Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Hal Clement Died Tuesday Night

I got the news on Thursday in my email that Hal Clement (his real name was Harry C. Stubbs) had passed away in his sleep. It was a bit of a shock, since the last time I saw the man, he was promoting his newest novel. That was in July, at Confluence, and he was not only looking healthy but feisty. I will remember him that way -- having fun, teaching people, and unafraid to put forward his views. (Seldom has the appearance of an anti-Sherlockian on a Sherlock Holmes panel been so entertaining and informative.)

He was best known for his worldbuilding, especially in the tour-de-force novel Mission of Gravity, but he was also an artist and fan. (*Note for non-SF fans: 'worldbuilding' means designing a planet for use in a story. It is an art to figure out something that works scientifically and also fits the theme of the work.)

The Boston Globe's obituary quoted him as saying, "The main difference between science fiction and the rest of literature is science fiction's higher standards of realism." Heh. Yep, that was Hal Clement.

John Clute's obit in The Independent is as usual both accurate and the product of crack. I don't think Hal Clement was nearly as dry a personality as Clute thinks. Like many others of his generation and fandom, he didn't believe in letting people know everything he was thinking and feeling. I was somewhat disappointed that I got to see so little of his depths, but I never doubted they were there. Calm quietness is not congenial to some people today, but that's just too bad for them. (For myself, I admire but I do not imitate, I'm afraid.)

Here is his obituary from SFWA, which is where I got the links to the other notable obits. The inevitable comment in fandom was on the coincidence of the solar flares and resulting auroras with the man's death. Harold Feld wrote"An SF Author Passes" on this theme.

Title: An SF Author Passes
Tune: "An Astrologer's Song" by Kipling/Fish

To the Heavens above us, oh look and behold!
The Sun in her anguish sheds tears of pure gold.
All stars and all planets join Terra in grief.
For one of her brightest souls sadly must leave.

The cosmos bears witness when great ones expire!
The Northern Lights dance as a funeral pyre!
The Sun and the Earth weave celestial shrouds,
As Terra is covered in ionic clouds.

Hal Clement we called him, though Stubbs was his name.
His smile won him friends while his pen won him fame.
A teacher, a mentor, an artist, and more,
The Sun feels his passing and shakes to her core.

Science, he taught, is not lifeless and dry.
He wrote tales of wonder; he painted the sky.
He served country in war; he taught children in peace.
Small wonder the Heavens now mark his release

The Sun flares in agony sending forth storms,
The new moon is sickly, the atmosphere warms,
All stars and all planets join Terra in grief
For one of her brightest souls sadly must leave.

Goodbye, Hal Clement. May you dwell in the house of the Worldmaker forever and ever.


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