The Plastic Hippo

June 7, 2012

Ray Bradbury

Filed under: Literature — theplastichippo @ 2:47 pm

Ray Bradbury, who has died at the age of 91, did not like being described as a writer of science fiction.
He preferred to describe himself as a writer of fantasy. He was neither; he was simply a great American
writer.

Almost all of his obituaries have described him as a science fiction writer even though, as he repeatedly
stated in life, there was only one science fiction book in his vast and prolific canon of work. The BBC,
in their brief 25 second acknowledgement of his passing, described him as a “sci-fi” author. Bradbury would
have winced.

His own delineation between science fiction and fantasy is crucial in understanding and appreciating his work.
Fantasy, he said, could never happen. Science fiction, on the other hand, could. Working within the impossibility
of myth allowed Bradbury to explore the human condition in an alternative reality. The Martian Chronicles are
not necessarily about the planet Mars.

In 1976 he said:
“I am not afraid of machines. I don`t think the robots are taking over. I think the men who play with toys have
taken over. And if we don`t take the toys out of their hands, we`re fools.”

If, by his own admission, he only ever produced a single science fiction book, Fahrenheit 451 is not one of the
greatest works of science fiction ever written. While other science fiction writers were imagining alien invasions,
holidays on Jupiter, personal jet packs and a three course meal in a single pill, Bradbury wrote of knowledge,
ignorance and courage in the face of totalitarianism. He accurately predicted vast, flat screen televisions filling
an entire wall, interactive 24 hour mindless drivel on said screens, electronic surveillance, mobile connectivity
through something the size of a cigarette packet and huge, live spectacular events designed to keep a
population compliant. But that is not the point. Fahrenheit 451 is probably one of the greatest modern novels ever
written.

I was little more than a boy when I first started to read Fahrenheit 451, appropriately enough in a library. Pausing
and looking up to consider something profound, I was surrounded by books. I realised that I was in a room that
contained everything. Everything.

He has died after a good long life and great success. In his own words from a book that made part of me:
“The world was bankrupted of ten million fine actions the night he passed on.”

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1 Comment »

  1. Compliance, or the intent of the authorities to compel it, was a recurring Bradbury theme and should be heeded.

    Perhaps, under Gove’s proposed curriculum revisions, all children should, by the age of 14, have been compelled to read at least 2 Bradbury novels. Then, at least they will have some appreciation of what the future might hold.

    A fitting and moving tribute – many thanks.

    The Realist

    Comment by The Reakist — June 11, 2012 @ 11:10 am | Reply


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