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The Star by Arthur C. Clarke

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The Star

by Arthur C. Clarke

• Word count: 2475
• Page count: 6

The Star is a classic science fiction short story by one of the genre’s most famous authors: Arthur C. Clarke. It is a story told from the point of view of a Jesuit astrophysicist aboard a starship that is investigating the Phoenix Nebula. The site of a supernova some 6,000 years earlier, the nebula has yielded knowledge that shakes his faith to its very core.

If you are a fan of classic science fiction stories, or you enjoy the writings of Arthur C. Clarke (such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Rendezvous with Rama), then you owe it to yourself to read this amazing short story of how space exploration can affect a person’s deepest beliefs.

The Star won the Hugo award for Best Short Story in 1956.

I do not know who gave the nebula its name, which seems to me a very bad one. If it contains a prophecy, it is one that cannot be verified for several billion years. Even the word nebula is misleading: this is a far smaller object than those stupendous clouds of mist–the stuff of unborn stars–that are scattered throughout the length of the Milky Way. On the cosmic scale, indeed, the Phoenix Nebula is a tiny thing–a tenuous shell of gas surrounding a single star.
Or what is left of a star . . .

Where you can find The Star:
The Star first appeared in 1955 in the science fiction magazine Infinity Science Fiction.
• The Star also appears in The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke – the definitive collection of nearly every short story by Arthur C. Clarke. This massive book spans his stories from 1937 – 1999 and includes such favorites as Tales of the White Hart and The Nine Billion Names of God.
• You can read a nice HTML version of The Star for free at the internet archive.

If, by some chance, you don’t know about Sir Arthur C. Clarke, check out the biography on his website.

Be sure to check out my review of another famous Arthur C. Clarke short story: “The Nine Billion Names of God”.

5 thoughts to “The Star by Arthur C. Clarke”

  1. Wow. I am stupefied. Did not see that ending coming. I was highly encouraged by Rusty to read this one, apparently it is a very famous short story. A slow build, becoming more and more mysterious. Anticipation of what was to come next kept me flipping the pages, and I could see I was nearing the end.. too little left of the story to provide a fantastic ending.. I was afraid I was going to be disappointed.. and then, the very last paragraph.. I was more shocked and more satisfied than I thought I could be.. and have been pondering this story ever since.
    Truly amazing. Wow.

  2. I am so happy to find this story again. I’ve been looking for this story 13 years. Every time I tried to explain this story I would get weird looks. This story makes you think and touches you in great an unexpected ways. This is my favorite science fiction story and I recommend it to everyone as a “must read.”

  3. Thanks Thena,

    It is definitely a great story, and I’m glad you finally re-found it! Now you can share it with all those people who gave weird looks!

  4. Yep,

    I agree. I first read it in a college English anthology 15 years ago, and have never forgotten it. It has that effect on people.

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