Arthur C. Clarke
The Lost Worlds of 2001
Sidgwick & Jackson, Paperback, 1972.
12mo. 240 pp. Foreword by Arthur C. Clarke [p. 11].
First published in 1972.
1. View of the Year 2000
2. Son of Dr. Strangelove
3. The Sentinel
4. Christmas, Shepperton
5. Monoliths and Manuscripts
6. The Dawn of Man
7. First Encounter
9. Gift from the Stars
10. Farewell to Earth
11. The Birth of HAL
12. Man and Robot
13. From the Ocean, from the stars
14. With Open Hands
16. Ancestral Voices
17. The Question
18. Midnight, Washington
19. Mission to Jupiter
20. Flight Pay
22. The Long Sleep
24. First Man to Jupiter
25. The Smell of Death
28. Jupiter V
29. Final Orbit
30. The Impossible Stars
31. Something Is Seriously Wrong with Space
32. Ball Game
33. Last Message
34. The Worlds of the Star Gate
41. Into the Night Land
42. Second Lesson
Note on the contents.
The book is a very curious mixture of fiction and non-fiction. Apart from the Foreword and the Epilogue, the contents can be split as follows:
- Chapters 1, 3, 7-10, 12-18, 20-33, 35-42 are fiction: leftovers, alternative versions, etc. that were supposed to be used in the writing of the novel but in the event were discarded. The only exception is the short story ''The Sentinel'' which was published as early as 1951. All other pieces apparently appear here for the first time.
- Chapters 2, 4-6, 11, 19 and 34 are non-fiction. They mostly serve as links between the fictional parts. The early chapters are mostly concerned with the genesis of the novel and the movie in parallel.
If you have the same defect of character as I do, namely if Arthur Clarke's classic science fiction novel 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is among the greatest experiences of your young adulthood, you should certainly read this book. First published in 1972, that is when the events were still fresh, ''The Lost Worlds of 2001'' is a detailed account of the strange working relationship between Arthur Clarke and Stanley Kubrick during the 1960s which produced a novel and a movie that have become absolute classics; curiously enough, both were born during the same time and the adaptation for the screen was actually released first, whereas the novel appeared a little later on the same year. I daresay this book might be quite boring for those movie fans who don't care for Arthur Clarke or his novel, but it sure makes an engrossing read for those who do the opposite. It contains lots of compelling and illuminating details about the origins of at least one masterpiece.
Since there is in this book quite a bit about the movie, I have to make something clear in the beginning: the extravagant praise usually accorded to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey I have always found frightfully perplexing. Now, I wish there was other say to say it, but there isn't: the movie is perfect crap! What exactly its classical status rests upon is an absolute mystery for me. It is a visual tour de force all right, but that's just about the only asset it might possibly have; except perhaps that some of its music is among the greatest ever composed; if, indeed, the movie has brought to more receptive ears the famous opening of Richard Strauss' magnificent tone poem Also Sprach Zarathustra, that's something; actually, this opening is famous more because of this movie than because of anything else, I think. As for the visual side, it is not nearly as impressive today as it must have been in 1968, of course, but it has aged surprisingly well. So much for the good sides though. For otherwise the movie is one failure after another. To begin with, a good many people have complained that when they saw it before the book, they didn't understand the ending at all - only later did the novel make it clear. This is as expected - for the ending is an incomprehensible mess. What's worse, the pace is appallingly slow - imagine a spaceship landing that lasts for full ten minutes, during which you can appreciate Strauss' famous waltz An der schönen blauen Donau, another musical masterpiece from the soundtrack; but even the greatest music cannot make the scene less tedious. The whole cast is downright horrible. Keir Dullea is as dull as a Dave Bowman as one could possibly imagine; the famous dramatic dialogue with HAL is ridiculously inept. The philosophical depth of the novel is completely, absolutely and overwhelmingly missing from the screen adaptation. Surely the movie must have been groundbreaking visually in 1968 - and perhaps not only visually indeed - but what is there to keep it in the stores forty years later I have not the least idea. I wonder how far it would have gone had it not been accompanied by the novel, first published few months after the world premiere.
