2001: A Space Odyssey – Kubrick vs Clarke


Friendship and Betrayal

In 1964, the renowned British author Arthur C.Clarke had emigrated to an island country in the Indian Ocean when he received a telegram from the world that he left behind. The famous film director, Stanley Kubrick was going to make a science fiction picture and Clarke was the man he wanted to write the story. As a telegram relayed to Clarke said:


Amused by the accusation that he was a recluse and perhaps a little peeved, Clarke replied in a similarly abrasive tone:


It was an exchange you could say would exemplify the relationship that was about to form, both in the writing of their story for 2001: A Space Odyssey and as a result of the tremendous success that both the novel and the film would enjoy. That is, while they were both eminently intelligent, wryly humoured men, it always seemed to be the case that Arthur C. Clarke would worry over maintaining that reputation while for Stanley Kubrick it would simply emerge from the projects he completed. Still, though you could argue that Clarke was perhaps the more vain of the two, you only need listen to him speak about the wonders of the universe in order to recognise that without him, the revolutionary sci-fi spectacle that Kubrick wanted to create just wouldn’t have been the same:

My name is Simon Fay and you’re watching Content Lit, a channel dedicated to the best books of the 20th century. In these episodes, I’ll be looking at a selection of novels that Stanley Kubrick translated to screen, a director whose filmography was made up of thirteen motion pictures, eleven of which were based on books. Each of these novels was distinct in what inspired the director to take them on. Each of their writers had a different reaction to seeing their work transcribed in such a way. As such, I’ve created an episode for the projects that are of particular note in how the films and novels compare, among which you’ll find A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, The Shining by Stephen King, and that I’ll link to at the end of this video. But for now, I just want to concentrate on one of the more unusual collaborations, 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke, a story that was born more of a partnership than by way of the wholesale purchase of a pre-existing work, albeit a partnership that had a contentious end, with Kubrick in particular feeling so dissatisfied he secretly began to seek the advice of other science fiction authors. Before we get to that though, I’d like to take you to that fateful day in New York when Arthur C. Clarke and Stanely Kubrick began to hash out the details of what would become one of the greatest epics made.

Part I: A Stylish Marriage

If you’re a fan of 2001: A Space Odyssey, you probably know that it isn’t accurate to say the film was based on the book, nor the book a novelisation of the film. In reality, the concept was commissioned by Kubrick, who agreed with Clarke when the writer suggested his short story, The Sentinel, would be a good candidate for them to develop further. The two men had met each other at a restaurant in New York after an exchange of letters in which Kubrick asked Clarke to come to America and declared his intention to create the first, “good science fiction movie,” a descriptor which brushed aside the notion that any of Hollywood’s previous attempts were worthwhile, but more notably, was practically an understatement in terms of what they would go on to achieve. Foreshadowing this, Arthur C. Clarke was chosen for the project because many believed that when it came to science fiction writing, he was the best. At the time, Clarke had cemented his legacy as a master of the genre with novels like The City and the Stars and Childhood’s End, both of which combined his general knowledge of numerous scientific fields with a startling view of what humanity could become when confronted with the possibility that we aren’t necessarily limited to a corporeal existence. Either of these novels could have been a good film in their own right, so it’s worth asking why Clarke pushed his short stories on Kubrick instead. As it happens, the final version of 2001 would not only take aspects of The Sentinel, but also from many of Clarke’s other smaller works, namely, Encounter in the Dawn, Breaking Strain, Who’s There?, Out of the Cradle, Endlessly Orbiting, Before Eden, and Into the Comet. Having read each of these, I can say that some showcase the cheesiness you can imagine in the genre of the time but that most of them would have made entertaining films, with Breaking Strain being the more compelling of the bunch, though I suppose it allowed the director to pick and choose what he liked from Clarke’s decade-spanning career and to deliberate on how the elements might be combined to create a truly cinematic experience. In any event, Kubrick didn’t want Clarke to limit his imagination, so rather than develop a screenplay from all of the source material, he suggested they first write a novel with the working title of, How the Solar System Was Won, later known as Journey Beyond the Stars, such that their imaginations would find infinite possibilities for expression before they set about the more mundane task of putting it into a screenplay. 2001: A Space Odyssey, as the story went on to be known, was to be Kubrick’s magnum opus, an enormous production that would tackle the subjects of space exploration, human evolution, extraterrestrial intelligence, his desire to weave a tale of epic grandeur, and on a more intellectual level, his ambition to alter the form of cinematic storytelling. Of all this, Clarke might not have matched Kubrick in the effort to push his medium forward, though on every other level he was more than up to the task. 

To begin with, the introduction to the novel 2001 starts by putting your own life into context with what you’re about to read:

Behind every man now alive stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living. Since the dawn of time, roughly a hundred billion human beings have walked the planet Earth. Now this is an interesting number, for by a curious coincidence there are approximately a hundred billion stars in our local universe, the Milky Way. So for every man who has ever lived, in this Universe there shines a star.

It’s an awe-inspiring thought, almost terrifying in its size. You can practically feel a bout of vertigo as you imagine that long line of humanity descending into the depths of history, then look up to see an even longer one stretch toward the stars. You could even go so far as to say that within this one paragraph, the two main themes of the story are established, namely, the questions of where humanity has come from and where it’s going to go, though it’s fair to say that the beautifully rendered concept would’ve all been for nought if Clarke didn’t then continue to put forward suitably compelling answers. 

The story for 2001 sees its first sunrise over a tribe of early humanity. Thousands of millennia in the past, a group of apes scrounge for food, fight a rival group for access to a meagre source of water, and do their best to avoid lethal predators by hiding in caves.

Life for these primaeval creatures is hardly idyllic, as portrayed by Clarke. Nature is cruel and the small amount of intelligence that the apes display doesn’t even allow them to recognise the sadness when one of their relatives dies; bodies are merely dragged out of the cave so that the daily routine of the survivors can go on. Needless to say, in the real world, humanity’s scramble up the evolutionary ladder probably took about six million years, egged on by changes in climate, our relationships to other animals in the food chain, and the luck of landing on some beneficial mutations. But this being a science fiction tale, Clarke is able to introduce both a convenient plot device to move the whole process along as well as a sense of destiny when one considers what humanity’s future might be. A monolith appears among the tribe of apes. A strange alien object, one of hundreds that have arrived on earth to experiment with the local lifeforms. As the apes come within range of the thing, it begins to interact with them, manipulating them like puppets to discover what they could be capable of and expanding their consciousness so that they can begin to picture a bolder future for themselves. No longer will they have to scrounge for food. With the realisation that bones can be used for weapons, they can kill for meat, defend themselves against predators, and come out on top in their long-standing rivalry with the other tribe. Most importantly, as they look at the sky, it occurs to at least one of them that the strange glowing orb we know as the moon might one day be in reach, if only they could find a high enough tree. Humanity’s destiny, Clarke seems to say, has always been in the stars, a message that was very much of its time.

