When you think of science fiction cinema, the chances are that you think of 2001. It's a classic of the genre, the triumph which other films about space travel aspire to live up to. It was one of Stanley Kubrick's greatest achievements, but it would never have happened without a second genius, the remarkable writer and futurist Arthur C Clarke.
Born in the Somerset town of Minehead in 1917, Clarke was always fascinated by the stars. He started writing fiction at the age of 33 and quickly established a reputation as a visionary. This went far beyond the ordinary bounds of literature. Amongst other things, Clarke was the first person to develop the idea of satellite relay communications. It's fair to say that, without him, modern life would be very different.
Clarke's first venture into film came in 1968 when he adapted his own short story, The Sentinel, into the film 2001. Later, 2010 was based on his follow-up novel, which he always referred to not as a sequel but as a variation on a theme. The 1994 film Trapped In Space was based on another of his short stories.
Most recently, Clarke's work had come to the attention of Morgan Freeman, who planned to launch his new production company with an adaptation of the classic Rendezvous With Rama. That project has now been confirmed with David Fincher directing, and should reach screens in 2009. Sadly, the author will never get to see it. He died of lung failure in the early hours of this morning in a hospital near his home in Sri Lanka.
"He was a great science fiction writer, a very good scientist, a great prophet and a very dear friend - I'm very, very sad that he's gone." said astronomer Patrick Moore.