In Defense of Ray Bradbury

Tried to post this as a reply, but there was a character limit on status updates.

Bradbury is great. He's just kind of the Model T of poetic science fiction. It's hard to read him today and see his works the way they were seen on release. His influence has affected sci fi in a huge way that's more difficult to track than Heinlein or Asimov. He was an innovator that commonly broke new ground. Try to remember how big of a deal close encounters of the third kind was on release, and then watch it now. It feels slow, boring, uninspired. Would viewers of SAW or Event Horizon think that "The Exorcist" was the most horrifying movie ever? Probably not, but the day it first hit theaters, it was a revolution in it's genre. Anyway, that's why people recommend Bradbury. If you want kind of a modernized version of a classic Bradbury story, there is a Christian Bale movie called Equilibrium, which is pretty good rip off of Bradbury's most famous tale, Fahrenheit 451. If you want to try a different Bradbury book, Dandelion Wine is great, if lesser known.

I do get why it's hard for new readers to latch on to his work. If you hear a groundbreaking musician from 1952, it's often hard to tell why they were such a big deal, now that we've been acclimatized to the much more potent evolutions of music that they eventually inspired.

Both King and Koontz were influenced by Bradbury, as were most sci fi and horror writers. In his day he had movies, tv shows, radio dramas, hardback bestsellers, and the like. He was a huge deal in science fiction's embryonic decades.
 
Funny, but before I read your post, Nate, I did come to the conclusion that Bradbury's writing is poetic. I've always had a problem with any kind of verse, no matter now diluted. Never found the beauty in it. On the other hand, I really enjoy Kurt Vonnegut.. so it goes ;)

There is a father and son dialog in Something Wicked This Way Comes that I found a wonderful surprise. Very honest and relatable (for me).

Fahrenheit 451 is on my list, and I will add Dandelion Wine. Thanks for the recommend!

Yeah, I know what you mean about how times change and what was powerful yesterday might not be seen that way today. There is something to be said about being the first, or one of the first to the market. You get the attention for presenting something new. It's a sure way to success for anyone who has new ideas. Not contrived, but new. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Jungle, Animal Farm, Of Mice and Men, Goat Song, Papillon..... all wonderful books and have stood the test of time. Not that Bradbury hasn't. I'm not implying that. I just want to make it clear that I don't fall prey to contemporary modes of expression being used to dismiss the past.
 

sfoster

Staff Member
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It's probably been 10 or 12 years since i finished reading a book.
Ive been making an effort and I almost finished one this time. 350 pages.. I'm on pg 300 and thinking about giving up lol.

Browsing through the library i'd say that the sci-fi section is a sad state of affairs, it certainly doesn't inspire to write a sci-fi novel.
The fiction section is a lot more robust and diverse.
 
It's probably been 10 or 12 years since i finished reading a book.
Ive been making an effort and I almost finished one this time. 350 pages.. I'm on pg 300 and thinking about giving up lol.

Don't give up, sfoster. Before I was 50, I think I only read 3 books. Now, I"ve got 193 of them under my belt. ... Of course I'm in prison now and there isn't much to do but read. LOL!!!!

just kidding.

I discovered the joy of reading novels late in life, but hey, better late than never.

ps It's not that I was illiterate, it's just that I preferred technical manuals to other types of books.
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
Don't give up, sfoster. Before I was 50, I think I only read 3 books. Now, I"ve got 193 of them under my belt. ... Of course I'm in prison now and there isn't much to do but read. LOL!!!!

just kidding.

I discovered the joy of reading novels late in life, but hey, better late than never.

ps It's not that I was illiterate, it's just that I preferred technical manuals to other types of books.

Well when I said give up i mean just on this particular book, not reading altogether.
But yeah for the last decade or so I have been reading screenplays instead of books, i know what you mean.

the problem these days is my neck/spine where it hurts to sit, and it hurts even more to crane my neck down. unfortunately turns reading and other stuff into a labor instead of a fun escape. reading i can enjoyably do for like 30 minutes
 
Funny, but before I read your post, Nate, I did come to the conclusion that Bradbury's writing is poetic. I've always had a problem with any kind of verse, no matter now diluted. Never found the beauty in it. On the other hand, I really enjoy Kurt Vonnegut.. so it goes ;)

There is a father and son dialog in Something Wicked This Way Comes that I found a wonderful surprise. Very honest and relatable (for me).

Fahrenheit 451 is on my list, and I will add Dandelion Wine. Thanks for the recommend!

Yeah, I know what you mean about how times change and what was powerful yesterday might not be seen that way today. There is something to be said about being the first, or one of the first to the market. You get the attention for presenting something new. It's a sure way to success for anyone who has new ideas. Not contrived, but new. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Jungle, Animal Farm, Of Mice and Men, Goat Song, Papillon..... all wonderful books and have stood the test of time. Not that Bradbury hasn't. I'm not implying that. I just want to make it clear that I don't fall prey to contemporary modes of expression being used to dismiss the past.
Bradbury is an oddity of sorts. It's not so much that he writes poetry as that he thinks poetically and writes fiction about it. It's not an affectation for him, it's just how he is.

There are some authors that are just mentally unique in some area and it really comes through in their style. I think of Heinlein's interpersonal dynamics across dozens of novels. Some authors write "A" mentally energetic and optimistic character, but in Heinlein's case, literally hundreds of characters have some degree of these traits. It's in these bits of universal parity amongst character personalities that we get a window of transparency into the persona of the author.

I almost always try to experience new works on day one, or as close as possible. Books are the exception, where it matters less, but for movies, video games, music, and things where the timeline moves faster, I've found that an experience can be lost by long delays. In gaming for example, a generation is only 7 years. In 3 years you can almost be certain that there will be a more advanced version of something similar. So if you experience something a couple of years late, it's been dulled already by the rising tide of general expectations for genre x.

Anyway, Bradbury was a significant influence for me.
 
It's probably been 10 or 12 years since i finished reading a book.
Ive been making an effort and I almost finished one this time. 350 pages.. I'm on pg 300 and thinking about giving up lol.

Browsing through the library i'd say that the sci-fi section is a sad state of affairs, it certainly doesn't inspire to write a sci-fi novel.
The fiction section is a lot more robust and diverse.
I'd say Sci Fi had a golden age, running between 1950 and 1990. There are exceptions, but in general, what you see now is people who watched sci fi movies and shows, and then tried to ape what they saw, rather than actually writing out of intellectual curiosity, which is what created the genre originally. There's kind of a huge difference between "Childhood's end" or "Foundation" and what we get now, which is more or less bonanza with laserguns for the most part.

Star Trek is the middle ground, where sci fi was most effectively packaged for mainstream audiences, having a mix of the qualities that made both the thought provoking and imaginative scenarios of classic sci fi and the reliable pacing of modern television work.

Anyway, yeah, the sci fi section, and libraries in general, aren't what they used to be.

I try to read books now, but it's much more difficult after recalibrating my attention span to activities like storming Normandy beach in VR.

Fortunately, I did read several thousand books before the internet destroyed my attention span. There's a lot I'm sure I missed out on, but I did at least finish the top 100 in each category at least. Full disclosure, I skipped romance novels, and those 16 page sections of all the Tom Clancy books where someone would grab a military spec doorknob, and he would stop and describe every pin and tumbler inside the lock, because once something is military, it just becomes supernaturally interesting of course.
 
Don't give up, sfoster. Before I was 50, I think I only read 3 books. Now, I"ve got 193 of them under my belt. ... Of course I'm in prison now and there isn't much to do but read. LOL!!!!

just kidding.

I discovered the joy of reading novels late in life, but hey, better late than never.

ps It's not that I was illiterate, it's just that I preferred technical manuals to other types of books.
Lol, I wish I preferred technical manuals. That would make my life dramatically easier. I must spend 15 hours a week reading them. For me, it's like waking up in the morning knowing that you have to eat 10 bars of soap before you go to sleep. It's not going to kill me, but I don't enjoy the process.
 
Well when I said give up i mean just on this particular book, not reading altogether.
But yeah for the last decade or so I have been reading screenplays instead of books, i know what you mean.

the problem these days is my neck/spine where it hurts to sit, and it hurts even more to crane my neck down. unfortunately turns reading and other stuff into a labor instead of a fun escape. reading i can enjoyably do for like 30 minutes
I have some of these issues, and what I tried was this, I put a pdf reader in a window, put on the oculus, projected the window onto the sky, and just read while laying down.
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
I have some of these issues, and what I tried was this, I put a pdf reader in a window, put on the oculus, projected the window onto the sky, and just read while laying down.
tried that and everytime i would put something on the ceiling it would freak out and turn upside and do all kinds of weird shit.
it was really unwieldy. I think maybe if I got a kindle reader and put it on some kind of clampi could lay down and read with it above me.
 
You've read thousands of books? Holy crap! To me that is amazing, but I'm guessing you love to read, or at least did when you had more time. For me, I have to REALLY want to read the book. I would not read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance if it wasn't recommended in such a way that sounded too good to pass up. My person library at present contains 349 books. Mostly hard cover. 51 of them I classify as reference. The rest are novels, biographical, political, and religious (both heaven and hell are represented), and a little philosophy (whatever that is). Of all my non-reference books, I've ready 64.65% of them. I keep reading and I keep buying so the percentage doesn't change much.

