- Posted June 6, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Ray Bradbury's legacy
Ray Bradbury: Not Predicting Futures, But Preventing Them.
- nsaidi, CNN iReport producer
I always had a difficult time trying to pay attention when reading. My mind often wanders. It isn't so with good science fiction. One moment you could be on this world worrying about the social problems that held our species back and the next you could find yourself on your way to an unknown planet. This is what Ray Bradbury did for me. He inspired my love of social progression and my passion for astronomy and the possibility of inhabiting even those nearby worlds that we tend to ignore.
In 1953 Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451, a vision of American society to where books become outlawed and the only ideas that people have come through the television controlled by government censorship. Fahrenheit 451 received more critical acclaim than Bradbury’s story The Martian Chronicles; a scenario in which the atomic bomb makes the Earth so unlivable that humans must colonize Mars. Concerning Ray Bradbury’s cold war novels he had this to say, “The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 come from the same period in my life, when I was warning people. I was preventing futures,” (Bloom 89). Both Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles were very possible outlooks on what the future could hold if events continued to go as directed.
Why is it that Fahrenheit 451 is chosen to read in a variety of classes over The Martian Chronicles when both books were written with the same intentions, to prevent future problems? Even Bradbury suggests a deep kinship between the pieces showing the necessity to understand the value that both works have in literature. Literary critics heavily focus on Fahrenheit 451 because it describes a scenario that was in the process of happening during the Cold War. It is much easier for a critic to deconstruct an idea that has already been put into practice like censorship, than for them to critique something as speculative as leaving this world to go to Mars when we were still trying to figure out how to put a satellite into our own Earth’s orbit.
The exploration of unknown frontiers may be too difficult for literary critics to want to make a connection to. The science fiction that receives the most credit is that which deals with the psychology of science. Postmodern literary authors produced some of the most profound looks into the human psyche. Literary criticism bloomed during the Cold War as colleges became widely open to the liberal arts and it was safe to study books that questioned authority. The most daring authors were those who wrote against censorship in a time when the Soviets were trying to spread Communism and Americans were trying to spread Capitalism.
By the 1960’s American’s were becoming free from the red scare, finally giving authors the freedom to express their critique of how the United States was handling the spread of Communism without the fear of being put into prison. One can only wait so long for the bomb to drop before it becomes a normal part of life. If the United States Government could prevent ideas from spreading that were contrary to the spread of democracy, then credit must be given to the science fiction authors who predicted these events. This is why novels like Fahrenheit 451 have been given the critical attention in the academic world that they deserve. Naturally authors will pay attention to other authors who share their same struggles and for a time science fiction authors were able to share a harmonious relationship with other popular authors of the Cold War era. This would only last so long.