2001: A Space Odyssey
Arthur C. Clarke
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.
But every one of those stars is a sun, often far more brilliant and glorious than the small, nearby star we
call the Sun. And many - perhaps most - of those alien suns have planets circling them. So almost certainly
there is enough land in the sky to give every member of the human species, back to the first ape-man, his
own private, world-sized heaven - or hell.
How many of those potential heavens and hells are now inhabited, and by what manner of creatures, we
have no way of guessing; the very nearest is a million times farther away than Mars or Venus, those still
remote goals of the next generation. But the barriers of distance are crumbling; one day we shall meet our
equals, or our masters, among the stars.
Men have been slow to face this prospect; some still hope that it may never become reality. Increasing
numbers, however, are asking: "Why have such meetings not occurred already, since we ourselves are
about to venture into space?"
Why not, indeed? Here is one possible answer to that very reasonable question. But please remembert thi
sis only a work of fiction.
The truth, as always, will be far stranger.
I - PRIMEVAL NIGHT
1 - The Road to Extinction
The drought had lasted now for ten million years, and the reign of the terrible lizards had long since
ended. Here on the Equator, in the continent which would one day be known as Africa, the battle for
existence had reached a new climax of ferocity, and t