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Monday, February 11, 2019

The Lost worlds of 2001

2001 A Space Odyssey was conceived by Stanley Kubrick to be the proverbial “good Science Fiction movie”. Kubrick optioned 5 short stories (the Sentinel is the only one that was used) written by Arthur C Clarke and in 1965 Clarke wrote a proto novel. The idea was that the project would take 2 years and the novel and film would come out about the same time with the novel first. As it was the project took 4 years and the film came out a few months earlier.

The Lost worlds of 2001 was a book Clarke wrote later that tells some stories of working with Kubrick. It has a book that has LONG been on my to read agenda shall we say over 20 years ? 😉 It is no longer in print and I procured a second hand copy.

What surprised me is that the book is not so much made up of reminisces about the project as extracts of different versions of the novel during the 4 year process. As a Clarke fan this is much more interesting and the published novel would have been very different. Unfortunately the extracts are from different periods so it is hard to tell what we would have got. All we can tell is if Clarke had written the novel without Kubrick’s influence we would have got a very different 2001.

I would certainly like to have read Clarke’s original novel which I’d imagine would have been something nearer to Rendezvous with Rama in style. There is a lot more dialog in Clarke’s efforts and we find out more about the back story of the astronauts and we get glimpses of the Aliens when they meet Moonwatcher in the beginning of the story. As Clarke acknowledges the version as written/filmed, by dropping the backstory/dialog, will date less quickly.

2001 is acknowledged by critics as a classic SF film, but I suspect it is more critically acclaimed than loved. The published novel is a good entry point as it makes things clearer but it is slightly different in the film than go to Jupiter whereas in the book they go on to Saturn. I suspect they just ran out of time in making the film. However 2001 is a good book not a great one in my opinion. 

Although it took 4 years of Clarke’s life it was undoubtedly a worthwhile investment. After 2001 came out he became by far the most famous Science Fiction writer in the world and he signed a 3 book deal for $500,000 which at the time would have shocked his fellow pros.

If you are a fan of the book/film or of Clarke this is worth reading but it left me wanting to read Clarke’s 2001.

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