Fortunately, it is with the novel, and especially with the long way how it became what it is, that Arthur Clarke is almost exclusively concerned in ''The Lost Worlds of 2001''; he does mention a number of details about the making of the movie but only in passing. One of the most remarkable things about the novel is that it gives one - or at least me - sense of perfect completeness and, moreover, the illusion of having been written almost at a single stroke. It is really unbelievable to read that it actually was the result of four years hard work and constant collaboration between Clarke and Kubrick; most of the time the latter was engaged in the shooting as well. Their initial plan was - as Arthur charmingly puts it - ''hilariously optimistic'': about two years. The fascinating thing is that the two great men often worked very closely together indeed: brainstorming, lots of new ideas accepted or discarded, numerous revisions of whole episodes mistakenly thought as finished, getting lost in blind alleys, phoning ''Ike Asimov'' for discussion of this or that, and so on and so forth, there were myriad of obstacles to be coped with. What makes such naturally dry matter a highly diverting read is the fact that Arthur Clarke is a wonderful writer, ingeniously combining effective simplicity with inimitable sense of humour. In addition to tons of witty remarks, the book also contains numerous entries copied from a ''log'' he kept during that time; most of these can almost make me choke with laughter; here are some favourites that probably capture the bacchanalian working atmosphere better than anything else:
May 28, 1964. Suggested to Stanley that ''they'' might be machines who regard organic life as a hideous disease. Stanley thinks this is cute and feels we've got something.
May 31. One hilarious idea we won't use. Seventeen aliens - featureless black pyramids - riding in open cars down Fifth Avenue, surrounded by Irish cops.
July 2-8. Averaging one or two thousand words a day. Stanley reads the first five chapters and says ''We've got a best seller here.''
July 12. Now we have everything - except the plot.
July 28. Stanley: ''What we want is a smashing theme of mythic grandeur.''
October 17. Stanley has invented the wild idea of slightly fag robots who create a Victorian environment to put our heroes at their ease.
Some psychotic who insists that Stanley must hire him has been sitting on a park bench outside the office for a couple of weeks, and occasionally comes to the building. In self-defense, Stan has secreted a large hunting knife in his briefcase.
October 1. Stanley phoned with another ending. I find I left his treatment in his house last night - unconscious rejection?
October 19. Collected by studio car, and spent all day working (or trying to work) with Stan. Despite usual crowds of people getting at him, long phone calls to Hollywood, and a ''work-to-rule'' the unions called, got a lot done and solved (again!) our main plot problems.
November 10. Accompanied Stan and the design staff into the Earth-orbit ship and happened to remark that the cockpit looked like a Chinese restaurant. Stan said that killed it instantly for him and called for revisions. Must keep away from the Art Department for a few days.
November 16. Long session with Stanley discussing script. Several good ideas, but I rather wish we didn't have any more.
Some things never change - or at least they didn't in the beginning of 1966:
March 20. Worked hard on the novel all day, and by 9 p.m. had completed messy final draft (what, again!).
April 2. Inserted a couple of hundred final (?) words into the MS, and tucked it away. As far as I'm concerned, it's finished.
''Alas, it wasn't.'' is the first sentence of the next paragraph. Indeed, it was just as well that Arthur didn't know at the time that more than two years would pass until the novel is finally published.
Just by the way, as an ardent admirer of Somerset Maugham, I cannot but remark on one of the few very serious entries from this diary. It comes in the end of 1965:
December 16. My 48th birthday - and Somerset Maugham dies. Trying to make something of this (last of the competition?).
Competition? Clarke and Maugham? One of the greatest science fiction writers and one of the greatest writers of fiction that has nothing to do with science? Both were astonishingly prolific, great storytellers, had highly personal and idiosyncratic styles - but here the similarities seem to end. Tantalising remark, open to a wide range of interpretations for sure. Certainly, however, it says something about Clarke's respectful attitude that he thought it worth his while to note Maugham's death, even though his colleague had stopped writing fiction 17 years before his demise at 91.
Going back to this lovely little book, ''The Lost Worlds of 2001'', what I am most impressed with is that it contains an enormous wealth of discarded material. It simply is unbelievable how much more was originally written than finally published. More than half of the chapters here consist of scenes and characters not to be found at all in the final version, and those who were retained were usually changed out of recognition in the process. It's been quite an adventure for me to learn (chapters 7-10) that the part about our ape ancestors originally included an extended communication with extraterrestrial creatures, most notably one Clindar, humanoid yet vastly different than humans, members of a race who explored the universe since the dawn of time, searching for signs of life - and encouraging the promising ones quite a bit; the whole episode was apparently dropped because it created a great disturbance in the make-up department. So it was quite amazing to know that HAL - perhaps the most (in)human board computer in all fiction - was in the beginning called Socrates (and even Athena for a while later) and really was a walking robot capable of great many things but of somewhat mediocre intelligence as well (Chapter 12); as Arthur describes it, he later ''lost mobility but gained enormously in intelligence''. Yet another fascinating subject, thoroughly developed in these early sketches but rather sketchy in the novel, is the background and characters of all members of the Discovery crew, many of them with different names here (Chapter 13). Indeed, chapters 12 to 18 consist of only part of the what Clarke calls ''Earthbound background'' - and what was limited in the final novel to few pages only. It makes a terrific read.
Such examples are literally numerous; they extend virtually to every part of the novel. On the one hand, I am very glad that Arthur Clarke decided to reprint all those ''lost'' parts. It would have been truly sad such gems to remain unpublished, for they are written in his typical style - witty but incisive - and can indeed be read almost as a collection of independent short stories (provided, of course, that one is familiar with the final novel). All of them make a riveting read indeed. On the other hand, however, I am happy that Arthur Clarke excised these chapters from the final novel, for otherwise the latter would surely have lost some of its unique brevity and mystical aura. As every great writer, not only did he have a great deal more material in store than he finally put down on paper, but Arthur Clarke very well knew what, where and how to cut.
Additional bonuses include the original opening chapter - View of the Year 2000 - which dates from 1964 but was later completely removed from the novel, and The Sentinel (chapter 3). This is of course the short story on which, so the well-known rumour has it, 2001 was based. It was written in 1948 for a competition of BBC but was never placed; later it served to a much better purpose firing the imaginations of both Clarke and Kubrick. It is a fine short story, mere ten pages long, which has been reprinted numerous times in anthologies and at least two collections of Arthur Clarke, but the author thought that it is essential enough for the final novel as to bear another reprint here. If anything, one can appreciate how far the tandem writer-director really went from this starting point. The Sentinel deals with the early stages - in the end of the XX century - of Moon exploration and, more specifically, with the discovery of an artifact - a pyramid - left there by an extraterrestrial civilisation long before life on earth even originated; its purpose was of course to signal that the living creatures on one obscure planet have reached the dawn of their space age and can travel the minute distance to their only natural satellite. Obviously, it has very little to do but with one tiny part of the final novel.
Throughout the book it seldom becomes clear how much Kubrick did contribute to the novel, but whether Clarke is deliberately evasive about that or not, I do not know - but I don't think so either. Though the director constantly wanted revisions, and some of them not only in the screenplay but even in the published version of the novel, Kubrick certainly wrote nothing of the book. But he gave some fine ideas. Arthur Clarke is positive at least that the title was entirely Kubrick's idea and so was the decision to kill the whole crew of Discovery except for Dave Bowman. Perhaps even Arthur Clarke himself didn't know exactly what came from whom first during those four years of hectic collaboration, no matter that he wrote ''The Lost Worlds of 2001'' in 1970, that is only two years after the movie and (few months later) the novel were officially released. Nowadays 2001 usually bears the subtitle ''Based on a screenplay by Arthur Clarke and Stanley Kubrick'', but the great sci-fi writer offers here another suggestion, which is at once a touching tribute to the director and a remarkably self-assured statement; and yet another hint at the complicated process that finally, and miraculously, produced nothing short of a masterpiece:
In theory, therefore, the novel would be written (with an eye on the screen) and the script would be derived from this. In practice, the result was far more complex; toward the end, both novel and screenplay were being written simultaneously, with feedback in both directions. Some parts of the novel had their final revisions after we had seen the rushes based on the screenplay based on earlier versions of the novel... and so on.
After a couple of years of this, I felt that when the novel finally appeared it should be ''by Arthur Clarke and Stanley Kubrick; based on the screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur Clarke'' - whereas the movie should have the credits reversed. This still seems the nearest approximation to the complicated truth.
It is complicated indeed! I no longer wonder that the movie came out such a mess, but I am downright astonished that the novel came out as tightly organised and powerful as it did. I wonder if Arthur Clarke, writing these words in 1970, had any idea that both works are destined to survive until year 2001 and beyond? Anyway, one thing is sure: if you're a real fan of 2001: A Space Odyssey, you will certainly find its ''lost worlds'' worthy of exploration. Compulsively readable and tremendously amusing book. Not a little stirring as well.