I grew up in the 1950s as an avid reader of science fiction. Right from the beginning, I took such a liking to stories by Arthur C. Clarke that I bought everything he put out.

Unlike many others, who fantasized about things impossible, Clarke always wrote with his slide rule in hand (prehistoric prototype of the calculator for all you young'uns out there who missed the good old days.) Everything he wrote had that tangible touch of realism.

While occasionally he reached out beyond the solar system and toyed with the unknown and sometimes the mystical, it was his solar system fiction that made the deepest impression on me.

Many think of Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" as the classic of lunar science fiction. But I enjoyed Clarke's "Earthlight" and "A Fall of Moondust" much more. Plus I disliked many of the recurrent themes in Heinlein's writings. It is Clarke's Moon novels, including 2001, that inspired me to try to get the feel of what it would be like, really, to be working, living, playing on the Moon. Moon Miners' Manifesto owes much to the inspiration I got from reading him.

Space Elevator fans will find his Fountains of Paradise a must read. Fans of O'Neill type space settlements will find themselves in heaven, reading his "Rendezvous with Rama," about an ancient space settlement that wanders into the solar system from somewhere far beyond. The sequels are good too, but as often the case, it is the first of the series that is a classic.

Clarke also wrote stories about Earth and if you are a fan of whales, "Deep Range" is a must read.

It was easy for me to keep track of Clarke's age. We were both December born, exactly 20 years apart.

I never met him, but I do remember listening him talk to us fans at a science fiction convention in Milwaukee in the mid to late 1980s.

As someone who inspired my love of the Moon, Mars too, and of course, Europa, I owe him much. We all do. May he reach the stars before us and light the way!

Peter Kokh, March 19, 2008