Do you remember the first time you read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451? Do you remember Montag’s arrival at the camp in the woods where the drifters who had escaped the authoritarian government memorized books? That scene has never left me, and ever since Bradbury died in 2012, it has seemed more important than ever.
Is it because I love books? Is it because stories are central to my very being? Is it because our current political leadership is trending authoritarian? Is it because net neutrality is in danger? Is it because those grubby drifters strolling through the forest and reciting great works, seemed authentically human in a world where those with power were (are?) technologically advanced, corrupt and soulless?
August 22nd is Ray Bradbury’s birthday. Last year I proclaimed the day “Ray Day,” and, just like the drifters, a few friends and I memorized a few lines from stories we love to honor of Bradbury and, more importantly, to honor his message to all of us about the importance of stories and all the interesting, vital, moving, shocking, essential thoughts humankind has ever recorded. Continue reading
As soon as the Nebula Awards wrapped up, I reluctantly looked at the Hugo nominees, hoping there might be a few new glittering titles worth reading. Now that’s a pisspoor attitude to have toward one of the few popular award programs for my preferred genres of good writing, but there we are. After several years of small-minded snipes and scandals, I was not excited about the Hugos. I must admit, however, the 2017 nominees look pretty good on the surface. Will 2017 be the year that we stop trying to make science fiction great again and simply try to produce good writing and tolerate our unique talents and differences?
The full list of nominees is here. You will see a lot of overlap with the Nebulas in several categories and a smattering of titles that bellow their continued alignment with a particular contrariness purporting to be authentic, bold and politically incorrect. They may be any or all those things to some readers. I just find them boring and/or childish, but this is not another critique of the Sad Puppies, or whatever they are calling themselves now. It’s a musing on how our polarized literary landscape mirrors the polarized political landscape. It seems that the reactionary protests among some authors about “real” science fiction, fantasy and horror and their disgust with writers and works that don’t follow the traditional scripts and genre features were just foreshadowing of what we see happening today in many different parts of society and political expressions.
I hope the writerly community is on an upward trajectory, but even if it is questions and considerations remain. Where, in the continuum of motivations, does this reactionary surge come from? Is it more fear- or hate-based? Can that even be quantified or does it simply depend on the individual? While we go on arguing nature versus nurture, my experience in the world of public health makes me wonder if perhaps fear/hate is caught like a virus. If it is the latter, how do we inoculate ourselves? The well-known public health preventive measure of social distancing seems exactly what we should not do, so maybe that metaphor doesn’t hold up. Continue reading
I hereby proclaim today, August 22nd 2016, to be the first Ray Bradbury Day, which shall be celebrated every year as a tribute to this great American writer and also to the idea, dramatized in Fahrenheit 451, that books and stories are important. There are many reasons to celebrate writing of all kinds, but, at the heart of it, the importance of books rests on the fact that they record and bear witness to human civilization, especially the imagined worlds that exceed our reality. No book can ever really be destroyed so long as we cherish and remember the stories within.
A piece of the first chapter in Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente is my choice for presentation this year. It’s one of my favorite books and beautifully written.
For more on what inspired this exercise and how you can join in, check out my post here. We’re using #RayDay on Twitter. If you decide to celebrate Ray Bradbury Day, please send me a link to your presentation.
I have always wanted to find a fitting tribute for Ray Bradbury to express how much I loved his writing and how grateful I was to have discovered him when I was a young reader. I wish I had come up with a tribute while he was living, but nothing is perfect and it’s never too late to celebrate greatness so I am going to make my tribute on his birthday–August 22nd–and I invite you to join me.
Until Bradbury’s death in 2012 he entertained and enthralled us during his long career with novels like Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes, collections like The Martian Chronicles, and dozens and dozens of short stories. Before I had read any of these works–I must have been around 7 years old–I remember seeing the film Fahrenheit 451 on TV. I didn’t understand much of the movie, but I was really intrigued by the ending where everyone was memorizing books and reciting them, in a camp in the woods.
A few years later, when I read the book, this idea about the fundamental importance of reading deeply impressed me. For the first time in my life, I felt it was not only okay for me to do it, but it was actually important. Bradbury opened a door for me that changed my life, and I know I wasn’t the only one.
So here’s my idea. Let’s celebrate “Ray Bradbury Day” (#RayDay) on August 22nd by memorizing a short excerpt from any book you cherish. Record your excerpt on audio or video and share it with your friends in any way that makes sense to you. Here’s an example.
If you clicked on that last link you saw me recite a little from Something Wicked This Way Comes. It’s not a climactic scene, but for all we associate with Bradbury — Martians, space, the future, horror — that novel is a testament to Bradbury’s ability to convey love for messy human beings through tender and thoughtful writing. Who better to celebrate and how better to celebrate the importance of the written word — an issue close to Bradbury’s heart — than taking cherished written words, preserving them in our minds and sharing them with others.