There have been two big losses for geekdom this month. Thanks to JLK for bringing these to my attention.
Gary Gygax, co-creator of the original fantasy role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) back in 1973, died March 4 at the age of 69. The positive influence D&D and role playing games in general had on me, especially as a teenager, are quite profound. Gaming helped awaken a part of my intellect and imagination which, until 1980 or so, when I played my first game of D&D, was dormant. I have remarkably fond memories of many all-night gaming sessions spanning nearly 15 years from 1980 until 1994 or so through various epochs of friends and groups. Gaming also has its more pathetic and irritating elements too — elements which are largely exaggerated or misunderstood by those who haven’t done it themselves as a hobby. However, there can be no question gaming and its ubergeek culture, and thus, by association, Gary Gygax, helped influence who I am today.
Arthur C. Clarke
Also, yesterday, March 19, Arthur C. Clarke passed away at the age of 90. He was a science fiction writer and futurist, perhaps best known for his novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, which Stanely Kubrick famously adapted to film. There is a fairly complicated chicken-and-egg relationship between the novel/story and the screenplay. The film’s screenplay and story were adapted by Kubrick in collaboration with Clarke from a short story written by Clarke called The Sentinel, which was simultaneously novelized by Clarke into a separate piece of its own. Clarke used science fiction as a means to explore new fantastic, but paradoxically realistic, ideas. His work wasn’t just self-absorbed rambling or escapist fantasy, but well-crafted literary art which tried to dramatize and simulate humanity’s natural progression into the future. He predicted the existence of communication satellites in the 1940s and stimulated interest and ongoing research in the development of a space elevator. And, of course, he sparked widespread interest in AI through his characterization of HAL 9000.
I’m in no real position to write full obituaries for these two luminaries. However, I just wanted to pay my small tribute. Hat’s off to Gary Gygax, a true geek’s geek, and Arthur C. Clarke, brilliant writer and futurist. You will be missed. Fare thee well.