Space Odyssey

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For the BBC drama/documentary, see Space Odyssey (TV series).
For the Italian film, see Star Odyssey.
See also: Space Oddity

The Space Odyssey series is a series of science fiction novels by the writer Arthur C. Clarke. Two of the novels have been made into feature films, released in 1968 and 1984 respectively. Two of Clarke's early short stories may also be considered part of the series.

Short stories:

  • "The Sentinel" — short story written in 1948 and first published in 1951 as "Sentinel of Eternity"
  • "Encounter in the Dawn" — short story first published in 1953 (re-titled "Encounter at Dawn" or "Expedition to Earth" in some later collections)


The 2001 screenplay was written by Clarke and Stanley Kubrick jointly, based on the seed idea in "The Sentinel" that an alien civilization has left an object on the Moon to alert them to mankind's attainment of space travel. In addition, the 1953 short story "Encounter in the Dawn" contains elements of the first section of the film, in which the ancestors of humans are apparently given an evolutionary "nudge" by extraterrestrials. The opening part of another Clarke story, "Transience", has plot elements set in about the same time in human history, but is otherwise unrelated.

The 1972 book The Lost Worlds of 2001 contains material that did not make it into the book or film.

Clarke's first attempt to write the sequel to 2001 was a film screenplay, though he ultimately wrote a novel instead that was published in 1982. Clarke was not directly involved in the production of the second film, although he did communicate with writer/director Peter Hyams a great deal during the production via the then-pioneering medium of e-mail (as published in the book The Odyssey File) and also made a non-speaking cameo appearance in the film. Kubrick had no involvement in the 2010 novel or film, or any of the later projects.

The Space Odyssey series combines several science-fiction narrative conventions with a metaphysical tone. Since the stories and settings in the books and films all diverge, Clarke suggested that the "continuity" of the series represents happenings in a set of parallel universes. One notable example is that in the 2001 novel, the voyage was to the planet Saturn. During production of the film, it was decided that the special effects for Saturn's rings would be too expensive, so the voyage in the film is to Jupiter instead. The second book, 2010, retcons the storyline of the first book to make the destination Jupiter as seen in the film.

Clarke stated that the Time Odyssey novels are an "orthoquel" to the Space Odyssey series.[1]



  1. ^ Review of “Firstborn” on
  2. ^ 3001:The Final Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke