June 8th, 2012
Science fiction and fantasy master Ray Bradbury died Tuesday, June 5, in Los Angeles, but his visions of the future will keep him ever alive in the minds and libraries of his fans. The settings for his fantasies ranged from Mars in The Martian Chronicles to someplace just a block or two from your house in his story collections, notably Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Bradbury often used storytelling to reveal the impact of some semimagical hidden side of the human character. Just read I Sing the Body Electric and you’ll understand. Or to see tattooing in a very different way, read The Illustrated Man.
Bradbury’s compelling portrait of a book-banning, book-burning society in Fahrenheit 451 is an engrossing warning against totalitarianism, marked by the loss of autonomy and privacy. It ends with the indelible image of ordinary book lovers hiding in the woods, fugitives from a society where the firefighters are black-booted officers who burn secret libraries full of hidden books. Each person in the forest refuge is responsible for committing one book to memory and teaching it to someone else. If you want an impassioned evening with your friends, just start a conversation about which book each of you would take to Bradbury’s forest of furtive readers.
Fahrenheit 451, which Bradbury wrote in 1953, imagined a home where life centered on a pervasive, wall-sized screen. His obituary in USA Today notes that the book also foresaw “iPods, interactive television, electronic surveillance and live, sensationalized media events, including televised police pursuits.” So perhaps it is appropriate to honor Ray Bradbury, the unbeatable storyteller of a vivid imaginary future, by taking a look at some books about the future’s potential, from Mars to the ways climate, business and science could evolve: