Writers I Admire – Part 3


John Ronald Reuel Tolkien



Arthur Charles Clark

Initially I considered writing separately about the two writers who mean the most to me. Then I thought no, as I place them equal first in my small list of favourite writers.

J.R.R. Tolkien was among other things a brilliant scholar. He was born on the 3rd of January 1892 in Bloemfontein in South Africa. He was a writer, poet, philologist, and Merton professor of English Literature and Language at Merton College, Oxford. He died on the 2nd of September 1973. On his death, his son Christopher began a work of love, sorting out and publishing many of his father’s unfinished works.

Whereas Arthur C. Clark was born on the 16th of December 1917 in Minehead, Somerset, here in England. In his case he was a science fiction writer, science writer, undersea explorer, inventor and television series host. Arthur died on the 19th of March, 2008 at home in his beloved Sri Lanka.

Tolkien’s list of academic achievements would fill a book. Suffice it to say that if it hadn’t been for his love of language, like millions of others, I would probably never have been fortunate enough to read his most famous works – The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion in my teens. Needless to say I was hooked!

His first civilian job after he returned from the First World War saw him working on The Oxford English Dictionary, compiling the history and etymology of words of Germanic origin. During the Second World War he applied for and got a job in the cryptographic department of the Foreign Office.

Clark is perhaps most famous for being co-writer of the screenplay for the movie 2001 – A Space Odyssey, considered by the American Film Institute to be one of the most influential films of all time. His other science fiction writings earned him a number of Hugo and Nebula awards, along with a large readership, making him into one of the towering figures of science fiction writing. During World War II from 1941 to 1946 he served in the Royal Air Force as a radar specialist and was involved in the early warning radar defence system, which contributed to the RAF’s success during the Battle of Britain.

He spent most of his wartime service working on Ground Control Approach (GCA) radar. Although GCA did not see much practical use during the war, it proved vital at the end of the war to the Berlin Airlift of 1948–1949. Initially he was an instructor on radar at No. 2 Radio School, RAF Yatesbury in Wiltshire. Eventually he was appointed chief training instructor at RAF Honiley in Warwickshire until he was demobbed at the cessation of hostilities.

My passion for all things science fiction is largely thanks to my father insisting I stop reading children’s books at the age of eight. I can’t honestly remember what my initial reaction was at the time. But I expect my bottom lip stuck out somewhat. To keep the peace he gave me one of Arthur’s books to read. From that day to this, once again I was hooked, this time by science fiction!

Both men were giants in their own fields as well as being the two finest writers in my list…

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