Ray Bradbury, We Hardly Know Thee
It’s very disconcerting when one of your heroes gets old and cranky and weird. Sadly, this happened to me last week, with respect to one
of America’s greatest living authors,Ray Bradbury.
We knew something was up with the author of such important and even vital classics as Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and Dandelion Wine back when he called President Clinton a shithead… but, hey, Clinton was President and calling the President a shithead is a great, time-honored tradition. He subsequently wasn’t happy about Michael Moore’s movie Fahrenheit 9/11, thinking
Moore was somehow piggybacking upon the fame of his stunning novel by conflating the imagery of his story of a repressed future with repression of the then-present.
However, oddly, this past week Ray attacked President Obama for his comments about freedom of religion.
No, Bradbury didn’t say that Obama should be anti-Muslim, or, conversely, that Obama should have specifically backed building the Islamic cultural center at the site for a long-abandoned Burlington Coat Factory. Ray said “He (Obama) should be announcing that we should go back to the moon. We
should never have left there. We should go to the moon and prepare a base to fire a rocket off to Mars and then go to Mars and colonize Mars. Then when we do that, we will live forever.”
I’m still trying to find his segue. I don’t get the connection between the two. Should all future houses of worship be built in space? I don’t know, although maybe NASA should consider the concept as a future source of funding.
Attacking Ray is not going to make me any friends, particularly on the occasion of his 90th birthday. I am proud to have known him. I shared a table with Ray for an hour at the San Diego Comic Con a while ago, I was with him at the debut of his play Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, and we both indulged in a friendship with the late great Julius Schwartz. I wouldn’t trade a moment of those experiences, nor would I abandon the soul-filling wonderment I received from his writing. I will admit to being more experienced than Bradbury when it comes to being cranky and weird.
Bradbury also said we have too many cell phones and too many Internets (sic), and we have to get rid of them. He’s also opposed to electronic books. Sorry, Ray. It’s the 21st Century. Back after World War II there were a whole lot of authors who stigmatized the “cheap” paperback novels that were starting to proliferate. You know, the ones that brought science fiction
writers to a mass audience. You know, writers like Ray Bradbury.
He might not like the term science fiction – I don’t either – but Ray Bradbury was a damned important visionary. Turning your back on the future is one thing, but turning your back on the present is just sad.