“For The Greeks The Vast Stretches Of The Sea Must Have Had The Same Sort Of Mystery And Remoteness That Space Has For Our Generation”

Before 2001: A Space Odyssey became screen legend in 1968, Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke struggled forever to complete the project that was originally entitled, Journey Beyond the Stars. From a 1965 “Talk of the Town” piece by Jeremy Bernstein in the New Yorker (subscription required) about the work-in-progress three years before its release:

Our briefing session took place in the living room of Mr. Kubrick’s apartment. When we got there, Mr. Kubrick was talking on a telephone in the next room, Mr. Clarke had not yet arrived, and three lively Kubrick daughters–the eldest is eleven–were running in and out with several young friends. We settled ourselves in a large chair, and a few minuted later the doorbell rang. One of the little girls went to the door and asked, ‘Who is it?’ A pleasantly English-accented voice answered, through the door, “It’s Clarke,” and the girls began jumping up and down and saying, “It’s Clark Kent!”-a reference to another well-known science-fiction personality. They opened the door, and in walked Mr. Clarke, a cheerful-looking man in his forties. He was carrying several manila envelopes, which, it turned out, contained parts of Journey Beyond the Stars. Mr. Kubrick then came into the room carrying a thick pile of diagrams and charts, and looking like the popular conception of a nuclear physicist who has been interrupted in the middle of some difficult calculations. Mr. Kubrick and Mr. Clarke sat down side by side on a sofa, and we asked them about their joint venture.

Mr. Clarke said that one of the basic problems they’ve had to deal with is how to describe what they are trying to do. “Science-fiction films have always meant monsters and sex, so we have tried to find another term for our film,” said Mr. C.

“About the best we’ve been able to come up with is a space Odyssey–comparable in some ways to Homer’s Odyssey,” said Mr. K. ‘It occurred to us that for the Greeks the vast stretches of the sea must have had the same sort of mystery and remoteness that space has for our generation, and that the far-flung islands Homer’s wonderful characters visited were no less remote to them that the planets our spacemen will soon be landing on are to us. Journey also shares with the Odyssey a concern for wandering, and adventure.”•

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