Here's my library as of last year. Those shelves are jam packed now.
books2.jpg



Why don't I get more book cases? I'll tell you, because since Covid -19 hit nobody has them any longer. All the usual stores still show them in their catalog but they all show them as back-ordered indefinitely. So what's a guy to do? Buy all new shelves? Buy shelves that don't match the ones I already have? Hire a craftsman to build a wall of shelves? I haven't decided yet....
 
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You've read thousands of books? Holy crap! To me that is amazing, but I'm guessing you love to read, or at least did when you had more time. For me, I have to REALLY want to read the book. I would not read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance if it wasn't recommended in such a way that sounded too good to pass up. My personally library at present contains 349 books. Mostly hard cover. 51 of them I classify as reference. The rest are novels, biographical, political, and religious (both heaven and hell are represented), and a little philosophy (whatever that is). Of all my non-reference books, I've ready 64.65% of them. I keep reading and I keep buying so the percentage doesn't change much.

Here's my library as of last year. Those shelves are jam packed now.
View attachment 2779


Why don't I get more book cases? I'll tell you, because since Covid -19 hit nobody has them any longer. All the usual stores still show them in their catalog but they all show them as back-ordered indefinitely. So what's a guy to do? Buy all new shelves? Buy shelves that don't match the ones I already have? Hire a craftsman to build a wall of shelves? I haven't decided yet....
I think this is the right way to do it. I have plenty of digital books, but if you're actually going to take the time to read a 500 page book, it's definitely worth it to just buy the hardcover.



I'd recommend the following novels -

"Watership Down" which is considerably deeper than the film adaptation.

"Flowers for Algernon" A modern classic.

"Stranger in a Strange Land" Same.

"The Foundation Trilogy" It's really just one normal sized book split into 3 parts. This is considered the top sci fi book of all time by most.

"Plato's Republic" It's just a guy with a 215 IQ ranting for hours while he drinks with his friend and goes shopping. You can learn a lot.

"A Wizard of Earthsea" This book is kind of a phantom influence behind a lot of other fictions you've seen. A lot of smart people read this book 50 years ago, and you can still see echoes of it's ideas if you know what to look for.

"A Spell for Chameleon" or "On a Pale Horse" while aimed at a younger audience, these books were milestones in the evolution of pulp fantasy.

"The Neverending Story" While most people saw the hit movie, far fewer read this incredible book, which is far darker and more adult than the children's film it inspired.

"Childhood's end" They actually made a pretty decent miniseries out of this a few years back.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" if you haven't already read that.

"Speaker for the Dead" It's the sequel to Enders Game, which is also a classic, and is only like 100 pages.

"The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" a classic comedy novel that's a lot funnier than any of the movies or tv shows it generated.

"Shogun" This Clavell novel is quite an experience, due to it's epic scope.

"The Master and Margarita" It's something pretty unique.

"Elric of Melibone" This is the great grandfather of an entire modern genre, called grimdark. It's an antihero fantasy novel. Imagine LOTR written from the perspective of Sauron.

"The Gunslinger" The one SK book you apparently haven't read, lol.

There's a ton I could mention, but there's a few off the cuff.
 
Thank you, Nate. I think I'll go shopping at ebay today.. Plato's Republic, The Foundation Trilogy, and Watership Down have caught my eye for today, but I'll print out the list for later shopping sprees. Stephen King offers pretty good lists at the end of Dance Macabre, and Stephen King On Writing..
 
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I think you'll really like them. Watership Down is a legendary grade novel. When you can write a 400 page book about rabbits, and almost everyone in the country reads it, that's a very unusual accomplishment. Plato and Socrates were a rare breed of people that spent a lot of time thinking about how to think. It's more interesting than it sounds, at least to me. You get to the allegory of the cave in Plato's republic, and you realize that the plot of the Matrix came from this book written at a time when stone pillars were the height of modern technology.

Foundation trilogy is just brilliant.
 
You get to the allegory of the cave in Plato's republic, and you realize that the plot of the Matrix came from this book written at a time when stone pillars were the height of modern technology.
Funny, a couple of people and I were discussing this on another forum last year..
 
I finished the book.. It's hard to explain. I felt some parts were well written while others were just terrible. Some of the dialog made me want to throw the book in the garbage. I kept wondering if I got a hold of a test printing that was discovered to have missing words. Nobody talks the way these characters talk. It was almost gibberish. I had to stop from time to time to determine whether or not I may have had a stroke and was simply not comprehending correctly. ... as far as I can tell I didn't have a stroke.

On a different note; I feel that Stephen King drew heavily from this book when writing IT.

On to the next book.
I've got a copy of Bridge Over the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle that I've been meaning to read. Later today I'll start it. Right now I have to change the cabin filter in my Acura RDX.
 
Bridge OTRK is a great book. Lean's movie is of course also great.

Bradbury.... he writes by feel I think. He isn't always coherent in the way most writers are. I'd say the same of Vonnegut. Still, he does manage to communicate a singular vibe, and was a core contributor to the sci fi and horror genres we know today. I'd compare it to Robert Johnson and Mick Gordon. If you can trace back the path, Mick Gordon would have never happened if Robert Johnson hadn't happened first. Fans of Gordon might speak of Johnson as "being continuously off tempo, missing rhythms, not knowing music theory, and having a terrible guitar sound" (all of which is of course true, similar to your critique on Bradbury's dialouge)

Here's a simplification of what happened IRL though -


first, there was Robert. He revolutionized music by just playing however he wanted and ignoring conventional techniques. He was a starting point for what we now know as blues music.


decades later, these simple chords and driving rythms have introduced a new wave into the sonic tidepool, Distortion. Johnson's simple 2 note chords were compatible with amp distortion in a way that previous styles were not. People responded to the driving rythms and powerful guitar sounds, and rock was created from blues.


another few decades pass, and people have become acclimatized to rock, with some looking for an "uber form" of the genre, resulting in Metal.


finally, we arrive at Mick Gordon in 2019, a direct descendant of Robert Johnsons fretboard concepts. With a signal to noise ratio beyond the best producers of the 20th century, he plays a 7 string guitar in much the same way Johnson did with his pawn shop acoustic. His results are unmistakeably more advanced, but in some sense, he owes everything to his predecessors.

You could make a case that Bradbury helped popularize sci fi and fantasy in film and television, which paved the way for greater acceptance of comic book films in the marketplace, eventually resulting in the commercial viability of the Marvel Cinematic universe. That's probably a stretch, but he definitely played a role.
 
I found some good in Something Wicked This Way Comes but there was one other thing I didn't mention.

When I read a book, I automatically assign actors to play the parts of the characters. I don't do it consciously, it just happens. I enjoy being able to watch the story in my mind as I read it on the page. You have to remember, I grew up on movies and TV and didn't discover the joy of reading until my early 50's (thanks mom and dad). ... Here's the thing; there were no people I could "assign" to the characters. I didn't feel I knew any of them at all. Not Mr. Dark, Mr. Cooger, Jim, Will, Mr. Holloway, none of them...

Oh well, They can't all be as good as Donavan's Brain. :coffee:
 
I found some good in Something Wicked This Way Comes but there was one other thing I didn't mention.

When I read a book, I automatically assign actors to play the parts of the characters. I don't do it consciously, it just happens. I enjoy being able to watch the story in my mind as I read it on the page. You have to remember, I grew up on movies and TV and didn't discover the joy of reading until my early 50's (thanks mom and dad). ... Here's the thing; there were no people I could "assign" to the characters. I didn't feel I knew any of them at all. Not Mr. Dark, Mr. Cooger, Jim, Will, Mr. Holloway, none of them...

Oh well, They can't all be as good as Donavan's Brain. :coffee:
Well, there's something I didn't mention as well. I just didn't want to influence your reaction to the book in the midst of reading it. I actually don't like "Something Wicked this way Comes". It's true for a lot of authors, books, music, films inclusive, that I don't really like their hit single as much as other works. For example, Kevin Smith is widely known for Clerks, but I like both Dogma and Red State better. Fleetwood Mack is mostly known for "Go Your Own Way" but I like "The Chain" better. On and on.

I take your meaning about trying to assign actors to Bradbury's characters. It's been done of course, but never really well, and when it happened, it was a simpler time where audiences were not as sophisticated. I don't actually think he's very good with characters, as an isolated skill. Montag was serviceable in 451, which I did like. Otherwise, I feel like his characters are simply delivery mechanisms for his concepts and prose. He had a kind of unique creativity, but he was not Sorkin when it came to clearly defining his denizens.

Also, here's the casting they did for the book you just read, if that helps.

 
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Rhiannon has been my favorite Fleetwood Mac song forever... but then again, they have so many.

Kevin Smith, hmmmm.. I've got to go with Jay and Silent Bob strike back.

Something Wicked; That's right, I almost forgot there's a movie. I've never seen it... For some reason I still don't want to. No, I never try to assign people to play the characters. It just happens, except with this book...

I'm sure you've read One Flew Over the Chuckoos Nest. You want to know who my mind assigned to play McMurphy? Willey from the Simpsons. LOL!
 
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