2001 – A Space Odyssey

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Homage to its Creator from Bert van Eijck

The book is Clarke’s – the film Kubrick’s – and each is a masterpiece. Both the book and the film were released in 1968 and their 30th anniversary was commemorated in the U.S. with a special postmark (left) issued at the Ropex ‘98 exhibition in Rochester, New York. 2001: A Space Odyssey is about HAL, a highly sophisticated computer who becomes paranoid and kills off all but one of the crew on board a spaceship in a mission to investigate Saturn.

According to the book HAL* is built in a computer plant in Urbana, Illinois on 12th January 1997. The local stamp club in this Midwestern town planned a special cover with imprinted in the design a fragment of the original text “I am HAL.. .Computer…” This with the personal approval of Arthur C. Clarke himself. The American post followed suit and put on sale an attractive stamp on 12 January 1997. The stamp club’s selection for their postal cover was a 32-cent stamp issued in recognition of computer technology. No better choice could have been made. The result is most commendable.

Arthur C. Clarke had to wait for a long time for postal recognition but at the grand old age of 80 an issue was finally dedicated to him by Sri Lanka, where he is now domiciled – not just a stamp, but a se-tenant pair of them. They show two portraits, his younger self on the left and amore recent version of him on the right and at the very centre his famous theory: place three or more artificial moons in orbit around Earth and you will have global coverage. It should be remembered that this was written in 1945, quite some years before the beginning of The Space Age.

Scientists went on to develop this futuristic concept. The reality is all too familiar: countless geostationary satellites delivering instant news coverage from the further flung corners of the world directly to televisions in homes across the globe. Truly wonderful!

Clarke has a host of science fiction works to his name, all premised on sound scientific reasoning. He was for year’s president of the prestigious British Space Travel Society and honorary member of the British Interplanetary Society. The Sri Lanka capital Colombo has been Clarke’s island home for more than thirty years now.

Illustrated (left) is an employee of the Sri Lanka post showing part of a sheet of the Clarke stamps. Clarke had been commemorated by the post prior to that. Not with a stamp, but with a postmark in 1995 and in Lasi, Romania. The occasion was a special anniversary. The postmark (left) seen here on a cover issued especially for this particular event along with a Europa stamp shows a wealth of related detail, a portrait of Clarke, the Earth with above it a number of satellites. The wording is a reminder of the considerable importance of Clarke’s 1945 theory.

A scene from the famous book ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ was also chosen to feature on a stamp, seen here as stamp 15 of a 16 stamp sheet (left) dedicate to science fiction. An issue limited to only 170,000 copies it was put on sale on 28 August 98 by the tiny alpine Republic of San Marino. Stamp 2 of the sheet carries the wording “La Guerra dei Mondi” better known to us the ‘War of the Worlds’ by H.G.Wells, a sci-fi novel about an invasion of Earth by Martians. The story broadcast on the radio in the U.S. in 1938 as though it were factual reporting caused panic to spread like wild fire. The public had been hoodwinked into believing that Martians had accomplished a surprise landing.

The man behind this Halloween stunt was none other than the yet-to-become famous actor Orson Wells. Three postmarks made available by the American post in 1998 brought this snippet of history of 60 years ago back to mind. The postmarks are from Rochester, NY (7th March) – complete with microphone; Howell New Jersey (31st October) – with Martian space ship and Pittsburgh Pennsylvania (31st October) showing Martians depicted as reptiles.

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