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Jul 20, 2004 8:03 pm

Bradbury's Prophecies

Michael Moore's hijacking of Ray Bradbury's cautionary dystopia is annoying, but I'm hoping that more people will take the opportunity to return to the original. My wife is rereading Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451 as we speak. I'll get to it shortly, but, to my suprise, I don't have a print copy in the house. (My wife's copy is in electronic braille.) I have The Complete Poems of Ray Bradbury and a whole lot of his other works, but apparently I read my parents' copy of Farenheit 451 growing up and it's still in Maryland.

Most of what Bradbury wrote (and still writes) really qualifies as fantasy, or just literature, rather than science fiction. But he packed enough into this 1953 book .... among the projections of the book my wife has noted are:

  • The world hates America. The country is at war, but the slogans are primarily about spending money and enjoying ourselves.
  • Dumbing down, of course, including more and more ways to honor and reward those who master trivia
  • Separation of parent and child, starting with pervasive unnecessary caesarean births, and schooling beginning at earlier and earlier ages, both for the convenience of the parents as well as the detachment of the children from emotional bonds
  • Increasingly sophisticated entertainment technology, including the Walkman and large-screen TV, which provides total immersion in the media experience. People engage in highly destructive and dangerous extreme sports, in this case high-speed driving in inappropriate circumstances.
  • Homogenization of entertainment and literature by eliminating stories or images which give the slightest offense to anyone
  • Voting based on TV appearance.
  • Finally, two purely technological issues: biometric security and the 24-hour ATM

As far as his general projections of anti-intellectualism and social norms which stress the lowest common denominator?"Sure would be more fun to read this and laugh, 'Boy, he was an alarmist!'" she said. For myself, the apparent impossibility of entirely supressing ideas, texts, movements, even with the full weight of technology and social will, is a chillingly real thing when applied to terrorists and racists, etc., as well as a heartening one applied to our beloved humanistic tradition.

Go, read it for yourself, and see!

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Oscar Chamberlain - 7/21/2004

Fascinating! Bradbury was not my favorite sci-fi writer when I was young, in part because there was something about his sense of sadness about America--and the human race in general--that I did not want to deal with.

It sounds like it is time for a return.

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