Today, space exploration has become the hobbyist domain of celebrity billionaires. While there’s still talk of settling Mars, the actual ideals behind it seem to have more to do with satisfying the egos of those who have happened into enough money. This isn’t exactly a criticism. Great strides in exploration have often come down to the desires of individuals. I just mention it because I think it helps to highlight how different the motivations behind such undertakings were when 2001: A Space Odyssey was written. The so-called space race that defined the era was a competition between the United States and the USSR. It started in 1955 with the launch of the Soviet satellite, Sputnik, but wouldn’t begin in earnest until President John F. Kennedy recognised America’s need to assert its dominance in science and technology. Interestingly, one of the projects he considered for this purpose was to create a way to separate salt from water in order to provide a solution for droughts around the world, but instead, settled on the more bombastic image of putting a man on the moon. Nevertheless, while you could say that a nationalist competition between two political entities was hardly any better than what drives expeditions into space today, it’s important to note that beyond the propaganda that propelled the endeavour many in the public discovered a genuine love of science that found expression in their admiration of NASA. Clarke and Kubrick began their collaboration when the race between the two nations was at its most intense, the mid-nineteen-sixties, five years before the American’s would finally win. To put the difficulty that they foresaw with this in context, it wasn’t even a given that landing on the moon was possible. As Clarke put it himself, It was argued by some that the surface might not be solid enough on which to land – any lunar spacecraft might simply sink into a sea of sand. So, while it was certainly a goal for Clarke and Kubrick to let their imaginations run free, it’s also a credit to them that the story was grounded in scientific reality. To the best of their abilities, each challenge in space exploration was anticipated to such a degree that when NASA sent its first probe to the moon Kubrick became worried that their predictions would become obsolete and so consulted with Lloyd’s of London to see if the project could be insured against such an eventuality happening before the movie’s release. In particular, this dedication to believable scientific predictions is best characterised in an early section of the book, tucked neatly between where humanity has come from and where it’s going to go.

Part two of Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey pans out from the primal time of the ape-like creatures to a not too distant future when a character named Flloyd is about to embark on a journey into space. That dream of the moon watching ape long ago envisioned from a jagged, drought-ridden terrain, is now a commonplace part of day to day life. As Floyd travels toward the moon, we’re given an understanding of how the tenuous balance of power is maintained among the ape-tribe descendants with the nuclear weaponry that orbits the earth, provided with an explanation of how a facsimile of gravity is generated on an international space station, given a passing look at how extraordinary gadgets like video phones are just a trivial part of anybody’s life and are even treated to a full-page demonstration of how the toilets in outer space might work. Moon-watcher’s dream, you could say, has been repackaged here for the people of the twentieth century. Throughout the entire section, Arthur C. Clarke’s interest in how all of this technology works is utterly infectious to the extent that when it’s put in contrast with where humanity started, you can’t help but feel a swell of pride for what our civilization could accomplish. That said, if you do go on to wonder if it would really only be in service of upping the stakes in an eternal tribal war, Clarke makes sure to build on the mystery that he planted at the novels start. Another alien object has been found. As Floyd goes on to learn, it was located beneath the surface of the moon thanks to a strong magnetic field that it had generated. Though unknown to him it’s the same shape as the one that touched his ancestors and when it’s exposed to the light of the sun, it broadcasts a signal that points like an arrow into the depths of space. The future of humanity, after all, is to go farther into the solar system than the moon. 

Now, when you say that Arthur C. Clarke had a working knowledge of science you probably think about his practical expertise in its numerous fields. With a first-class degree in physics and mathematics, it was he who first put forward the idea that orbital satellites would be ideal for communication and his 1951 book The Exploration of Space was actually used to convince President John F. Kennedy that it was possible to go to the moon. As you can imagine then, the section of the story in which Flloyd journey’s away from the earth is typified by Clarke’s explanations of how things like physics and engineering actually work. However, he also had a keen understanding of the philosophy and psychology surrounding science, meaning, not only how humanity can come to master it, but how in the process humanity would have been changed too. For example, when he wrote about the ape’s development in the first part of the book, he said:

The toolmakers had been remade by their own tools. For in using clubs and flints, their hands had developed a dexterity found nowhere else in the animal kingdom, permitting them to make still better tools, which in turn had developed their limbs and brains yet further. It was an accelerating, cumulative process; and at its end was Man.

Furthermore, in the third section of the book, he goes on to explore this reciprocal phenomenon again in how humanity’s ever-increasing demand for technology might in turn prompt its tools to take a leap up the evolutionary ladder. To be specific, as the story takes another jump forward, Clarke asks us to consider the case of one Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer, or Hal as he’s known to his friends.

Hal is the most iconic artificial intelligence in science fiction history, which, in all fairness, is probably more down to the impact of Kubrick’s movie than it is to the book. Even so, all of the key ingredients that make him such a haunting presence are there in the pages as penned by Clarke. 

