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The Machineries of Joy
May 23, 2010 10:29 AM   Subscribe


 
My heart skips a beat every time I see Bradbury's name in an FPP.
posted by Skygazer at 10:37 AM on May 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


My heart skips a beat every time I see Bradbury's name in an FPP.

Mine too. Had to go search for Bradbury to make sure there weren't any obits.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:45 AM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Me three.
posted by clarknova at 10:46 AM on May 23, 2010


I think I haven't given Bradbury a fair chance. I first read Sound of Thunder and absolutely hated it, because it was all -fi and no sci-. Everything else I've read by him, I've been so bothered by the lack of scientific realism that I haven't even really paid attention to the prose. I guess I went in looking for something like Asimov and was frustrated when I didn't get it. But I'll admit I have been biased- every time I read one of his stories, I sorta kinda go in wanting to dislike it.

But everyone is always saying that he's great, so I think I need to give him my traditional once-every-two-or-three-years try, again. I think I've finally figured out what his appeal is supposed to be.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:52 AM on May 23, 2010


/considers adding NotDead tag.
posted by Artw at 10:52 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Showbiz - Sound of Thunder is about as SFish as he gets, so probably you want to give him a miss.
posted by Artw at 11:00 AM on May 23, 2010


Actually I think that's the problem, Artw- I didn't think it was good sci-fi, so I thought of Bradbury as 'the guy who writes bad sci-fi.' But I've come to understand that he's actually more like 'the guy who writes eerie fantasy with sci-fi trappings.'
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:04 AM on May 23, 2010


Showbiz_liz, have you read Fahrenheit 451? I put that in the same class of great dystopian lit as 1984 or Brave New World or a Ballard novel. Better even, in some ways. Forget the need for sci-fi reality stuff, honestly once you get past your teens, the gimmicky neat-o tech aspects need some poetry and some depth, and Bradbury provides that in spades. Much like Ballard, Bradbury's sci-fi isn't so much about the future, as it is about the present. The very real present in out imaginations and our psyche's, shifted over one degree into a possible reality.

Slight derail, I recently read a new paperback by Haldeman (loved The Hundred Years War), Marsbound, and it is so full of exhaustive technical description of every single space vehicle and mars environment that I couldn't get past a third of it without being bored to death. Not sure what that is about...
posted by Skygazer at 11:13 AM on May 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


I didn't read much science fiction as a kid, so when my 10th grade English teacher assigned The Martian Chronicles, I put off reading it, thinking it was "some dumb book about a bunch of Martians". The night before we were due to have finished the book, I sat down to read it and was entranced. I finished it in a couple of hours and wished it were longer. It's one of those rare books where I remember the act of reading it as much as I remember the book itself. From then on, every time I was at the mall bookstore, I picked up a couple or three more Bradbury paperbacks. He quickly became one of my favorite authors.
posted by RestlessNeerdowell at 11:42 AM on May 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


showbix_liz, I think Bradbury writes brilliant sci-fi, just not hard sci-fi.
posted by brundlefly at 11:43 AM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have a collection called The Bradbury Chronicles: Stories in Honor of Ray Bradbury, and in it William F. Nolan does a loving send-up/amalgamate of Bradburyesqueness.

"`The Waukegan crowd sighed, gasped, choked, cried out, the look of the great dream-colored climbing strawberry rocket in their round Illinois eyes...''

It made me laugh, and it also reminded me why some people might not be as rapturously in love with Bradbury as I always was.
posted by redsparkler at 11:50 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bradbury didn't make the Midwest come alive, at least not for me. He made rocket ships come alive. And Mars.

And I can't actually go there now, like he promised.

That motherfucker.

that one-of-the-best-authors-of-the-20th-century motherfucker
posted by GuyZero at 12:08 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ray Bradbury was one of the authors that caused me to love to read and helped me learn how to take words and create pictures in my mind...he made it so easy!

My son has been in discussion for the past year or so to produce a new film version of "Illustrated Man".. It's hard to describe how thrilled I was that my son was about to embark on a project that had such an impact on me as a kid.

A while back there was a small stage production of Fahrenheit 451, he was able to see the production with Bradbury. I spent an hour telling him that he just had an experience that he may never equal... but..I think he already understood that.
posted by HuronBob at 12:09 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have a Ray Bradubury story but I don't say it in public.
posted by The Whelk at 12:11 PM on May 23, 2010


I didn't think it was good sci-fi

Laughing, because he's about the only sci-fi writer I actually REALLY like. And yes, I too, came to the conclusion that he wasn't really a sci-fi writer.

Also ditto on searching for obits.

One of my all time favourite writers.
posted by bardophile at 12:11 PM on May 23, 2010


When I was little I read The Martian Chronicles in a book with an introduction by Jorge Luis Borges, this always colored my perception of his kind of sci-fi:

Jorge Luis Borges introduction

posted by Omon Ra at 12:36 PM on May 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


Bradbury is hands down the number one author that ignited a love of literature in my heart as a child. I have a deep and passionate love for his stories, because he transcends genre - writing of a spacecraft isn't a description of technological prowess and the advancement of civilization... it's a description of dreams, and yearning, and hope, and all the pitfalls and triumphs that accompany. Writing of the lost and ancient cities of Mars isn't about the conflict of great alien races, it's about how we try to find ourselves in others, how much we want to see a home of the heart in a world we can't understand.

One of the aspects of his writing that I cherish the most is the ability he has to depict the wonder and terror of childhood, the myths and wishes that we had and then began to forget. 'The Miracles of Jamie' is one of my favorites - a pitch perfect depiction of dreams built in childhood to try and mitigate the powerlessness one feels in the face of greater events. Now that I think on it, many of the Bradbury stories I love the most don't have any element in the fantastic in them, at least in a concrete fashion - they're more the heartfelt drama of dreams. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to find my old 1978 print of 'Long After Midnight' and just enjoy the smell of the pages for a bit.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:41 PM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


"There Will Come Soft Rains" is my favorite. [PDF]
posted by emelenjr at 12:52 PM on May 23, 2010


I had almost the exact same experience RestlessNeerdowell :) In 8th grade I was at a private school that gave you a summer reading list that you had to pick 3 books from and write a small report on. I had seen the movie of the Martian Chronicles (didn't it star Rock Hudson?) on tv and kinda hated it, but as it wound down to the last week of summer, I decided to try the Martian Chronicles and the Illustrated Man. Just like you I read them in one sitting and remember being overwhelmed by how much I loved them. For the next year I read everything of his I could get my hands on. Not all of it worked - I couldn't get through Something Wicked This Way Comes - but The Chronicles and Illustrated Man, the short story collections like R is for Rocket... damn, I remember just being carried away by those books.
posted by puny human at 12:58 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fahrenheit 451 = Best. Book. Ever!
posted by d1rge at 1:08 PM on May 23, 2010


My mother introduced me to Ray Bradbury (respectfully acknowledging him as her "favorite author, well, favorite after Douglas Adams") during my seventh October via The Halloween Tree. I can't say I've been the same ever since.

(I always forget about "Usher II", incidentally, but it gets better every time I read it. One of my favorite pieces of his writing, however, is Green Shadows, White Whale - Bradbury's lightly fictionalized memoir of working on Moby Dick with John Huston in 1950s Dublin.)
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 1:08 PM on May 23, 2010


Yeah, man, the hours spent dreaming with a good Bradbury story...phew. I think he kept me from going insane in my pre-teen and teen years.
posted by Skygazer at 1:18 PM on May 23, 2010


Count me among those who revere Ray Bradbury's stories for their lyrical, magic, romantic vision of the world as it may have bee, or the world that may be to come. Lesser writers would tap cheap nostalgia when writing things like Dandelion Wine. He evokes, and this is so hard, the inchoate yearning some of us feel for things we didn't actually experience, not quite like that at the time, but maybe we came close.

To be on his uncle's porch, returning from that scary gully while he brewed his dandelion wine. To return to being a boy before all the stretching occurred. To feel the hot wind of Mars on your face, knowing it was a brand new land...
posted by Turtles all the way down at 1:34 PM on May 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


After the news of Martin Gardner's passing, I'm also glad this isn't another obit, so I'll post a "!" in relief. I too grew up with Ray Bradbury, and still have the copies of The October Country, Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, R is for Rocket, and S is for Space I got in elementary school. Thinking about the stories the The October Country still gives me the heebiejeebies, and all of a sudden the wind gets cold and crisp, the leaves blow around in the streets under a wan streetlight...

So yes, while maybe he isn't science fiction on the level of Arthur C. Clarke, he certainly wrote vivid stories that sparked the imagination. In 1976, he said with regards to NASA's approach to presenting the space program1, "we've been doing it all wrong; we're data oriented when we should be poetry and symphony oriented. That's my business - to find the metaphor that explains the Space Age, and along the way write stories."

He does seem to be getting rather curmudgeonly recently, though. He was quoted last summer as saying2

“Yahoo called me eight weeks ago,” he said, voice rising. “They wanted to put a book of mine on Yahoo! You know what I told them? ‘To hell with you. To hell with you and to hell with the Internet.’

“It’s distracting,” he continued. “It’s meaningless; it’s not real. It’s in the air somewhere.”
Nice article by Neil Gaiman, though.



1 p61, Why Man Explores, the transcript of a NASA-sponsored symposium on 2 July 1976, on the eve of the first Viking landing on Mars (NASA publication EP 125). Also featured Philip Morrison and Jacques Cousteau; I was lucky enough to go and actually shake hands with Cousteau. I heart that memory.

2 "A Literary Legend Fights for a Local Library," NYTimes, 19 June 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/20/us/20ventura.html
posted by foonly at 1:52 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've read a lot (although not all) of Bradbudy. I still think my favorite story of his has nothing to do with SciFi at all. It's The Sound of Summer Running, the story of a young boy who needs a new pair of tennis shoes. I read it when I was probably 12 or 13, and at the time it captured exactly both a kid's emotional point of view, and also just the feel of a lazy, mid-West small-town summer. I still think it's brilliant.
posted by deadcowdan at 2:13 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


foonly,

like many people do, Bradbury has grown more conservative in his later years. another reason to focus on the art and not the artist.

Bradbury was more of a writer than an ideas man and Gaiman seems to be the reverse.
posted by sineater at 2:49 PM on May 23, 2010


Bradbury has grown more conservative in his later years

Maybe, but I don't think that's the explanation for his disdain of the internet. Bradbury isn't the kind of guy who, had he born fifty years later, would have been bemoaning "meatspace" and that sort of thing -- his work makes clear a great appreciation of the natural world, and is about as extroverted as anything called science fiction has ever been. These are qualities that have probably always made Bradbury a little strange w/r/t the field, and likely have a lot to do with the early mainstream success that Gaiman noted.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:08 PM on May 23, 2010


Bradbury has grown more conservative in his later years

That's a possible interpretation, but I don't think that's really conservative any more than J.D. Salinger was conservative for dropping entirely out of public life and becoming a defiant recluse after his first 15 years or so of success.

"To hell with you" may not be what some people want to hear, but Bradbury's entitled to do whatever he wants with his work, including withholding it from the internet.

I'll grant you that's it's curmudgeonly, but again, he's entitled.
posted by blucevalo at 3:58 PM on May 23, 2010


I have a Ray Bradubury story but I don't say it in public.
posted by The Whelk at 2:11 PM on May 23 [+] [!]


You say this because you have a policy of posting in every thread, right?
posted by interrobang at 4:19 PM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh I'm going to burn in Hell.

See the problem with Gaiman and Bradbury is they can't actually write. I loved Bradbury as a child, and he's still one of my suggested gateway drugs of choice, but, well, the man's characters are as flat as my 7th grade girlfriend and his dialogue more vapid (plus, unlike Angie, he didn't French).

I loved SciFi hard and long from an early age, but until I read Gibson, Womack, and Ballard, et al., I presumed the price of entry was a suspension of standards so high as to be laughable. Big Idea SF with a capital "SF" is great stuff, but eventually you move up to the big kids' table.
posted by digitalprimate at 5:00 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gibson and Ballard aren't doing anything like what Bradbury is doing, though -- this is like saying that Buddy Holly sucks because have you heard Nick Cave? Also, these are very strange examples to pull out when criticizing characterization: I love both these guys, but Ballard's characters all have the exact same flat affect and seem mostly indistinguishable, and the most memorable character from Gibson is either the pattern recognizer (whose name is completely escaping me now) or Molly, who is basically just a murderous Nagel painting.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:21 PM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


eventually you move up to the big kids' table.

And eventually, when you're getting up in your years as I am, after you've spent your younger days on pulp dreaming and your middle years on canon, you understand that it's just one continuum from crap to gold, that there is no 'big kids' table' and that as a reader, you are much better served simply reading books that speak to you, whatever their provenance, because you can judge for yourself what is 'good'.

If not, then you haven't learned much from your decades of dedicated reading.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:29 PM on May 23, 2010 [15 favorites]


I'm not sure what you mean by "not doing anything like what Bradbury is doing." If you mean Big Ideas, well, Gibson (although admittedly not Ballard and - although redux - possibly Womack) do Big Ideas, c.f., the prefix, "cyber" and Womack on global warming c. 1985.

And it's not a question of one set being better than the other; there would be no Gibson or Womack without Bradbury or Dick (or Clark or Heinlein). It's just that the mid period SF greats worked in the genre when it was still a genre per se and were, well, there's no polite way to put this, more dependent upon word count and cover art than actual art.
posted by digitalprimate at 5:32 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


And I didn't mean to be Debbie Downer here, and certainly not about someone as influential as Bradbury, so my apologies.
posted by digitalprimate at 5:35 PM on May 23, 2010


I have a hard time with Ray Bradbury, because his work seems so steeping in a nostalgia that won't let the work grow and change and advance. I was furious at his "to hell with the Internet" statement from last year, because that was the same time that the Iranian election fiasco was exploding over Twitter and Facebook. What Bradbury said was a quantum leap from "Get off my lawn"; it was a howl of outright ignorance, one that said he didn't give a damn about the rest of the world because he refused to understand it. A man who makes his living by sparking the imaginations of his readers should give a damn, should make an effort to understand what's going on around him, not only from a pure business sense, but because changes in the world create new imaginative sparks.

Some kid who has never known a world with IM and mobile phones is going to read Bradbury's work, and a light is going to go off in that kid's brain, one that could change the world for good or ill. Imagine how crushing it would be to find out that the man whose prose inspired you couldn't be bothered to understand the world you were living in.

I will be happy to celebrate the prose of Ray Bradbury. To hell with the man.
posted by RakDaddy at 7:23 PM on May 23, 2010


...won't let the work world grow...

And to hell with my lack of self-editing.
posted by RakDaddy at 7:24 PM on May 23, 2010


Some kid who has never known a world with IM and mobile phones is going to read Bradbury's work, and a light is going to go off in that kid's brain, one that could change the world for good or ill. Imagine how crushing it would be to find out that the man whose prose inspired you couldn't be bothered to understand the world you were living in.

Somehow, I don't think that brilliant kid is going to give a flying crap what Ray Bradbury had to say about the internet. Let alone let it scar her for life.
posted by blucevalo at 7:46 PM on May 23, 2010


The Bradbury book that I love and reread every few years has no science fiction whatsoever.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:46 PM on May 23, 2010


It's The Sound of Summer Running, the story of a young boy who needs a new pair of tennis shoes. I read it when I was probably 12 or 13, and at the time it captured exactly both a kid's emotional point of view, and also just the feel of a lazy, mid-West small-town summer.

I was a little older than you when I read it, but it was one of the first times--and the one I remember most distinctly--I experienced feeling like a writer had put my own thoughts and feelings on the page for me, better than I could have myself, an early experience of thinking, "Oh, yes, that's exactly what it's like!"
posted by not that girl at 7:52 PM on May 23, 2010


You know what I love about everything? Ray Bradbury.
posted by humannaire at 7:55 PM on May 23, 2010


"I'm aware of his work" remains one of my favorite Simpsons lines. All of sf fandom lies within, like a snooty fractal.
posted by No-sword at 8:16 PM on May 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


When I was attending boarding school for a few years, I was fortunate enough to have an English teacher with a small library in her classroom full of Ray Bradbury's books and short story collections. I fell in love with his writing and it saved me from a lot of boredom just sitting around in my dorm's common area.

If we could only replace every copy of Twilight with his complete works...
posted by mollywas at 8:41 PM on May 23, 2010


Gaiman is not an ideal surname.
posted by jeremy b at 8:55 PM on May 23, 2010


I classify Bradbury first as a magical realist and second as a sci-fi writer. This comes from Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes, my two favorite books by him. While there is scifi, his stories always struck me as more eerie and surreal than science fiction, even when they had rocket ships in them.

Download some old Bradbury radio shows. I especially recommend "Kaleidoscope."

As to Bradbury being conservative, I stopped listening to him politically when he supported Bush over Gore back in 2000. (He said that Bush had a better educational plan.) Doesn't mean I love his work any less, just means that I'm less likely to read anything that's not fiction that he writes.
posted by Hactar at 10:29 PM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


"There Will Come Soft Rains" is my favorite.

Oh, mine too. That story devastated me the first time I read it.

It's hard for me to view Bradbury objectively; his stories stick with you, even when you find, on close examination, that he was sometimes not technically that good a writer, and like pretty much all his contemporaries, had almost no ability to write a decent woman character. He is nostalgic to an irritating extreme, and his paens to early-20th-century American white boyhood sometimes make you feel as if you are drowning in syrup.

But I loved him as a young reader, and still read him for pleasure now and then. I still think Ursual LeGuin is a much better and in many ways bolder writer, but Bradbury was passionate and in love with his ideas in an irresistible way. He pulls you in despite himself.
posted by emjaybee at 7:46 AM on May 24, 2010


Much like actors revealed to be drunken hedonists, or musicians reveling in their better life through chemistry, it is not the people themselves we have real interest in, but the people who they portray.

These are the people, not one hundred years ago, that we were heckling from the stands, and throwing things at. These are the people who gamboled about for our amusement, while we derided them outside their arenas.

Unless the artist (for whatever value you care to put on the word/profession/craft/etc.) dies, I can't really care what they're about. Unless it's leaking into the art.
posted by LD Feral at 9:40 AM on May 24, 2010


I told myself that, no matter how much I loved an author, I would never get a text tattoo. That was until I read these two words.
posted by a.steele at 10:15 AM on May 24, 2010


Something Wicked This Way Comes was probably my most reread book as a teenager. Death is a Lonely Business and Graveyard for Lunatics were excellent. I never got into The Martian Chronicles and I've lately been failing to get into The October Country.

Maybe I just like him at novel length, which would probably make me the only one.
posted by Zed at 10:56 AM on May 24, 2010


I've read a lot of Bradbury when I was young. Martian chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 and a bunch of short stories were probably the first SF I've read. I still remember that red hardcover very well. However, when I tried to re-read some of his things recently, they just didn't stand up. I'm a big fan of John Wright now and Ian Banks and Gene Wolfe and all that good stuff and I don't know if it's just me but Bradbury reads almost cartoonishly bad now.. both shallow and dull, with inept attempts at humour and poesy. It's ironic that when I was reading Piers Anthony at about the same age I thought he is trashy but entertaining, but now I have a much better opinion of him (not Xanth, though, but odd books like Macroscope, adept books, etc). Anyway, I don't mean to come to a Bradbury thread and say he's no good, but I just find it fascinating how my readings of Bradbury and Anthony reversed with age.
posted by rainy at 1:54 PM on May 24, 2010


Actually I should correct myself: I loved and still do "frost and ice" by Bradbury, I almost can't think of it as his work, it's so good.
posted by rainy at 1:59 PM on May 24, 2010


Grr, "frost and fire".
posted by rainy at 2:00 PM on May 24, 2010


In the billowing half-night world of my younger years, Bradbury poured fantasies in his ear like poisoned whispers, taking me to places of ashen nightmares and silvern dreams, and I cried in them, and I laughed, and I cried and laughed more.

