December 16, 2007 / 8:50 AM / 10 years ago

At 90, sci-fi guru Clarke yearns for E.T., peace

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Turning 90 on Sunday, British science fiction writer and visionary Sir Arthur C. Clarke has three birthday wishes: For E.T. to call, for man to kick his oil habit and for peace in his adoptive Sri Lanka.

<p>Science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke signs copies of his books at The Galle Literary Festival January 14 2007. REUTERS/Buddhika Weerasinghe</p>

Marking his “90th orbit of the sun,” the prolific author and theorist who was one of the first to suggest the use of satellites orbiting the earth for communications, would like to be remembered foremost as a writer -- and predicts commercial space travel will one day be commonplace.

“If I may be allowed just three wishes ... I would like to see some evidence of extraterrestrial life. I’ve always believed that we’re not alone in the universe, but we’re still waiting for E.T. to call us or give us some kind of sign,” he said in a video posted on Web site www.youtube.com.

“Secondly, I would like to see us kick our current addiction to oil and adopt clean energy sources,” he added. “Climate change has now added a new sense of urgency... We can’t allow coal and oil to slowly bake our planet.”

And thirdly, he turns to Sri Lanka, where he has lived for the past 50 years, written many of his more than 80 books and received the Indian Ocean island nation’s top civilian honor in 2005 for his contributions to science and technology and his commitment to his adopted country.

“I’ve been living in Sri Lanka for 50 years, and half that time I’ve been a sad witness to a bitter conflict that divides my adopted country, and dearly wish to see lasting peace established in Sri Lanka as soon as possible,” Clarke said.

Around 70,000 people have been killed since 1983 amid a civil war between the state and Tamil Tiger guerrillas, which continues to rage, with well over 5,000 people killed since early last year alone in near-daily land and sea battles, bombings and air raids.

Born in England in 1917, Clarke first came to the island in the 1950s for scuba diving and said he became a resident after he “fell in love with the place.”

In the 1940s he forecast that man would reach the moon by the year 2000, an idea experts dismissed as rubbish. When Neil Armstrong landed in 1969, the United States said Clarke “provided the essential intellectual drive that led us to the moon.”

He has written more than 80 books, including “2001: A Space Odyssey” and 500 short stories and articles, and says his mind continues to roam the universe as much as it did as a young space cadet in the 1920s and 1930s, despite the fact he is now wheelchair-bound.

“The golden age of space is only just beginning,” he said.

“Over the next 50 years, thousands of people will travel to earth orbit and then to the moon and beyond. Space travel and space tourism will one day become almost as commonplace as flying to exotic destinations on our own planet.”

Editing by Sanjeev Miglani

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