Bradbury, Ray 1920–2012
Bradbury is an American novelist, short story writer, playwright, poet, children's author, and editor. He is the leading writer of the school of science fiction and fantasy that is concerned with the human implications of futurism, rather than in the wonders of advanced gadgetry. His fiction is based on the inhumanity, apathy, and technology of modern society. Bradbury is essentially optimistic, however, in his portrayal of the importance of human values and the imagination. (See also CLC, Vols. 1, 3, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.)
[Despite Bradbury's] regrettable tendency to dime-a-dozen sensitivity, he is a good writer, wider in range than any of his colleagues, capable of seeing life on another planet as something extraordinary instead of just challenging or horrific, ready to combine this with strongly held convictions…. The suppression of fantasy, or of all books, is an aspect of the conformist society often mentioned by other writers, but with Bradbury it is a specialty. (pp. 106-07)
[There] is about Bradbury, as about those I might call the non-fiction holders of his point of view, a certain triumphant lugubriousness, a kind of proleptic schadenfreude (world copyright reserved), a relish not always distinguishable here from satisfaction in urging a case, but different from it, and recalling the relish with which are recounted the horrors of Nineteen Eighty-Four and a famous passage that prefigures it in Coming Up for Air. Jeremiah has never had much success in pretending he doesn't thoroughly enjoy his job, and whereas I agree with him, on the whole, in his dislike of those who reach for their revolver when they hear the word "culture," I myself am getting to the point where I reach for my ear-plugs on hearing the phrase "decline of our culture." But in this respect Bradbury sins no more grievously than his non-fiction colleagues, whom he certainly surpasses in immediacy, for Fahrenheit 451 is a fast and scaring narrative…. The book emerges quite creditably from a comparison with Nineteen Eighty-Four as inferior in power, but superior in conciseness and objectivity. (p. 109)
Bradbury's is the most skilfully drawn of all science fiction's conformist hells. One invariable feature of them is that however activist they may be, however convinced that the individual can, and will, assert himself, their programme is always to resist or undo harmful change, not to promote useful change. (pp. 109-10)
Kingsley Amis, in his New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction (© 1960 by Kingsley Amis; reprinted by permission of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. and A. D. Peters and Company Ltd.), Harcourt, 1960.
Ray Bradbury has drawn the sword against the dreary and corrupting materialism of this century; against society as producer-and-consumer equation, against the hideousness in modern life, against mindless power, against sexual obsession, against sham intellectuality, against the perversion of right reason into the mentality of the television-viewer. His Martians, spectres, and witches are not diverting entertainment only: they become, in their eerie manner, the defenders of truth and beauty. (p. 117)
[Bradbury] thinks it … probable that man may spoil everything, in this planet and in others, by the misapplication of science to avaricious ends—the Baconian and Hobbesian employment of science as power. And Bradbury's interior world is fertile, illuminated by love for the permanent things, warm with generous impulse….
Bradbury knows of modern technology, in the phrase of Henry Adams, that we are "monkeys monkeying with a loaded shell." He is interested not in the precise mechanism of rockets, but in the mentality and the morals of fallible human beings who make and use rockets. He is a man of fable and parable. (p. 118)
Bradbury is not writing about the gadgets of conquest; his real concerns are the soul and the moral imagination. When the boy-hero of Dandelion Wine , in an abrupt mystical experience, is seized...
(The entire section is 2,677 words.)