Nowadays, I find his prose a little purple. My God, was it bad for me to imitate him when I was a teenager.

That being said, he has a precocious imagination, and remains among my favorite writers, and, stripped of his prose, his stories have terrific power (they work even with his prose; it just takes some settling into.) EC comics used to love to adapt his stories, and they were always fantastic.

I also love the scene in the Simpsons when Martin wants to be class president and says he will establish an ABC of science fiction at the school library: Asimov, Bester, Clark.

"What about Bradbury?" a kids asks.

"I'm familiar with him," Martin says, dismissively.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:02 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, Bradbury essentially cocreated the Addams family, and that's just about the coolest thing ever.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:04 PM on May 24, 2010


Some kid who has never known a world with IM and mobile phones is going to read Bradbury's work, and a light is going to go off in that kid's brain, one that could change the world for good or ill. Imagine how crushing it would be to find out that the man whose prose inspired you couldn't be bothered to understand the world you were living in.

I don't think it's Bradbury's responsibility. But anyway, if that kid is smart he'll come to realize it's better to enjoy his work on its own rather than try to find fault with the way Bradbury lived and spoke in his very old age.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:12 PM on May 24, 2010


"There Will Come Soft Rains" was actually in American Literature textbook when I was in junior high as the obligatory "genre story". This was in the late 60s, in small town ND and it totally blew the class away. It started several of the kids in the class reading SF and the rest were too devastated by the implications of the story to ever touch the stuff again. Me, I had already started on Bradbury and Heinlein, so I was a little ahead of the curve but I was glad to see one of my heroes in a text book.

I will be happy to celebrate the prose of Ray Bradbury. To hell with the man.

Indeed, his statements after 9/11 were pretty shocking, especially when he came down as being a fervent Bush supporter and claimed that Fahrenheit 451 was NOT about censorship. I respect the work, but not the old curmudgeon.
posted by Ber at 3:17 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rainy: Ian Banks and Gene Wolfe
posted by Skygazer at 3:19 PM on May 24, 2010


Oops...

Rainy: Ian Banks and Gene Wolfe

A couple of things needs to be kept in mind. Firstly, a lot of Bradbury's writing, especially the short stories collections, seem to be aimed at a young adult audience, from what like the 50s or 60s?

I love both Banks and Wolfe, but they're a very modern sci-fi sensability, The Wasp Factory, Banks's first was out in what 1985, and I think Wolfe's first big series, The Book of the New Sun, began in the 80s. And both seemed aimed at an older more mature audience.

So (this is the second point), Sci-fi has evolved a LOT over Bradbury's career, I mean he's one of the three pillars: Asimov, Bradbury and Clarke. With a career spanning 60 years now.

I can say, I recently re-read Fahrenheit 451, though and I think it is a timeless, beautifully written classic, with profound amazing ideas. I think the Martian Chronicles would also fare well, but not sure the short stories collections would fare so well though...


One last point and this involves Ballard. Bradbury and Ballard in the issues they deal with are vastly different writers, BUT in the way they are similar is that they're both concerned with the effects of technology the future on the human psyche and imagination. What they find there is, vastly different as well. I guess they both find some amount of regression, especially with Fahrenheit 451, which almost has a Ballardian pre-text and is surely a seminal precursor. But then they veer off vastly, with Bradbury's elemental dissection of the human soul leading to eternal truths and a humanism, and Ballard's always going in the direction of an even more profound chilling regression into the sub-consciousness and elemental of aspects in the face of an amoral natural world and how imagination deals with its expression.

