Unknown Ray Bradbury?

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Photo by Nicolas Lobos on Unsplash

On my mind today is a conversation I recently had that left me perplexed. In speaking with a friend about social matters, I asked the following: “So what are you saying, that we should move off the planet whenever the technology exists to support a mass exodus? A second migration, but this time to the stars?”

My friend shook his head up and down so excitedly, I thought his neck would break. “Yes!” he exclaimed. “Yup, we should get the hell outta here and go to someplace better!”

I smiled a bit and said, “You know, I read The Martian Chronicles too. As much as I love Bradbury, it’ll never happen.”

My friend moved back by a step or two as a curious look shot across his face. “You love Brad who?” he asked in a rising tone.

“I love Bradbury’s works,” I said calmly, expecting him to understand.

“Dude!” he yelled. “Your wife know you switched teams?”

I gave up. My mind could not conceive of anyone not knowing of Ray Bradbury or the social commentaries he often provided in the form of his written efforts. Later, however, I realized that I was wrong to abandon the conversation so quickly. Yes, my disillusioned friend didn’t know of the author, but the much larger failure was mine in not fully explaining to my friend just who Mr. Raymond Douglas Bradbury was and why he remains an important figure.

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A silhouette of Ray Bradbury

Born in Waukegan, Illinois, on August 22nd, 1920, Ray Bradbury became a prolific writer who wrote over 30 books and well over 500 short stories, plays, and other types of literature. After graduating from high school, he began his literary career in 1938, mostly by writing stories for low-end “pulp” magazines. He continued to hone his craft, winning some minor notice along the way.

In 1950, Bradbury gained international fame with the first of his many signature works: The Martian Chronicles. Though largely composed of carefully-updated stories Bradbury published earlier in pulp magazines and other lesser forms, the widely-praised novel of humanity’s future on Mars and on a war-ravaged Earth addressed racism, fear, jealousy, intolerance, and more. It was a hit even in an America that was rife with many of the social ills Bradbury carefully dissected within the book. The following year, Bradbury again issued a reworked collection of his science-fiction social commentaries as The Illustrated Man, again to great acclaim. 

Three years later, Bradbury resurrected one of the cultural evils performed by Nazi Germany through his novel, Fahrenheit 451, the title of which is also the temperature at which book paper ignites. There, in socially-repressive 1950s America, Ray Bradbury wrote again of a dystopian future where books were set ablaze, censorship reigned, and culture was abandoned in favor of conformity. Bradbury did not stop there, of course, as he later created works such as Something Wicked This Way Comes in 1962 and A Sound of Thunder and Other Stories in 1986.

Ray Bradbury’s works are far too numerous for this blog to properly address. Most of his stories, though written decades ago, ring true today in these times of social and political turmoil. He possessed deep insight into the fundamental aspects of culture and social confict, and he projected that understanding through classic works as only a true master of the art of writing could do. 

After decades of creativity and social commentary that earned him numerous awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and a moon crater named in his honor, Ray Bradbury left this world at the age of 91 on June 6, 2012. He left behind works that are as entertaining as they were when first published, and they remain just as relevant.

So, that’s who Ray Bradbury was. Now to inform my friend.

All the best,
Keith V.

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