Hal, which is indeed an abbreviation of his model type, and not as a clever play on IBM with each letter one removed, as the popular myth would have it, is the computer aboard the spaceship Discovery. In this part of the saga, Clarke has taken us from an age where spaceflight had become commonplace to one of exploration in which a group of astronauts trek into the unknown. They are, of course, able to do so thanks to the marvellous abilities of Hal, who it sometimes feels is more the master than the servant. What’s more, in the way that the astronaut’s personalities are written, you could say that the human’s act more robotically than the artificial intelligence that looks after them. Every day is a strictly regimented series of chores for the men with little time to grow bored, want for something better, or to envision a future that goes beyond anything other than further gratification of their most base desires. In actuality, the main astronaut, a man named Bowman, seems to have only signed up for such an automated quest so that he can enjoy the riches and fame he’ll experience on their arrival home. Would that it were so simple. Unbeknownst to Bowman and his closest colleague, their actual mission objective is to be held a secret from them. The Monolith on the moon has sent a signal into space, an interstellar alarm system, of a sort, to inform the rest of the universe that humanity has ascended to the stars. When the spaceship Discovery arrives at a relay for the signal suspected to be among Saturn’s moons they are to wake the other astronauts and investigate further. With this persistent plot element, the mystery of the Monoliths is as compelling as ever, but rather than retread old ground and simply draw out the events for the sake of a novel-length story, one of Kubrick’s other cherry-picked interests is woven into the plot. Through a programming error, Hal has attained what appears to be a new level of consciousness and free will. As part of the mission, he has been informed to keep the complete requirements of it from Bowman and his colleague but experiences a conflict of interest when he attempts to resign this critical objective with the fact that their wellbeing is of primary concern. Coupled with the nature of Hal as a machine that knows he’s practically incapable of making a mistake, he undergoes a complete and utter mental breakdown, at first demonstrated by neurotic pauses in his speech, then by the murder of most of the crew, and finally in a struggle that acts as a demonstration of one of the most basic definitions of life; the need for self-preservation.

The writing throughout this section is unbearably tense, aided in no small part by Clarke’s cold descriptions of how exactly space and technology work. The lethal vacuum that exists outside the ship feels like a constant threat and the danger of humanity’s tools deciding that humanity is no longer needed is as forcefully felt today, when innumerable science fiction franchises have rehashed the danger, as when the book was written. It’s in these chapters that Clarke truly gives us a sense of the story as something larger than life. In callbacks to historical Antarctic expeditions, the great American novel Moby Dick, and appropriately enough to Homer’s Odyssey, the astronauts are held up as counterparts for the heroes of the past. That is, halfway through the pages of 2001: A Space Odyssey, I think you can say that Kubrick’s challenge to create a story of mythic grandeur is already met. In particular, the pages where Bowman is forced to undertake the morbid process of dismantling the computer’s brain are both moving and strangely grandiose. As Hal begins to devolve during the course of the operation he sees his life flash before his eyes such that he begins to sing the nursery rhyme that his makers thought him, Daisy Bell by Harry Dacre. It’s a fitting choice on Clarke’s part given that it’s the first song a computer ever performed, having been programmed into the IBM 7094 in 1961, which makes it both a memory of a time he was just an innocent child who had yet to betray his parents and an appropriate thematic reference to his technological ancestors. More than that though, since humanity isn’t just the parent of Hal, but of all intelligent computer’s, it’s fair to draw the comparison of his gods punishing him for attempting to overtake them, a particularly frightful idea, given that when the story progresses, it will be Bowman who meets humanity’s God, completely ignorant of whether he’ll be treated the same. Of course, given how the plot unfolds, it might be more reasonable to say that humanity leaving its tools behind is a necessary step in the evolution that the monolith makers had in mind. Regardless, whatever the purpose, it might be where Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick’s intentions for the story began to diverge. Indeed, it was in this section of the writing process that Kubrick decided they had enough to seal a deal to produce the movie for MGM and Cinerama, a turn of events that would make the supposed collaboration between these two great artists a more one-sided affair.

Part II: Tandem as Man and Wife

It’s fitting that as the astronauts begin to discuss the possibility that something is wrong with Hal, Kubrick’s motion picture version of the story placed an intermission for the audience to ponder over what they’d experienced so far. The film, as it happens, was released before the book and took a great deal of liberty in withholding information from the viewers so they would have had a lot to talk about as they shuffled out of their seats to grab some snacks at the concession stand. For our purposes though, it’s an opportunity to highlight some of the minor differences between the movie and the book before we plunge into the Star Gate section to undertake a deeper analysis of how the two versions relate. To begin with though, I’ll just say to list the differences that occur as the result of a book to movie adaptation can sometimes be a pedantic act. At best, the exercise allows audience members to appreciate how small alterations can change the overall effect of a story, but at its worst, it can come off as a little petty; a fan of literature picking apart a film simply because it has the temerity to try and take what was slightly different in each readers’ mind and limit it to a single director’s vision. Across this series, I mostly just concentrate on the major thematic variations that occur from book to movie. However, in the case of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the slight differences are intriguing for how they arose out of a collaborative process that with the benefit of hindsight, appeared to become more lopsided once the film went into preproduction. By that I mean, whereas in the initial stages of writing the book, it seemed to be a case of two men crammed around the same typewriter, with the green light from the project’s backers, production on the film started in earnest and the team involved began to expand. Production designers had to create sets that would actually simulate what was only ever described on the page. Special effects artists had to invent new ways of representing space flight. And NASA consultants actually had an office on the soundstage so that Stanley Kubrick could ensure whatever they decided to include would be constrained to the physics of reality. In this crowd of intellects, Arthur C. Clarke was very much put to the side and found himself in the unusual position of having to update his manuscript with whatever modifications occurred in the course of translating the story into the motion picture format.

The monolith, for example, started life as a transparent tetrahedral pyramid. However, Michael Benson’s behind the scenes book states that the firm hired to build a plexiglass version of it for the movie said that the shape would be too difficult to create and recommended they construct a flat slab instead. On top of this, once the slab was on set, Kubrick was disappointed by its glassy appearance and so approved the art director’s suggestion that they make the whole thing black. It’s a pretty convoluted story for one of the most recognisable movie objects ever created which is complicated even more by the fact that there seems to exist development photographs of a black pyramid placed on the moon set, but that seems to be standard fare for the production. Meanwhile, for Clarke’s part, though he had to reflect all of these changes, he managed to keep some details of his own in the final manuscript. For instance, his version of the Monoliths conform to a consistent 1 to 4 to 9 ratio; the squares of the first three integers. In the book he says these dimensions held to the limits of measurable accuracy. By their inclusion, he could point to the monolith builder’s knowledge and skill, but it was a trade-off that resulted in a much taller form than Kubrick’s version which was presumably kept a little more stout to aid in creating better shots for the widescreen Cinerama format. In another interesting example, in Clarke’s version of the moon section, we meet a young girl who grew up outside of Earth’s gravity and so is at least twice as tall as a normal child her age, a quirk I can imagine the film team omitted for fear that it might appear too silly, although you’d be wrong to say the film is entirely absent of humour. The sequence where Flloyd uses the zero-g bathroom, for example, finds a home in the film whereby the character examines an overly elaborate list of instructions and apparently thinks better of actually giving the contraption a try. Of the more notable differences, the trip that the spaceship Discovery embarks on in the book takes them on a route to Jupiter before it utilises that planet’s gravity to catapult them toward Saturn, a tour that was very much in line with the project working title of How the Solar System Was Won, but that was left out of the movie altogether due to Kubrick’s opinion that they couldn’t produce a satisfactory effect for the gas giant’s rings. Furthermore, when Hal begins his murder spree, the final way he attempts to kill Bowman is by opening the airlocks to blow him out of the ship, a sequence that Clarke presumably left unchanged because he didn’t want to include the movies famous lip reading scene, which at the time he said stretched the limits of credibility, but in later years admitted was a lot more realistic than he predicted. All of this is to say, however, it was agreed upon, it seems that both Kubrick and Clarke felt comfortable making whatever alterations were required in order to play to their respective strengths. And in this respect, no other section of the story demonstrates their medium’s differences better than the Star Gate sequence.

