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THE EAGLE SOCIETY is dedicated to the memory of EAGLE - Britain's National Picture Strip Weekly - the leading Boy's magazine of the 1950s and 1960s. We publish a quarterly journal - the Eagle Times.

This weblog has been created to provide an additional, more immediate, forum for news and commentary about the society and EAGLE-related issues. Want to know more? See First Post and Eagle - How it began.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Happy Birthday, Sir Arthur

Arthur C Clarke – Eagle contributor - reaches his 90th birthday.

As Arthur C Clarke, former Chairman of the British Interplanetary Society (BIS) and world-renowned science and science-fiction writer, reaches 90 let’s remember the contribution he made to the Eagle in its early days. Marcus Morris’ biography tells us that two days after the issue 2 of the Eagle appeared on newsstands, Arthur Clarke (then Assistant Secretary of the BIS) wrote to the Eagle’s Editor to report that, at a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society where he had been lecturing on space navigation, another speaker (D H Sadler, head of the Nautical Almanac Office) had ended a highly technical series of remarks about navigation in space, etc. with the question “Will Dan Dare reach Venus?” While another speaker was sure that he would, Clarke “had expressed fears that he might encounter space-pirates!”

Within the month Clarke had been commissioned by Morris to write a synopsis for 'Dan Dare'. This resulted in three episodes in the first 'Dan Dare' story. There is uncertainty which three, but it seems Clarke was responsible for suggesting the outline of Treen behaviour to Frank Hampson, and might have been responsible for appropriating the word Treen (from a town in Cornwall, or from a descriptor for small carved wooden articles) as the name of the belligerent Venusian race. Clarke became a consultant on 'Dan Dare', and it has been suggested by Stephen Baxter, (in Matrix, the media magazine of the British Science Fiction Association) that the Treen’s use of communications satellites is a sure sign of the Clarke touch. It was Clarke who first suggested (in Wireless World, May and then October, 1947) the use of geostationary satellites as radio communications devices. Clarke was also commissioned to write a 'Dan Dare' story (presumably to appear as a strip) for one of the Eagle Annuals. This appears to have come to nothing, but a four page article “Is Space Travel Possible” was published in the 1953 Dan Dare's Space Book.

Separate from Clarke’s approach to Eagle in 1950, it was Eagle’s Fiction Editor (Chad Varah) who discovered an unsolicited manuscript sent in by the agents of a then comparatively unknown science fiction writer. It is unclear whether the story that appeared under the pseudonym Charles Willis was originally submitted as the work of Arthur C Clarke, but the story “The Fires Within” appeared in Eagle Vol 1 No 17 , dated 4 August, 1950. This was one of a number of stories written in the 1940s by Clarke when he was a student at King’s College, London. He variously used the pseudonyms Charles Willis and E G O’Brien at that time. It is unclear whether Eagle’s editors knew that a story of the same title had already been published under Clarke’s other pseudonym in Fantasy, The Magazine of Science Fiction, in August 1947!

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