The Sentinel | Arthur C. Clarke (1951)

The next time you see the full moon high in the south, look carefully at its right-hand edge and let your eye travel upward along the curve of the disk. Round about two o’clock you will notice a small, dark oval: anyone with normal eyesight can find it quite easily. It is the great walled plain, one of the finest on the Moon, known as the Mare Crisium — the Sea of Crises. Three hundred miles in diameter, and almost completely surrounded by a ring of magnificent mountains, it had never been explored until we entered it in the late summer of 1996.

Our expedition was a large one. We had two heavy freighters which had flown our supplies and equipment from the main lunar base in the Mare Serenitatis, five hundred miles away. There were also three small rockets which were intended for short-range transport over regions which our surface vehicles couldn’t cross. Luckily, most of the Mare Crisium is very flat. There are none of the great crevasses so common and so dangerous elsewhere, and very few craters or mountains of any size. As far as we could tell, our powerful caterpillar tractors would have no difficulty in taking us wherever we wished to go.

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The Nine Billion Names of God | Arthur C. Clarke (1953)

“This is a slightly unusual request,” said Dr. Wagner, with what he hoped was commendable restraint. “As far as I know, it’s the first time anyone’s been asked to supply a Tibetan monastery with an Automatic Sequence Computer. I don’t wish to be inquisitive, but I should hardly have thought that your — ah — establishment had much use for such a machine. Could you explain just what you intend to do with it?”

“Gladly,” replied the lama, readjusting his silk robes and carefully putting away the slide rule he had been using for currency conversions. “Your Mark V Computer can carry out any routine mathematical operation involving up to ten digits. However, for our work we are interested in letters, not numbers. As we wish you to modify the output circuits, the machine will be printing words, not columns of figures.”

“I don’t quite understand….”

“This is a project on which we have been working for the last three centuries — since the lamasery was founded, in fact. It is somewhat alien to your way of thought, so I hope you will listen with an open mind while I explain it.”

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The Other Tiger | Arthur C. Clarke (1953)

“It’s an interesting theory,” said Arnold, “but I don’t see how you could ever prove it.” They had come to the steepest part of the hill and for a moment Webb was too breathless to reply.

“I’m not trying to,” he said when he had gained his second wind. “I’m only exploring its consequences.”

“Such as?”

“Well, let’s be perfectly logical and see where it gets us. Our only assumption, remember, is that the universe is infinite.”

“Right. Personally I don’t see what else it can be.”

“Very well. That means there must be an infinite number of stars and planets. Therefore, by the laws of chance, every possible event must occur not merely once but an infinite number of times. Correct?”

“I suppose so.”

“Then there must be an infinite number of worlds exactly like Earth, each with an Arnold and Webb on it, walking up this hill exactly as we are doing now, saying these same words.”

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Who was Arthur C. Clarke? | Author Biography

Arthur C. Clarke was a science fiction writer, futurist, inventor, undersea explorer and television presenter. For much of the twentieth century, he was considered one of the “Big Three” writers of science fiction, alongside Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein. Watch the video above to find out more…

To see and read more flash fiction stories from the pen of Arthur C. Clarke, take a look at our Arthur C. Clarke YouTube playlist below.

The Haunted Space Suit | Arthur C. Clarke (1958)

The space suits we use on the station are completely different from the flexible affairs men wear when they want to walk around on the moon. Ours are really baby space ships, just big enough to hold one man. They are stubby cylinders, about seven feet long, fitted with low-powered propulsion jets, and have a pair of accordion-like sleeves at the upper end for the operator’s arms.

As soon as I’d settled down inside my very exclusive space craft, I switched on power and checked the gauges on the tiny instrument panel. All my needles were well in the safety zone, so I lowered the transparent hemisphere over my head and sealed myself in. For a short trip like this, I did not bother to check the suit’s internal lockers, which were used to carry food
and special equipment for extended missions.

It was at that moment, as I launched myself out into the abyss, that I knew that something was horribly wrong.

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Reunion | Arthur C. Clarke (1971)

People of Earth, do not be afraid. We come in peace–and why not? For we are your cousins; we have been here before.

You will recognise us when we meet, a few hours from now. We are approaching the solar system almost as swiftly as this radio message. Already, your sun dominates the sky ahead of us. It is the sun our ancestors and yours shared ten million years ago. We are men, as you are; but you have forgotten your history, while we have remembered ours

We colonised Earth, in the reign of the great reptiles, who were dying when we came and whom we could not save. Your world was a tropical planet then, and we felt that it would make a fair home for our people. We were wrong. Though we were masters of space, we knew so little about climate, about evolution, about genetics…

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