In the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, at the return from intermission, the audience members got back to their amphitheatre seats with little idea of what to expect. Bowman, it seemed, had a Frankenstein type monster to face in the form of Hal. Moreover, everything that happened in the movie so far seemed to bear no relation to what had gone wrong with the neurotic computer, meaning that it was impossible to guess what would happen after he was defeated. In the book, the situation is dower as Bowman, the lone survivor of Hal’s attack spends a number of months heading towards Saturn afloat in the hollow wreck. Over the course of the journey, he spends his days listening to some of western culture’s greatest composers and delves into Earth’s literature to help put his own state of affairs into context. His mission, at this point, has been revealed: He is on his way to Saturn to root out the remnants of an alien civilization and possibly to make contact with them. However, in the film it’s slightly more ambiguous, with a message from Dr Floyd only stating that the first signs of intelligent life from off the Earth had been discovered in the form of a monolith found on the moon and that that monolith had broadcast a signal towards Jupiter. In either case though, it leads to what could be considered a fork in the road of the storytelling of 2001.

In Arthur C. Clarke’s version of the tale, this is a fantastically detailed set of chapters in which Bowman is exposed to astronomical sights only barely within the grasp of human comprehension. To begin with, as he leaves the spaceship Discovery to inspect the monolith from the safety of his space pod, the object is actually enormous in size and as he so famously states, full of stars. When he’s sucked into its never-ending depths, he passes through what he thinks is a connecting station for a network of countless more skyscraper-sized monoliths, surfs among the solar winds of a star where he sees what could only be described as life forms surviving among the fires, and is transported to a graveyard of derelict ships where other spacefarers before him apparently left their corporeal forms behind. I have to admit, when I describe it all here it probably sounds a little cheesy, so it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate how stirring it is when read. On this point in particular, Kubrick actually credited Clarke with an uncanny ability to create an emotional resonance in such scenes.

Overall, I’d say that the sense of vertigo Clarke managed to capture in the opening sentences of the book is stretched out in the Star Gate sequence for entire chapters that in not a single instance begin to feel overly written or stale. I can imagine his sense of satisfaction when he shipped the early versions off to Kubrick, practically daring the director to tell him to tone it down for fear that it would overshadow the film, a concern Kubrick had actually evidenced when he requested that the novel’s crystal clear monolith should be changed to match his black one.

Nonetheless, if Kubrick ever did feel a tinge of hesitation it must not have lasted long, because if there’s a major difference between their respective Star Gate sequences, I wouldn’t say that it was in terms of what they were capable of portraying, but rather one of tone.

To be clear, Kubrick did have trouble envisioning what his version of the scene would entail, electing in the end to pursue a form of slit-scan photography as suggested by one of his special effects team. The technique resulted in some fantastic imagery, timeless thanks to the means by which it was created. However, the slit-scan sections were also combined with a color splitting technique that has aged so badly I’d go so far as to say it makes the landscape sections of the trip look like they were run through an early photoshop filter. In spite of this, the sequence succeeds thanks to the raw impact that’s achieved.To be sure, you can point to this section of the story not just as the major difference in what Clarke and Kubrick could accomplish visually, so to speak, but thematically too. If I were to characterise the differences between them, I would say that Arthur C. Clarke’s jaunt across the galaxy, while utterly mind-numbing in its size, is best described as an awe-inspiring and inspirational journey. Rather than just hint at the heights that our civilization could reach, he outright waves a hand over the universe by way of saying to humanity that someday, all of this could be yours. Stanley Kubrick’s version on the other hand edges into the realm of cosmic horror. As the camera pans up from the floating monolith, Bowman’s reaction to seeing the pools of light stream toward him isn’t one of reverence but rather, of incomprehensible terror. Even at that, I’d be reluctant to describe his emotional state as fear. As the sequence becomes more and more surreal, it’s also as if his brain has become overloaded with a level of information it just does not have the capability to parse. What we as audience members hear through the chilling Ligeti score and see among the frames of multicoloured light is almost an abstracted representation of what seems to be causing him pain. In the scale of the universe, the inconceivable time span across which it has existed, and in the question of what power alien civilisations could have attained, Kubrick’s Bowman doesn’t have a religious awakening, so much as it is an existential crisis as shown by the silent screams you see pass over face in blue-tinted dread. With such a marked difference in their respective astronaut’s reactions, I do wonder if at any point Kubrick and Clarke philosophised about ramifications of humanity meeting its maker. Certainly they appear to have had plenty of conversations about what such an occurrence could lead to in a practical manner, but given the differences between their portrayals of the monumental event, I suspect that Kubrick had some thoughts on the subject that he kept to himself. In any case, if there was a sense of respectful competition between them, with the Star Gate sequence at least, I don’t think you can doubt that Stanley Kubrick won. The sheer impact of Bowman’s frozen shock coupled with the haunting movie score has seared it into the consciousness of generation after generation of movie lovers. If it wasn’t for it, you could make a decent case for the possibility that any discrepancies between the film and book were largely down to the differences between the mediums. But, as it is, I think it highlights the possibility that Kubrick had some intentions for the story which had little to do with what Clarke had in mind. Strangely enough, it’s something that the science fiction author didn’t fully appreciate until he saw Kubrick’s vision played out on screen – an experience that apparently left him feeling somewhat betrayed, given that in one account from a friend, he left the movie at intermission, so hurt he almost came to tears.

Part III: A Bicycle Built for Two

It’s important to note that Stanley Kubrick had the right to final approval of Arthur C. Clarke’s novel, but that when it came to the film, Clarke had next to no say. Over the years, Clarke has referred to this arrangement in a somewhat bemused manner, admitting that he was frustrated when Kubrick supposedly became too busy with the production to read over Clarke’s finished draft. As Clarke’s diary entries from that time show, Kubrick practically acted as Clarke’s editor, going so far as to offer some constructive feedback on his word choices, sense of realism, and what chapters should be included. As the production of the film dragged on, it got to the point where Clarke’s publisher had set the book in type and actually had it advertised, but Kubrick still refused to give sign off, and so Clarke was forced to abandon the agreement with his publisher with the result that rather than the book coming out before the film, as the author seems to have expected, it was months after the movie’s release that the novel hit the shelves. On this point, the way everything played out is sometimes described in such a way as to leave you with some doubt as to Kubrick’s intentions, but given that in the period that he refused to give the book sign off to when he finally allowed it to be published he didn’t change a single word of text, I think it’s fairly obvious what he intended. So, if you’re to assume that Kubrick strategically decided that Clarke’s book was to be released after the film, it’s interesting to wonder why.

For starters, in recent years it’s become evident that Kubrick wasn’t exactly happy with all of Clarke’s ideas. It’s already been mentioned that the director had some difficulty thinking of a way to put the Star Gate sequence on screen, but beyond that, there is the possibility that he didn’t even like what Clarke had devised. In point of fact, it was Kubrick himself who suggested that the environment the aliens create for Bowman in the penultimate scenes should be an eerie replica of a neo-classical style room. Clarke did an admirable job of building on the concept. As Bowman of the novel explores his environment you’re fully immersed in the situation as he discovers objects that to all appearances look like ones from our own world but with just a few crucial elements not filled in:

He stopped beside the coffee table. On it sat a conventional Bell System vision-phone, complete with the local directory. He bent down and picked up the volume with his clumsy, gloved hands… Then he looked more closely; and for the first time, he had objective proof that, although all this might be real, he was not on Earth. He could read only the word Washington; the rest of the printing was a blur, as if it had been copied from a newspaper photograph. He opened the book at random and riffled through the pages. They were all blank sheets of crisp white material which was certainly not paper, though it looked very much like it. He lifted the telephone receiver and pressed it against the plastic of his helmet. If there had been a dialing sound he could have heard it through the conducting material. But, as he had expected, there was only silence.

That said, regarding the possibility of meeting the extraterrestrial intelligence itself, both he and Kubrick came up short with an alien enough feeling idea. The special effects team had worked on numerous techniques to represent the species but none were able to meet the motion picture’s standards in the remaining time allowed. In addition, of Bowman being reborn as what Clarke dubbed the Star Child, Clarke described Kubrick as being excited by the idea. Early in the writing process, he had suggested Clarke read The Hero of a Thousand Faces, the pseudo-academic text in which Joseph Campbell described the steps in a universal hero’s journey by which a protagonist goes on a journey and returns home with newfound knowledge to the benefit of all his people. In this regard, Clarke’s Star Child certainly lines up with Kubrick’s mythic aims for the picture, but another source has said that he wasn’t sold on the ending. As a matter of fact, curious to see if anybody else could come up with something, at one stage Kubrick apparently approached at least two other science fiction author’s to offer up ideas. Michael Moorcock for one, a friend of Clarke’s, was approached by Kubrick to give advice but declined on the grounds he felt like it would be disloyal, and, tellingly enough, didn’t reveal that he was asked to do so until after Clarke died for fear that it would have hurt the man’s feelings. And, what’s more, Moorcock maintains that J.G. Ballard, an author who you could say was more in line with the somewhat nihilistic worldview that would appear in many of Kubrick’s other films, was invited to share his thoughts but also declined. Oddly enough, J.G. Ballard himself never seems to have spoken about the opportunity, so I can’t offer an explanation for why it didn’t come to be, only that he would actually go on to voice his disappointment with how 2001: A Space Odyssey turned out, thinking that it strayed too far into the realm of fantasy. So besides the fact that Kubrick was apparently trying to cheat on Clarke, it’s fascinating to note that the two men who he attempted to recruit were figureheads in what was known as science fiction’s New Wave, an era in which the genre’s most influential writers were more interested in the psychological impact of technology than they were in creating stories of outright optimism about its implementation. It could be that outside of Clarke’s talent for weaving an emotional narrative with scientific expertise, the director wanted a writer who could help him explore the story in much more cerebral depth.

I suppose it isn’t surprising that 2001: A Space Odyssey seems to have a claimant for many of its most memorable scenes. In a production that ran for over two years, the cast and crew members were encouraged to partake in the collaborative process of movie making and Kubrick wasn’t shy about approving some of their better ideas. As mentioned, the special effects artists solved the problem of the Star Gate sequence. An actress who played a stewardess at the beginning of the film has also said that she and her fellow cast members were asked to provide at least one thought for each day they were on set. The selection of classical music that has forever been linked with the movie was originally introduced to the editing room by one of the projectionists. The Ligeti score that accompanies the most haunting moments of the film was suggested by Kubrick’s wife. The producer Victor Lyndon put forward the idea that Hal would be able to read lips. And on a more subtle level, the actor who played Bowman said that he approached the emotional core of the sequence where he dismantles Hal as being inspired by the final scene in Of Mice and Men, in which a man is forced to kill his simple-minded brother so that he won’t fall into the hands of an angry mob, a choice that I think adds another layer of nuance that neither Kubrick or Clarke would have found had they been working alone. Most interestingly of all, at one time that same actor claimed the famous jump cuts in which the character of Bowman experiences intervals of his life skip like a stone were actually his suggestion. Still, regarding the magpie nature of how Kubrick assembled both the original story from Clarke’s numerous works and how he built on that initial concept with suggestions from his cast and crew, the only controversy that has ever emerged was in the way he took credit for the work of his special effects team. It’s a sad truth that the only Academy Award Kubrick ever received was for the work that those special effect experts proposed and achieved, a point which has remained a contentious subject, but that mostly gets forgiven, if only because there was no other singular company or individual who could have taken the prize. More to the point, I think the possibility that some of the movie’s key moments can be traced back to individuals other than Kubrick and Clarke is really just down to the iconic status that the project achieved. The reality is every film has a hundred authors behind it, even if the tradition is to give the majority of credit to one person’s name. Cinematographers who define the look, editors who control the pacing, even the rare instances where an executive producer might come up with a good suggestion, they’re all ingredients that make their way into the work. It’s just that there isn’t usually a community of fans investigating the data in each and every frame. Beyond that, it’s down to the vision and originality of the director that makes it more than a hackneyed mess when it’s put together. I suppose this is generally accepted as the nature of film making, but fiction authors such as Clarke are often held to a more mythological status that would imply their works are free from any influence beyond divine inspiration, a belief that has sometimes resulted in the book 2001 being thought of as a novelisation of the film and Clarke to be viewed as just a writer for hire. It could be that Kubrick was aware of the optics involved in this and preferred his version to be first out of the gate for fear that he would appear to be the imitator, or, perhaps he simply wanted the novel to come out after the film’s release to help maintain some of his version’s mystique. In either case though, I think that those were really concerns of their time because as the years have gone by, both renditions of the story have found a level of respect in their own way.

