    -REVIEW: of STANLEY KUBRICK A Biography By Vincent LoBrutto (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of THE CENSORSHIP PAPERS: Movie Censorship Letters From the Hays Office, 1934 to 1968. By Gerald Gardner (John Gross, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of THE CENSORSHIP PAPERS Movie Censorship Letters From the Hays Office, 1934 to 1968. By Gerald Gardner (Walter Goodman, NY Times Book Review)