Tom Clancy died yesterday.
Maybe the best way to understand Tom Clancy’s legacy is to look at all the “universes” on his Wikipedia page. He created the Jack Ryan universe, sure—a fifth movie is coming out in December, with Chris Pine playing the role made famous by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and *cough* Ben Affleck. But he also built worlds for a number of other video games and book series, including the Op-Center universe, the Net Force universe, and the H.A.W.X universe. (The H.A.W.X universe, seriously?) The guy built worlds.
Clancy also popularized a certain trick in his genre where you try to impress the reader by getting really, really technical about what kind of gun your hero is carrying, or the engine mechanics of a particular class of nuclear submarine. Some people love that stuff; others fall asleep. Dan Brown definitely took notes.
But let’s try to remember that Tom Clancy wrote books, first and foremost, and some of his writing was informed and wise. Here are a few chestnuts from his very first novel, a little Cold War drama called The Hunt for Red October. (I actually had the board game.)
“It is a principle of diplomacy that one must know something of the truth in order to lie convincingly.”
“It was one thing to use computers as a tool, quite another to let them do your thinking for you.”
“Being a victim is more palatable than having to recognize the intrinsic contradictions of one’s own governing philosophy.”
– Brian Hurley