Rememberies

One of my favorite and most influential authors, Ray Bradbury, died just over four years ago on June 5, 2012.  His books were pivotal in how I came to think about science and about fiction and about the two of those elements together.  He never let the setting or the science eclipse the human, and he used the speculative to comment on the here and now.

They’re honoring him in his home town with a statue, which is a nice thing to do.  I think it does capture a great deal of his whimsical spirit and energy.  But I also think that he shouldn’t be dismissed too quickly as a bubble-gum writer.  As gladly as I devoured his delicate touch in the worlds of fiction and science, he was also a stunningly astute observer of human nature as well as prognosticator of the human condition both externally and internally.

His most critically-acclaimed work, Fahrenheit 451, is a darkly prescient discussion over the control of history and thought.  The literal burning of books that formed the centerpiece of the story can be seen at play in our  drastically revisionist history, as people wrangle for control of how to tell the story of our past to suit personal agendas, and how books are banned for contradicting illusion with reality.  As a side note, his predictions about television and interactive media are increasingly close to modern reality.  When we walk in the evenings from time to time, the glow of the huge television screens in almost every house always makes me remind of Ray’s vision in this book, and I shudder a little bit.

I remain a greater fan of his short stories than his novels, with one of my favorites being The Murderer.  A simple tale of technology run amok that is shocking in how closely it mirrors the reality of our technology co-dependence today.  He understood the allure of technology and how ubiquitous it could become so quickly, until the ability to think and to be alone were obliterated by the constant intrusion of electronic and digital conveniences.

Yes, Bradbury captured my heart and imagination, but he also planted alarms in my psyche, warnings both personal and communal.  Hopefully those don’t get erased by history or commemorations large and small.

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