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Ray Bradbury Turns 88 194

Lawrence Person writes "Legendary science fiction writer Ray Bradbury turned 88 years old on August 22. Happy Birthday Ray! 'The Illustrated Man' was one of the first science fiction books I ever read, and I've been hooked ever since. I'm sure that's true of a lot of science fiction writers and readers, be it that, or 'The Martian Chronicles,' or 'Fahrenheit 451.' There are also several videos of Ray on that page, including one where he doesn't endorse Sunsweet Prunes." I remember when another student on the bus loaned me "Fahrenheit 451," and my middle-school English teacher Mrs. Young was smart enough to include "All Summer in a Day" in her curriculum.
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Ray Bradbury Turns 88

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  • by eclectro ( 227083 ) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @06:07PM (#24730171)

    May you never reach 451 degrees.

  • The Pedestrian (Score:5, Interesting)

    by samcan ( 1349105 ) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @06:07PM (#24730173)

    I liked the short-story The Pedestrian. From what I hear, it was the basis for Fahrenheit 451, however, I think that one can get some different meanings out of each.

    What's interesting about Fahrenheit 451 are some of the parallels that could be drawn to today's society. Guy Montag's wife has a seashell like device that she puts in her ears so she can listen to the radio, much like today we have iPods, where people can seem to be in their own little worlds.

    The fascination she has too with the telescreens, and wanting to be involved in one of the, for lack of a better word, "soaps," could tell of our society's own inordinate fascination with the personal lives of the "rich and famous."

    Finally, that overwhelming desire for more, another telescreen, even though the last one was put in within a year prior, could speak to our society's want for material goods.

    Whether or not Mr. Bradbury believes our society could degenerate to a point where we burn books, I would argue that our society already contains elements of his fictional society.

    The Pedestrian is similar in that the everyday man is fascinated with what takes place on his television screen, and cannot be bothered to calmly walk down the street and think.

    One connection I believe can be found between the short story and the novel is that in The Pedestrian, the main character is arrested for walking down the street (as nobody does that anymore, he must be suspicious), and in Fahrenheit 451 the girl who talks to Guy Montag mentions that her uncle got arrested once for walking down the street.

    • Re:The Pedestrian (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BitterOldGUy ( 1330491 ) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @06:26PM (#24730365)
      Fahrenheit 451 and Orwell's 1984 should be required reading in our schools. But I don't think the folks who want to hang on to their power would like that.

      The British and Australian MPs, on the other hand, appear to be using them as a policy guide. We're not too far behind.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by pieisgood ( 841871 )
        Great Britain isn't far behind "1984". America isn't far behind "brave new world" and Russia/china aren't far behind "Fahrenheit 451" (just with a pinch of communism).
      • Re:The Pedestrian (Score:4, Insightful)

        by samcan ( 1349105 ) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @06:47PM (#24730533)

        Actually, in high school we read Animal Farm and 1984, and my middle school's library got kids to read Fahrenheit 451.

        Maybe not the norm, but nice anyway. I sped-read through Brave New World. Didn't like it as much.

        In one of my high school English classes, we actually discussed how one goes about creating a closed society. Relating it to the reading that we were doing (either 1984 or Animal Farm) gave a whole new dimension to the novel.

      • Re:The Pedestrian (Score:5, Insightful)

        by glwtta ( 532858 ) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @08:29PM (#24731213) Homepage
        Fahrenheit 451 and Orwell's 1984 should be required reading in our schools. But I don't think the folks who want to hang on to their power would like that.

        Both are, in fact, commonly found in high school curricula - no reason to get all melodramatic (it takes more than a couple of books, no matter how poignant, to trouble those who "want to hang on to their power").
        • It wasn't always like that, but then again, there were fewer books then.

          As the value of a bit goes down the signal to noise ratio will decrease and those in power will sleep better.

      • Fahrenheit 451 and Orwell's 1984 should be required reading in our schools.

        Fahrenheit 451 was required reading when I was in high school, that was 1995 in ... Kansas City of all places. (tee hee!)

        Dunno if that matters, but given some of the other things that have happened in Kansas schools in recent years, I thought a couple of you might find that amazing.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Fahrenheit 451 and Orwell's 1984 should be required reading in our schools.

        Unfortunately, I suspect too many students associate Bradbury's work with Michael Moore's film.

        I remember reading a number of short stories or excerpt from Bradbury. One that still brings goosebumps is "There Will Come Soft Rains" [] about an automated house that carries on, not knowing that the owners have all been killed by a nuclear blast:

        "The garden sprinklers whirled up in golden founts, filling the soft morning air with scatterings of brightness. The water pelted windowpanes, running down the charred wes

    • Re:The Pedestrian (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Workaphobia ( 931620 ) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @06:48PM (#24730535) Journal

      I remember reading an account by Bradbury regarding Farenheit 451, in which he described walking down the street, passing a woman who was listening to a Walkman while walking several dogs, completely oblivious to her surroundings. He then states, "This is not a work of fiction."

      It's been a while since I read the book, so while I remember that I enjoyed it, some of the details and even a portion of the main theme escape me. Along the lines of what you mentioned, my favorite passages from the book include the minimum speed limit of 60 mph in Montag's nightmare, and the part where he asks his wife what the play is about and she responds by naming the characters, as the play had absolutely no redeeming content.

      So yes, it's a great tale of how we become lost in the more superficial aspects of our lives, but it's not a point that I necessarily agree with. For instance, I don't think that walking your dogs while listening to an audio player, digital or analog, constitutes losing touch with society.

      Now that I reread your description of the Pedestrian, I'm fairly certain I have read it (probably in the back of a publication of Jonas and the Giver, back in middle school). Yes, it fits perfectly. What stands out the most is how their techno-skewed culture not only rejects nonconformity - it doesn't even comprehend it.

      Of course, Farenheit 451 is also a great story about oppression by government. Not quite as biting and frightening as 1984, but it's up there. You can't control books the way you can televisions. You can't retroactively erase their content to suit your current propaganda or to eliminate inspiring ideas. Of course, more useful then the books themselves was the knowledge of who was harboring books, so you would know who rejected society's mandates and thus who must be destroyed.

      Then again, Bradbury wrote a non-canonical passage in which Guy Montag was shocked by his firechief's personal library. The chief responded that it was only reading that was a crime, not possession.

      Sigh. It's been a while. I wish I had the time and patience for reading, but since I'm no longer in high school and thus required to read, I just can't find the time, what with.. all these... modern distractions..

      Dear God, this is indeed not a work of fiction.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I kind of thought that Fahrenheit 451 was less about government oppression and book burning, and more about a society that has become so apathetic that they allow the government to oppress them and burn their books. The second-scariest part of the book, for me, was that almost nobody really cared that the book burnings, oppression, and even the atomic war were even going on. The scariest part was how much it reminded me of the society I live in, or at least my perception of it.
        • On the flip side, though, there is in the environment of despair some real hope in the form of the Books. Society may go to hell in a handbasket, but there's always going to be some who find ways to work around that problem.

  • by AhtirTano ( 638534 ) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @06:09PM (#24730199)
    Still alive, yet he still has a tombstone [] in a cemetery in L.A. The same cemetery were Marilyn Monroe and Dean Martin are buried. Strange, but true.
    • by Trailwalker ( 648636 ) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @06:50PM (#24730551)
      More normal than you think. Walk through most American cemeteries and you will see many markers/monuments in place for those yet living.

      The Cemetery and Funeral businesses call these Pre-need sales and use them to maintain sales numbers.

      As you kiddies will find out, when life gets near its end, the idea of selecting the services and memorials you want is very attractive. Pre-need is much less expensive than At Need. The "Death Industry" loves At Need sales. The families are easy marks for higher prices, and expensive, but unneeded services.

      For a good book on the subject, try Jessica Mitford's "American Way of Death, revisited" circa 2000.
      • by fm6 ( 162816 )

        The Cemetery and Funeral businesses call these Pre-need sales and use them to maintain sales numbers.

        You make it sound dishonest. I assume that when you get a "pre-need" plot you have to actually pay for it? Then it's sold. When you buy a new residence, the sale occurs when you pay your money, not when you move in!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 24, 2008 @06:22PM (#24730313)

    Ray Bradbury was a good friend of senator Packwood, and when the senator's political career began to unravel amidst allegations of sexual abuse and harassment from his female staffers, Bradbury tried to defend him on an episode of politically incorrect. Among other things, he said something to the effect of "who hasn't slapped a girl on the butt?" and "I sexually harassed my wife until she married me."

    A class act, that guy is.

  • by buddhaunderthetree ( 318870 ) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @06:29PM (#24730387)

    By some chance both All Summer in a Day and Sound of Thunder were in my 7th grade lit book, better than the crap my kids are assigned to read.

  • Now there's a simple, powerful, and disturbing story. I read it when I was in my early teens, and have never forgotten it.

    For a (so-called) science fiction writer, Bradbury was an unabashed romantic of the American school. He goes right along Steinbeck in my view.
    • Ray Bradbury's a romantic? I always thought of Bradbury as a naturalist -- at least as far as characterization is concerned. As for whether or not he writes SF, I always thought he was more of a fantasist than a sci-fi writer. If he wants you to know that there are rockets, he'll tell you, but that's all he'll tell you. He doesn't care about how the rockets work, so he figures the reader doesn't need to know either.
      • Fantasy and/or technology were just props for Bradbury used to reveal the human soul. The romanticism of Bradbury (in the literary meaning) is impossible to miss.
  • ... is this man's Nobel Prize for Literature? I'm completely serious.
    • Science fiction isn't considered "serious" enough to warrant the Nobel committee's attention, but they'll sometimes throw the magical realism crowd a prize. On the other hand, Doris Lessing got the 2007 prize, and has written some science fiction.
  • because I have never heard of him and I read lots of science fiction...
    • by dbolger ( 161340 )

      If you're reading lots of science fiction and you have never read anything by Ray Bradbury then you are reading lots of the wrong science fiction.

      Are you by any chance reading the greats of modern sci-fi in inverse alphabetical order, by author's surname?

  • by whuddafugger ( 942622 ) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @06:41PM (#24730485) Homepage

    It seems Bradbury and Bukowski were in the same graduating class. According to their respective Wikipedia entries, both were born in 1920, and both graduated from Los Angeles High School.

    Interesting bit of trivia if true...

    -- anthony

  • Years ago I hung out a lot in an IRC Channel with one of his nephews.

    I always thought 451 was over-rated, my school taught it along-side 1984 and Lost Paradise. I do however enjoy several of his other books.

  • by teknopurge ( 199509 ) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @06:50PM (#24730545) Homepage

    I contend that Bradbury is the single greatest science fiction writer of our age. Period. What he did - his vision - and when he did it was truly remarkable.

    I still remember reading the Martian Chronicles and the Illustrated Man. For a kid that didn't like to read for fun it says a lot about books that kept me up 3 nights straight to find out how things ended.

  • by walter_f ( 889353 ) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @07:05PM (#24730655)

    I liked Bradbury a lot. And Heinlein. And E.E. Smith.

    A few years later, Farmer and Stapledon.

    At the age of 25, I discovered two very witty and humourous authors, namely Robert Sheckley []

    and R.A. Lafferty []

    Not to forget Philip K. Dick, Stanislaw Lem, the Strugatskijs.

    And of course, the British Authors: Douglas Adams, and Clarke, Moorcock, Brunner, Ballard, Aldiss,...

    Among them, the great but not well-known David I. Masson ("The Caltraps of Time") []

    Somebody just tell me to stop?
    Thanks. ;-)

  • by gardyloo ( 512791 ) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @07:16PM (#24730719)

    ... but "Something Wicked This Way Comes" is one of my favorite, most enjoyed influences in terms of writing style and pure entertainment. I've read many of his other stories (and I agree with some that "Fahrenheit 451" isn't one of his better works, though it's undeniably important), and enjoyed them all.
          However---and perhaps it's the time in my life that I read it---for pure *joy* at the written word and how he wields them, "SWTWC" is probably in the top five works which has most affected me (and this post is no, nor is it meant to be, reflection of Ray's abilities).

  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @07:19PM (#24730729) Homepage Journal
    Bradbury is one of the influential authors from the golden age of science fiction. This was a cool time when people were buying books and magazines and a writer could make a good living writing. Lok at the intro to Fahrenheit 451. He needed to sell a story, so he went to the library, put coins in a typewriter, and wrote. It was amazing.

    What makes these guys cool is that they could have probably just gotten away with writing crap, like so many authors do today, or they could have tried to prove they were smarter than everyone else by writing 'literature'. But they didn't. They wrote stuff that socially relevant and accessible to the people. As a result we have a good history or the social views of technology and cultural issues of the time. As they die we are losing first hand history from people who made living by objectively observing it and then writing it down in entertaining form.

    So all these kids that think this is not relevant, well that because we know watch tv instead of read. No one becomes a scientist because of pulp fiction. Now everyone watches TV. Which is no so good because the bandwidth of TV is nowhere near as wide as the bandwidth of pulp fiction, so the vision and opinions tend to be limited and sanitized to what will attract sufficient viewers to pay the 200K it would take to develop a script, instead of the 20K it would take to buy a story. Of course, everyone now wants to be a millionaire overnight, so likely would think it was too much to develop a story and only get 20K.

    The legacy of books that these guys left us is awesome. It is techy writing, unabashedly, unapologetically, and willingly. I will take this time to thank bradbury for the writing, be it science fiction, fantasy, or just fiction.

  • In 1993, he was the keynote speaker at the Ingres convention in San Jose. Awesome speaker - I still remember the theme of his speech - science fiction to science reality. Very inspiring.

  • He's the giant... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kid Zero ( 4866 ) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @07:44PM (#24730929) Homepage Journal

    Modern SF Writers all stand on his shoulders when they write.

  • The Coda (Score:5, Informative)

    by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .werdnaredne.> on Sunday August 24, 2008 @09:03PM (#24731497) Homepage Journal

    Fahrenheit 451 itself was censored in exactly the method we wrote about for years, and he didn't know it. When he later discovered it, he wrote this new piece to go in the end of the book. Everyone should read it. []

  • by EWAdams ( 953502 ) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @09:21PM (#24731623) Homepage

    "The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl." He makes it sound so reasonable.

  • by Stanislav_J ( 947290 ) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @09:22PM (#24731631)
    I fondly recall that Fahrenheit 451 (along with Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm) was one of the first really serious "adult" (in the non-porno sense) books I read, when I was all of maybe 11? 12? The visions and dark allegories of all three books, combined with the events of the late 60's (and Watergate, soon to follow), which made me realize that the Real World (TM) was not at all like what my History and Civics textbooks portrayed, helped to turn that impressionable, too-smart-for-his-own-good adolescent into the bitter, paranoid, mistrusting, cynical middle-aged grunt I have become. For all the ulcers, the insomnia, the times I beat my head against the wall in frustration at the direction of government and society, and the accumulated hair I tore out of my head along the way.....I thank you.
  • by TomHandy ( 578620 ) <> on Sunday August 24, 2008 @09:50PM (#24731799) []

    [George W. Bush is] wonderful. We needed him. Clinton is a s***head and we're glad to be rid of him. And I'm not talking about his sexual exploits. I think we have a chance to do something about education.... It doesn't matter who does it -- Democrats or Republicans -- but it's long overdue. (, August 29, 2001)

    The great thing is our counter-revolution that occurred in the polls a few weeks ago. I think it's great. All the Democrats are out and the Republicans are going to have a chance in a couple of years. It doesn't make a difference what party you belong to--it's a chance for a fresh start. It's very exciting. (Speaking about the "Republican Revolution" of 1994)

    Oh yeah, and he says that Fahrenheit 451 isn't really about censorship or oppressive governments: []

    • You can see him here too: [] According to him we've never had censorship or book burnings in the US either.... and he doesn't consider books being banned from libraries (including his own) to be censorship. Yet at the same time he says Fahrenheit 451 is about how TV is replacing literature and making people morons.
    • by shish ( 588640 )

      I think we have a chance to do something about education... (August 29, 2001)

      Given that bush's government has been too busy warmongering to do anything about education (other than continuing the "no child left behind" thing, aka "no child allowed ahead"), does he still hold this view?

  • A silly little short squib of a thing, part of The Martian Chronicles, yet it has stuck in my mind for over fifty years.

    That and The Sound of Thunder--the time travelling tourist steps on a butterfly--but everyone knows that one, of course... ...and the one about the automated house that keeps running, serving meals and scraping the uneaten meals into the dishwasher, reading the housewife her favorite poem (by Sara Teasdale), and so forth, apparently unaware that the family has been vaporized by an atomic b

  • Happy birthday, Ray!

    I performed a reading of "The Pedestrian" my senior year in high school for the Wisconsin state forensics program. I apparently did well enough with it that I went on to finals, for which I performed a cutting of "A Clockwork Orange" -- complete with the Russian bits -- and won the gold medal! Between that and the antics of my underground newspaper (we printed the notes from the school's meeting about a proposed dress code -- at Middleton High School!!!1!)*, I went from the geeky dweeb w

  • "... and my middle-school English teacher Mrs. Young was smart enough to include "All Summer in a Day" in her curriculum."

    My last high school English teacher, by contrast, declared that science fiction didn't merit being called literature and refused to even let us submit books reports about any SF novels. Several of us eloquently argued the matter with her, but to no avail. This same teacher gave birth to not one but two thoroughly gifted sons who both scored close to a perfect 1600 on the SAT, and who b

  • I remember when another student on the bus loaned me "Fahrenheit 451,"

    WHOA. Hold it right there buddy, a student loaned you Ray Bradbury's intellectual property, and you read it without paying the man?! Ray's going to drag his octogenarian ass to your house and give you a good solid SF-writer-caliber whoopin, I tell you what. Look at all the ruckus he caused [] just because someone borrowed his title; how do you think he's going to feel when he finds out you borrowed the whole book!

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"