Stories that changed me: The Star by Arthur C. Clarke (1955)

When I made my quiet return to my passion of writing, I began with a course in creative writing, and short story writing. Part of this course was to read and read and read. And read some more.

During this course I discovered the grandfathers of science fiction, Jules Verne and HG Wells. And then I stumbled upon The Star by Arthur C. Clarke.

“The joys of life are often in those moments of stumbling when expectation is at its lowest so that the impact of the discovery is at its greatest.”

(Yes, feel free to quote me on that.)

This story written in the 1950s about space exploration towards a star that – oh, wait. I’ll let this description from Kings Alumni Community tell it for me.

“The Star” is the story of a group of space explorers from Earth returning from an expedition to a remote star system, where they discovered the remnants of an advanced civilization destroyed when their sun went supernova. Their chief astrophysicist, a Jesuit priest, is suffering from a deep crisis of faith, triggered by some undisclosed event during the journey. This story appeared in the magazine Infinity Science Fiction in 1955 and won the Hugo award in 1956. It later appeared in Arthur C Clarke’s book of short stories, The Other Side of the Sky.

Something about ‘crisis of faith‘ and ‘advanced civilisation destroyed‘ and ‘supernova‘ pulled me in. Tickling my own questions on religion and humanity. On universal love and connection beyond human contemplation let alone understanding. And also, what was a Jesuit priest doing leading a space expedition?!

This marked the beginning of a hidden love for sic-fi and fantasy that I wasn’t even aware of. The way it was able to explore humanity and question deeply between right and wrong, even redefining ideas completely, appealed to my inner philosopher.

And by the end of this short trip to space, I was forever changed.

Perception altered.

Mind blown.

New dimensions opening.

Ending with a question, it triggered many of my own questions.

You can read Arthur C. Clarke’s short story The Star, here.

It is three thousand light-years to the Vatican. Once, I believed that space could have no power over faith, just as I believed the heavens declared the glory of God’s handiwork. Now I have seen that handiwork, and my faith is sorely troubled. I stare at the crucifix that hangs on the cabin wall above the Mark VI Computer, and for the first time in my life I wonder if it is no more than an empty symbol.click to read on

 

 

Mental traffic

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

 

Flash fiction challenge:

Whenever I get too religious, as I have been this past Ramadan, I feel uneasy.
Does this mean I’m possessed by satan (all the worship frustrating him)? Pushing myself too much?
Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to me anymore. I feel myself stumbling between the rocks of rules and opinions and jagged edges of modern scientific thinking jutting out from nowhere, tripping me so that I fall and cut myself.
But it’s hard to say, yes thats it. Because sometimes it feels right to blow my brains out. Can’t trust that feeling. Just need to trust in God. And me.

100 words

 

*****

 

Anyone who has suffered depression knows it sucks. Can’t trust the thoughts in your head. I experienced depression a few years ago (due to medication I was prescribed for an auto-immune disease I was diagnosed with – but that’s another story). Thankfully I no longer battle it. But I have come out of it with a better understanding of mental illness, and have become passionate about championing mental illness awareness, particularly depression and bi-polar disorders.

Depression still carries a stigma in some conservative societies, not always the religious ones, mind you. The worst advice I’ve seen handed out by some well-meaning people was to pray, get your rosary. Might work for the blues, but not for mental illness. On the other hand, doctors need to understand the role religion plays in peoples lives and not dismiss it totally. It needs to be taken into account when treating the individual.

My style today is inspired by Donna Tartt. Reading The Goldfinch I find her writing so complex. Similar to how I used to write long ago, before journalism taught me to simplify. But, and this is rare for me, I think I could read it again, if only to understand the complex phrasing a little better. Definitely recommend the book.

Written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by the inspiring writer Rochelle. The challenge is to write a story in 100 words or less based on the prompt. This weeks photo prompt kindly provided by Ted Strutz. Click to view more flash fiction here.

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