Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) was a celebrated British science fiction writer who became very famous when one of his books was made into the 1968 movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, directed by Stanley Kubrick. Clarke was one of the “Big Three” of science fiction; the other two were Robert Heinlein and Issac Asimov.
An atheist who once said “I don’t believe in God or an afterlife,” Clarke was hostile to religion. He said that “One of the great tragedies of mankind is that morality has been hijacked by religion” and that religion is the “Most malevolent and persistent of all mind viruses. We should get rid of it as quick as we can.”
I had thought it curious that Clarke, a Brit, emigrated to Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) — a desperately poor country in S.E. Asia where the average per capita GDP in 1961 was US$582. There he lived for most of his life from 1956 until his death 52 years later in 2008 — a world-famous foreigner who was made chancellor of the Meratuwa University and to whom the government conferred tax-free status. We are told his move was “largely to pursue his interest in scuba diving,” but in his biography of Stanley Kubrick, author John Baxter cites Clarke’s homosexuality as a reason for his emigration, due to Sri Lanka’s more tolerant laws with regard to homosexuality.
I was once a scifi fan and had read Clarke’s books, including his much-lauded 1953 novel, Childhood’s End, and was repulsed by it. The book was an expansion of Clarke’s short story, Guardian Angel — about the arrival on Earth of mysterious but benign aliens who had been humanity’s guardians, which began a golden age of utopia on Earth. But the benign “Overlords” refused to reveal themselves to humanity, promising they would do so after 50 years when humans have become used to their presence. It turns out that humanity’s virtuous guardians look like the traditional Christian image of the devil: large bipeds with cloven hooves, leathery wings, horns, and tails.
In other words, Clarke’s beneficent devils are a variation on the notion that the much-maligned Lucifer, the “morning star,” is actually a benevolent and well-meaning being who brought knowledge, enlightenment and civilization to mankind.
Now, I finally know why Clarke moved to Sri Lanka and why I find Childhood’s End so repugnant.
The BBC reports that mere days before Prince Charles’ knighting of Arthur C. Clarke on February 4, 1998, the London Sunday Mirror had published a story that Clarke, then 80 years old, was a pedophile.
The Sunday Mirror story was a purported interview with Clarke in his Sri Lanka home, in which he said there’s nothing wrong with an adult having sex with children who’ve reached puberty. Clarke is quoted as saying:
“Once they have reached the age of puberty, it is OK… It doesn’t do any harm. I am trying to think of the youngest boy I have ever had because, of course, you can’t tell it here. I think most of the damage comes from the fuss made by hysterical parents afterwards. If the kids don’t mind, fair enough.”
The Sunday Mirror story sparked outraged protests in Sri Lanka.
Referring to a law on prevention of abuse of children below the age of 16 which had been unanimously passed by Sri Lanka’s parliament in October 1995, Maureen Seneviratne, co-ordinator of a children’s rights NGO called Peace (Protection of Environment and Children Everywhere), said, “I am amazed why the law has not been enforced as far as Clarke was concerned. Why do we have strong laws in Sri Lanka?”. Under the new law, which was put in place after a public outcry over pedophilia and child prostitution, pedophilia of a child under the age of 16 carries a minimum sentence of seven years imprisonment and a maximum of 20 years.
Seneviratne said her group had heard rumors about Clarke’s pedophile activities, but being a small NGO, her organization could not take it up as that would be like ”tilting at giants who have written books and been made chancellors of universities. It would have been like signing our own death warrant.”
According to Peter Popham of the UK Independent, Clarke claimed he had not been sexually active for 20 years. But the head of current affairs at the Sri Lankan Broadcasting Company — a friend of Clarke — said Clarke was still having sex with boys “a few months ago”.
“There are seedy aspects of foreign involvement with Sri Lanka. Elsewhere in Asia, paedophilia means sex tourism. In Sri Lanka some Europeans have come into the country posing – and even performing – as businessmen or philanthropists. They set up homes close to the idyllic west or south coast beaches, and also close to communities of impoverished former fishermen. They then win the trust of local boys and begin abusing them, paying them tiny sums of money in return.
A German man is serving a two-year sentence and two other cases are going through the courts, and up to 100 suspected paedophiles are deported every year. […]
Clarke has indeed been a wonderful fairy godfather for Sri Lanka. He set up the Arthur Clarke Centre for Modern Technologies 15 years ago with the money he received with a Marconi International Fellowship, and in a country that is still in many cases crushingly poor it is an inspiring success. Thanks to the centre, and Clarke’s generosity with his contacts, many Sri Lankan scientists punch well above their nation’s weight in research and development.”
Seneviratne said as many as 7,000 children were involved at any one time in Sri Lanka’s sex trade:
“Previous governments didn’t even look into it, because all they were concerned about was tourism. When we began working on the problem six years ago people thought the foreign paedophile was a wonderful fairy godfather giving out presents – so why were we rocking the boat? People were only outraged when the facts were brought to light.”
Here’s a thought: The Sunday Mirror is a UK newspaper, and libel laws there make it much easier to sue publications than in the U.S. But Clarke didn’t sue. The BBC also reported that the Sunday Mirror said they have the tape of the interview.
Bizarrely, around the same time as the Sunday Mirror‘s story on Arthur C. Clarke, David Asimov, son of the late Isaac Asimov — one of science fiction’s Big Three — was arrested for possession of child porn.
Luke Reiter reports for ZDnet that on March 5, 1998, California’s Santa Rosa Police Department arrested David Asimov, 46, and seized more than 4,000 computer disks and videotapes from his Bennett Ridge home. Asimov was charged with four federal counts of possession of child pornography with each count carrying a five year sentence.
Sonoma County Deputy District Attorney Gary Medvigy said:
“There were thousands of disks, thousands of videos. Anything imaginable regarding sex between human beings and human beings, or human beings and animals, was there. Whatever your imagination can conjure up, he had it.”
On March 28, 2001, after David Asimov pled guilty to two counts in a plea bargain deal, U.S. District Court Judge Maxine M. Chesney sentenced him to only six months’ home detention with electronic monitoring and three years’ probation for possessing child pornography.
According to Phil Jayhan of LetsRollForums, “Asimov’s child porn stash was so big many child victims and perpetrators would have taken a fall, had Asimov been zealously prosecuted at trial.”
H/t independenceday of Voat