Article for the book, The Art of Reading: Forty Illustrators Celebrate RIF’s 40th Anniversary

It is impossible for me to talk about Arthur C. Clarke’s novel 2001: A Space Odyssey without talking about 2001: A Space Odyssey, the movie, as well as the book The Making Of Kubrick’s 2001. My reactions to all three are forever intertwined.

By the time I was in seventh grade I had seen all the great and not-so-great outer space and alien invasion movies—Forbidden Planet, Invaders From Mars, The Angry Red Planet. But none of those prepared me for the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. I was amazed, confused, and ultimately inspired by its visual impact.

Not too long after I saw the film, the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey showed up in my school’s book club catalogue. I decided that I had to read it. The book turned out to be as fantastic and absorbing as the movie and I couldn’t put it down. When I finished, I read it again. And as I did, I ran the movie through my head; fascinated by the way the same idea had been presented in two different mediums, one visual and one literary. The filmmaker offered no explanations and left the viewer to interpret the images; the writer guided the reader through the story and revealed the unspoken thoughts of the characters. For the first time I began to think about not just the art, but also the art form.

I got my chance to learn more about the collaboration of writer and filmmaker with my next book club order. The Making of Kubrick’s 2001, edited by Jerome Agel, turned out to be a nonfiction chronicle of the creative process of Arthur C. Clarke and director Stanley Kubrick. I was completely captivated by this book. For a kid who wanted to be an artist – though I couldn’t have articulated that desire at the time- coming across a whole book devoted to artists working on their art was unbelievable. What’s more, this wasn’t about the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and how Michelangelo painted it long ago; this was about an outer space movie I had just seen and a science fiction book I had just read. The story of how these two artists created their respective 2001’s was, to me, as exciting as any adventure story.