A Question of Authorship

The finished motion picture of 2001, in terms of its visuals, style, ambition, and final obscurity, is very much Kubrick's product. Says Clarke of the movie, "2001 reflects about ninety percent on the imagination of Kubrick, about five percent on the genius of the special effects people, and perhaps five percent on my contribution." And Clarke credits the idea for the title as being "as I remember, entirely his." So, as Clarke himself asks "why write a novel, you may ask, when we were aiming to make a movie?" And is the book anymore than a 'novelisation' of the film?

Says Clarke: "It's true that 'novelisations' (ugh) are all too often produced afterwards; in this case, Stanley had excellent reasons for reversing the process. Because a screenplay has to specify everything in excruciating detail, it is almost as tedious to read as to write... Perhaps because he realised that I had a low tolerance for boredom, Stanley suggested that before we embarked on the drudgery of the script, we let our imaginations soar freely by writing a complete novel, from which we would later derive the script. (And, hopefully, a little cash.)"

In the event, the novel was not finished by the time production began, but by the end of 1964 a 130 page treatment has been completed and sent to MGM, who initially financed the venture at $4.5 million, with a proposed 1966 release. In the event the film was not released until April 1968, by which point the costs had rocketed to $10.5 million. (The details of its groundbreaking, and often troubled production are chronicled elsewhere). It is worth noting that, as Clarke remarks "NASA was spending the entire budget of our movie... every day," adding "I often remarked to Stanley that the film would be still on its first run when men were actually walking on the Moon."

But as far as the novel was concerned (which cost considerably less than ten million, though has no doubt made more for its author), its creation became a parallel process with the film, with "novel and screenplay... being written simultaneously, with feedback in both directions." Says Clarke, "Thus I rewrote some sections after seeing the movie rushes - a rather expensive method of literary creation, which few other authors can have enjoyed. Though I am not sure if 'enjoyed' is the right word."

Kubrick began shooting on December 29th 1965, and Clarke finished the first draft of the novel in April 1966. The co-scenarists had agreed that the novel should come out before the film, but now Kubrick suggested several changes to the novel that kept Clarke busy for several more weeks, then refused to sign the contract that had been a negotiated with the publishers. Kubrick claimed that the book needed more work, which annoyed Clarke as his diary entry for July 19th 1966 shows: "Almost all memory of the weeks of work... seems to have been obliterated, and there are versions of the book that I can hardly remember. I've lost count (fortunately) of the revisions and blind alleys. It's all rather depressing - I only hope the final result is worth it." In the end the novel that was released in July 1968 - some three months after the release of the film - differed very little from the one that had been written two years ago. Perhaps Clarke managed to out-stubborn the notoriously dictatorial Kubrick and kept the differences in an attempt to maintain some sort of artistic integrity about the project. This would certainly explain the significant difference of the destination planet in the book being Saturn rather than Jupiter - not something that would have in fact been a large task for the novelist to revise.

So, after all this, to what extent can we say that 2001 is a book by Arthur C. Clarke? It is possible to argue that this question is not important, as it does not necessarily diminish the critical appraisal of the works - book and film - themselves. It only becomes problematic when one attempts to delineate which ideas originate in which of the two creative minds. Cinema criticism is well accustomed to cinema being a collaborative art form (despite the persistent director's vanity credit of "a film by..."), but literary criticism less so. Whilst it is unlikely that numerous 'novelisations' of films (and TV series and even computer games), or books such as Josie Lloyd and Emlyn Rees' Come Together (1999) will be the subject of much fevered intellectual discussion, the late twentieth and early twenty-first century saw a marked increase in inter- and intra-media creative collaborations, and the co- written book is now something less of a rarity than it was some years ago. (Interestingly 2001 was not, in fact, the first book to be born out of such a collaborative process: Thunderball (1961) by Ian Fleming comes from a screenplay scenario that he then novelised. It was only the fact that rights to the story resided outside the Fleming estate

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