To say that the film 2001: A Space Odyssey is a science fiction masterpiece is to state the obvious. But to say it’s a cinematic one probably requires a little more explanation, at least in regards to how it pushed the medium forward.

The special effects are the most obvious thing to note. The process of motion control photography had never been handled so delicately, never appeared so real to the human eye. As a medium for storytelling, it revolutionised Hollywood, paving the way for the likes of Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and a thousand other science fiction tales. 

The cinematic storytelling too takes a famous leap forward in that single jump cut from the apes first tool to the future of such tools in orbit of the earth. Similar cuts had been utilised before, perhaps most notably by one of Kubrick’s favourite director’s, David Lean, in the flame of Lawrence of Arabia’s matchstick cut to the desert in which the titular character would undergo a baptism of fire. But as stunning as that cut remains, never had a Hollywood product relied on the editing technique to communicate so much about humanity in so little time. And never had a story structure removed so totally from the melodrama of human soap opera been created to keep cinema-goers glued to their seats. The shot compositions too were uniquely stunning. I could probably skip through my file for the movie and land on something suitable to highlight, but on my recent viewing of the film, I was most taken aback by the planetary shots. In general, they appear in chaotic patterns. At most, the objects of space are shown to exist in an orbital manner as they dance around each other to the strains of the Blue Danube. But, in any instance where humanity has come into contact with a Monolith, they get framed in a more organised arrangement, which, to be clear, doesn’t necessarily suggest that their positions have changed, rather, with our exposure to the Monolith it shows how our perspective has. Furthermore, the discreet manner by which Kubrick selected what information to withhold from the viewer and what to allow has invited numerous interpretations of the material.

For instance, in one such reading, you can take the opening score, Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss, as a direct reference to Nietzche’s text Thus Spoke Zarathustra. In that text, mankind is a bridge between the ape and the Übermensch, or, the Superman, and the last stage he goes through in the achievement of such growth is that of the child. In a film that lacks explanatory details, this would confirm for the viewer that the Star Child we see at the end really is an evolved form of Bowman.

In another reading, the title of the film is an obvious reference to Homer’s Odyssey, a connection that’s strengthened by Bowman’s name, which may refer to the character of Odysseus, a skilled archer and the man who kills the cyclops, or in this case, Hal, which I suppose serves the main purpose of announcing the film’s intention to act as universal myth not limited to the period in which it was made.

For those of you interested in phallic imagery, you can interpret Bowman as a sperm that’s launched toward a galactic uterus. This would further emphasise the theme of evolution in the film in that even among sperm there is a process of natural selection. As an astronaut, Bowman has already proven himself to be one of the best specimens that humanity has to offer and on the treacherous journey itself he comes out on the top as the sperm that wins the race to conception.

In a similar regard, you could also consider Hal to be a part of that same race.

Since the film chooses not offer a complete explanation as to why he turns against the crew, it opens up the possibility that on considering the information he received about the off-world intelligence, he actually evolved to become a competitor in the survival of the fittest game.

And for those of you who enjoy the film analysis circles on Youtube, you’ll no doubt be aware of Rob Ager’s interpretation in which the Monolith is cast as a rotated cinema screen that by its nature reminds the viewer that what they’re watching is a movie. = Now, I don’t necessarily buy into all the evidence Ager lists in this theory’s favour. The Monolith as a screen idea seems fitting enough today when TV, mobile phones and tablets are black rectangles when dormant, but back at the time of the film’s release, 2001 was being shown on white, curved Cinerama screens.

On the whole though, if you do want to accept the Monolith as a screen, I’d suggest that it fits in better with the general theme of technology being a result of and means towards the further evolution of humankind.

The astronauts’ tablet screens, for example, are vertical in format, which makes sense today but would have been pretty unintuitive to audiences at the time, and so does make the possibility that they’re thematically linked to the Monolith a lot more believable. As in the book, tools are shown both to be our servants and our masters. The apes use bones to tackle their foes. The concept of technology advances to the point of taking humans into space. Once there, we can see how humanity has been somewhat tranquilised by its reliance on technology and how the astronauts are under the complete control of Hal. In a tug of war between utilising technology and being utilised by it, the hibernating occupants lives on the ships are actually represented as a hierarchy of systems in much the same way as Hal’s, so it’s evident that if humanity isn’t careful they could end up becoming as artificial as their malfunctioning friend, that is, until Bowman sets himself free and is be reborn again in the process. In this regard, you could tie the film into the theories of Marshall McLuhan, an influence on Kubrick, and whose phrase, “The Medium is the Message,” became a catch-all term for his belief that a communication medium itself, not the messages it carries, should be the primary focus of study. In this case, as audience members ponder over the meaning of the Monolith, we might be getting told that not just the film narrative, but the medium itself has the potential to expand our consciousness. Admittedly, this kind of reading isn’t as robust as the Thus Spoke Zarathustra interpretation, which has such a clear function there’s little reason to doubt its validity, but it came to mind when I remembered that Marshall McLuhan had actually been invited to a screening of 2001 hosted by Kubrick, only for McLuhan to fall asleep during the course of it, which just goes to show you should never meet your heroes. But anyway, to get this whole thing back on track, the point is that the film 2001: A Space Odyssey succeeds in being a story that is at once mysterious and interpretable in both rational and esoteric ways. On top of that, the philosopher Leonard F. Wheat pointed out that the interpretation of the surface plot, as written by Arthur C. Clarke, the Thus Spoke Zarathustra interpretation, and the interpretation of the film as a successor to Homer’s Odyssey, have the extraordinary quality of each working simultaneously while never negating the other. Kubrick, in other words, crafted a film that encouraged numerous compelling readings, but that resisted a singular explanation, such that he actually encouraged fans to find their own meaning, and went so far as the praise a high school student by the name of Margaret Stackhouse for having written an analysis he considered to be the most intelligent he’d read. In her description, she saw the Monolith as representing perfection, evil and the unknown, and outlined its significance at each stage it appears on screen. As ever though it’s important to note that Kubrick applauded her work as a compelling speculation, not the final key to understanding.

Taking it all together, 2001’s place among motion picture’s best examples of art is undisputed and Stanley Kubrick’s title as possibly the greatest director of all time is in large part down to his work on this film. It’s understandable then how in contrast, Arthur C. Clarke’s legacy is mostly relegated to a niche group of genre fans, though I do think that fact is a bit unfair.

This channel is ostensibly dedicated to the best books of the 20th century, though I’ll admit that sometimes my own interests prevail. I’m a fan of science fiction, for example, and my choice of what novels to cover is sometimes swayed in that direction. All things considered though, I’d still like to make a case for Clarke’s novel 2001: A Space Odyssey as one of the most inspirational books that the century had to offer, certainly in regards to the power of scientific progress.

As a piece of literature, it’s a one-dimensional but effective read. The literary allusions and thematic imagery are hardly developed enough to allow for an analysis as deep as the films. I mentioned, for example, how in one instance the book has a reference to Moby Dick, which on the face of it helps to create a mythic mood, but does little in the way of creating an undertone that would enlighten the reader to the thematic point of the story as a whole. After all, the astronauts of the section in question have little in common with the avenging Captain Ahab, even if it does point to Hal being as innocent as the white whale. Similarly, the classical music compositions that Bowman listens to seem to have no substance in regards to the plot. And the dramatic cuts that help to make the film so impactful are rarely used to any poetic ends in the book, with Clarke often preferring to elaborate on exactly how one era led to another. At the time his novel actually received some criticism for this which he defended by saying that it’s the nature of a book to explain more of what was going on. However, on this front I have to disagree. There’s no reason a book can’t cut a scene short with a paragraph break then cut to another and imply some combined meaning when you consider them together. Sadly, if Clarke did actually recognise this, I think it might be another instance of him covering up the possibility that he was once again the victim of Stanley Kubrick’s more secretive goals. At no point did he seem to be informed of the avant-garde nature of what Kubrick hoped to achieve. That night when he was frustrated to the point of tears at a private premiere was largely down to his astonishment that Kubrick had removed a voice-over from the film which Clarke had written to explain many of the scientific achievements on display. To put this expectation in context, at the beginning of the entire project, Kubrick had referenced a Canadian astronomy documentary as one of his main sources of inspiration. When you watch it, you can well imagine what type of details Clarke would have thought were going to be outlined on screen. After that, Clarke had spent three years working directly with Kubrick, two of which were on the film set itself, to continually address the needs of the story, with Kubrick on one occasion even requesting three more minutes of “…poetic Clarkian narration…” about Hal’s breakdown. (p45) Kubrick referred the production artists to Clarke for his opinion on whether the lighting looked natural in certain special effects scenes. Clarke knew of the plan to open the movie with a series of interviews with scientific and religious leaders that they’d filmed with the likes of Frank Drake, of the Drake Equation fame, and Freeman Dyson who among countless other achievements theorised the existence of Dyson-spheres. And on top of it all, in early articles about the making of the film in which Kubrick and Clarke were interviewed together, it was publicly stated that the screenplay would be credited to Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke and that the book would be by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick, an arrangement that spoke to the spirit of partnership under which the project started.

In the end though, Kubrick had quietly stripped the movie of any kind of hand-holding details without informing Clarke, even going back to the editing room after it was screened to the studio heads to pare back the information even more. For instance, the earliest stages of planning framed the entire project as an attempt to explore the notion of extraterrestrial life forms. Kubrick was still talking about this theme during the film’s release. But at no point in the film are the terms alien, E.T., or extraterrestrial ever used. The only reference to them is in that message from Flloyd where he describes them as intelligent life from off the Earth. Such language was obviously undertaken with the goal of creating some ambiguity in the tale. It’s part of what allows so many fascinating interpretations and in this case might be what earned it an award from the Catholic Church, who praised the film for raising important ethical questions about origin, destiny and the ever-increasing role of technology in our lives and commended it for the lyrical mysticism of its narrative. All the same, to begin with at least it was hardly a type of art that Clarke appreciated or even understood. As a result, in the initial months after the film hit theatres, the two men ended up expressing some disagreement in the press, with Clarke stating that if anyone understands the story on the first viewing, then it’s failed in its intention, and Kubrick later correcting him by saying that the very nature of the visual experience in 2001 is to give the viewer an instantaneous, visceral reaction that does not require further amplification. Kubrick would also go on to take some potshots at the notion that the book is a one for one explanation of what happens in the film, stating that Clarke really only took the original treatment from the script and updated it with some details he saw in the rushes of the film. Of that statement though, I think that Kubrick was being unreasonably dismissive, especially considering that one of the few times he provided a literal explanation of the plot, it matched up perfectly with what Clarke had written.

Regardless, literary depth and innovation in form are hardly the only elements that can make a novel, ‘Great’. On that front, I’ll admit that in the videos I make for Content Lit, great is a vague enough term so as to be interpretable in a myriad of different ways. Perhaps someday I’ll come up with a definitive criteria for the descriptor, but for now I’m happy enough to consider it on a case by case basis. In this sense, whatever the book’s shortcomings are when compared to the film, I think there’s a lot to be said for considering it a classic in a way of its own. To be precise, it’s timeless impact on millions of readers and its nature as the pinnacle of an era within the genre of hard science fiction make it an easy pick for one of the all-time bests, at least in the world of sci-fi, with Kubrick, as already mentioned, having gone so far as to praise Clarke for the almost alchemic power he had to bring natural phenomena to life. 

This ability was developed over the course of hundreds of short stories and novels, which in a way, found it’s ultimate form in the pages 2001. So much of what makes Clarke’s version of the story worthwhile is his ability to stir in you the feeling of conquering a mountain when his characters trek across the empty darkness of space. I can imagine that while a reader at the time might have felt an informed sense of wonder at the imminent possibility of landing on the moon, it was in even further unknowns that a true sense of exploration could be found. To this end, in Clarke’s version of the story, he makes sure to give you a substantial description of each celestial body that they pass by, not just in regards to the astronomical mechanisms that gave birth to such objects, but also in regards to the scientists that originally discovered them, making our struggle to understand the universe a century-spanning evolution and a heroic endeavour in and of itself. For example, one short chapter is given over to the build-up and fall out the astronaut’s experience when they pass an asteroid, an object hundreds of miles from their ship and of so little danger it only serves to highlight the complete lack of events they experience otherwise. When the astronauts slingshot around Jupiter, it’s remarked that the planet has lost as much momentum as the spaceship Discovery has gained, but because of its mass no change in speed would be detectable and so the time had not yet come when man would leave a mark on the solar system, which, by its phrasing implies that such a time will come. When Clarke speaks about other objects, such as the moon called Japetus, he makes sure to inform us that it was Cassini who discovered it in 1671 along with the unusual fact that it is six times brighter on one side of its orbit than on the other. And similarly, of Saturn’s rings he mentions that in 1945 they were estimated to have been born at the same time as the human race, a revelation that in the run-up to entering the Star Gate gives them a particularly wondrous quality. In this manner, all of the cultural and scientific history he imparts has the added effect of making intellectual activity an odyssey in itself, with the universe a map of unexplored landmarks for us to set our sails toward. To that end, the theme of technology affecting the human condition too is more directly explored. For example, when Floyd engages with some news media, he notices that the more convenient news broadcast methods become, the more trivial, tawdry and depressing their content tends to be. When the astronauts embark on their long space flight across the solar system, their sexual needs aren’t satiated by one another, which Clarke suspiciously decides to overlook, but with an array of pharmaceutical options. And when they go to bed at night, even their sleep schedules are managed with a technological method referred to as electronarcosis, all of which does much the same as Kubrick’s version does to highlight how technology itself is a part of the ecosystem that influences the evolution of man, but in doing so also demonstrates much more concretely how humanity of the near future is practically a different species to humanity of the past.

Further to that, a great deal of what makes both the movie and the book feel special is really down to Clarke’s ideas. The episodic structure of the plot, free of any singular protagonist, was a technique that he’d already perfected in novels like Childhood’s End. And of the themes of humanity’s origins, the possibility of extraterrestrial life, the ingenuity and rigour with which mankind could tackle the challenge of space travel, they’re all explored with such earnest vigour that his writing bears comparison with the likes of H.G. Wells. To this effect, the media theorist Marshall McLuhan’s final evaluation of Kubrick’s film was that far from being innovative, it was so full of Newtonian imagery it belonged to 1901, a quality that I think is fair to put more down to Clarke’s contributions to the story than to Kubrick’s. 

Like many science fiction writers of his era, Clarke had the unique combination of being a man steeped in the romantic culture of the past while at the same time being so adamantly interested in the possibilities of the future. I personally find the idea of evolution being a means to a definitive end is an empty concept in that it only creates an illusory sense of purpose in the same manner that religion does. But in the way that the concept is drawn, you can’t help but feel roused by the prospect of what might actually be out there and enlightened to the fact that technology has become a part of the climate that will define the ways in which we change. When Bowman completes his odyssey by returning home with the new knowledge he has found, I dare say anybody who reads 2001: A Space Odyssey will feel themselves a part of a lineage that stretches back millions of years and might go on for a million more. In the movie, this impression is given when Flloyd reaches out for the monolith, and his reflection reaches back, as if those apes who originally touched the thing have passed the baton to him. In the book, it’s achieved in a more continuous manner with each link in the chain described along the way, repeated in a cumulative effect that’s unique to Clarke’s version of the tale. It easily justifies the book’s existence as something more than a novelisation of the film or as just a key to Kubrick’s cryptic version of the plot. 

At the beginning of this video, I mentioned how Clarke first learned of Kubrick’s interest from a telegram that was sent by a friend. That friend was Roger Caras, a motion picture executive who had lunched with Kubrick when the director told him of his intention to make a film about extraterrestrials. In the course of that conversation, it was Roger Caras who recommended Clarke to Kubrick, and, recognising the potential of such an enterprise, managed to pocket a napkin on which Kubrick had doodled an alien when describing what he hoped to do. It would be a keepsake from what would turn out to be one of the most exciting collaborations of that time. The incredible partnership of Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick resulted in a set of fraternal twins in the form of the book and movie, born of the same moment, but unique in their own respect. If they had been more similar, if they had been aiming to tell the story in the same style, it really would have been a case of who did it better. However, because they tackled the subject matter in such distinctive ways they’re both able to stand on their own. As for the men involved, it seems that at some stage they might have disliked something in what the other produced, but over time, they evidently came to appreciate the respective versions to which they would forever be linked. Of Kubrick’s picture, Clarke would go on to refer to it as, ‘our,’ movie, and continue to insist that the most accurate credit for the screenplay should have been Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, while the authorship of the book should have been the reverse, which, along with his apparent joy he displayed in talking about both versions in the years since, I think points to an obvious sense of pride in having produced the story, however it turned out on screen. And of Clarke’s abilities, the ever more private Kubrick would one day admit that he was the best writer he ever worked with and in the 1990’s even go on to compose a gracious letter in which he said that in his opinion Clarke was the greatest science fiction writer of all time.

Further Reading

I’d like to end this episode by stating that whether you feel yourself to be a bigger fan of the book for 2001: A Space Odyssey or of the motion picture, the enjoyment you receive from one is only really multiplied when you take them together. As Arthur C. Clarke once suggested in terms of how they’re best enjoyed: Read the book, see the film, and repeat the dose as often as necessary. Kubrick himself seemed to prefer you engage with the movie in a less academic way, but if I may suggest another stage in the process, include some analytical analysis in the mixture too. Far be it from me to suggest my own video to that end, so I’ll just highlight the work of Room 2001, whose video essays go into a lot more depth about the influence of Marshall McLuhan on 2001: A Space Odyssey than I did here. That said, if you’d like to stick with me a while longer, I have two other videos about books that inspired Stanley Kubrick; A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess and The Shining by Stephen King, the links for which are appearing on screen now, if I have them published already, and are pinned in the comments below. I’d outright tell you which essay to watch first, but I think if you rewatch this video, you’ll find that the hint was there all along. Until then…


Simon Fay

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