I guess you could say Bradbury is an optimist and Ballard is a gleeful pessimist with great faith in entropy.
posted by Skygazer at 3:46 PM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


...okay one last thought: In Bradbury, it seems like the human imagination can transcend the challenges of the future. IN Ballard the human imagination transcends and is triumphant by giving over entirely to the sub-conscious and to nature's amorality.
posted by Skygazer at 3:51 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


rainy, Piers Anthony gets better as you age?

head assplodes :-)
posted by sineater at 4:46 PM on May 24, 2010


Please, can we not discuss Anthony in the same thread as Bradbury? I mean, really. Anthony writes the Velvet Elvis paintings of SF.
posted by GuyZero at 5:11 PM on May 24, 2010


Skygazer: I would have to disagree here.. Clarke, Bester, LeGuin, Philip Dick, Heinlein aged very gracefully. Younger audience is no excuse for bad and dull writing, see K. Grahame, James Barrie, L. Carroll, even the same Heinlein (including all juveniles). I don't see Asimov or Bradbury being among the pillars. I like Asimov as much as the next guy but he's pretty hit and miss. If anything, his science books are better than SF books, but we're talking SF here. I'd say Philip Dick, Heinlein, Bester and Clarke are the prime movers of that epoch.
posted by rainy at 7:52 PM on May 24, 2010


Anthony is a weird and awkward writer. I'm not a fan by any means, I'm more of a fan of (especially) John Wright, Aldiss, Banks, Wolfe, Michael Swanwick, maybe Heinlein.. But Anthony has really interesting and unusual ideas, in this respect he can be favorably compared to the best authors. He can't write consistently and he has weird fixations, but Bradbury is just dull, dry and conventional as all hell. To me, there's nothing odd about saying that Anthony is quite a bit better than Bradbury. Although that one little story, Frost and Fire, is tighter and cooler than anything Anthony ever did, because even his best books are pretty long and he gets lost in them.
posted by rainy at 8:03 PM on May 24, 2010


Bradbury is just dull, dry and conventional as all hell

In matters of taste, especially when one's taste seems to run counter to that of many if not most other people, it is often wise to preface such blanket statements with phrases like 'I reckon' or 'I believe' or even 'I know it sounds like I'm deliberately trying to start a fight here given the context, but it is my considered opinion that'.

But that's entirely up to you.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:47 PM on May 24, 2010


stavros: I agree, it's just an opinion. I did say, though, that his 'frost and fire' is great. I would not want to start a fight but I was hoping someone would say "yes, chronicles and 451 are very bad indeed, but nobody likes him for them; instead, read x, y and z."
posted by rainy at 9:13 PM on May 24, 2010


rainy: "Bradbury is just dull, dry and conventional as all hell."

Are we talking about the same Bradbury? Wow.

stavrosthewonderchicken: "In matters of taste, especially when one's taste seems to run counter to that of many if not most other people, it is often wise to preface such blanket statements with phrases like 'I reckon' or 'I believe' or even 'I know it sounds like I'm deliberately trying to start a fight here given the context, but it is my considered opinion that'."

I don't think that's necessary at all. We're talking about art here. The IMHOs are assumed.
posted by brundlefly at 9:55 PM on May 24, 2010


Saying Bradbury is conventional is like saying Edison's lightbulbs were weak and excessively fragile. Not to mention it's tautological - Bradbury is conventional because he's a fixture of the SF canon. He is the convention by which conventional is judged.
posted by GuyZero at 9:56 PM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of wrongness; a journey into a wondrous land where Piers Anthony is considered just as good as Ray Bradbury. That's the signpost up ahead — your next stop, Crazy Town.
posted by Artw at 10:01 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


GuyZero: conventional may not be the best word to use here.. perhaps I should have said heavy and plodding, or ponderous, with overdone stifling sentimentality? There's something about Bradbury that reminds me of Stephen King.
posted by rainy at 10:03 PM on May 24, 2010


Artw: I never said Bradbury is as good as Anthony!
posted by rainy at 10:05 PM on May 24, 2010


I find it fascinating that nobody is trying to defend bradbury against Wolfe or Wright or Banks.. Everybody starts picking on poor little Anthony, who never took himself 1/10th as seriously as Bradbury!
posted by rainy at 10:08 PM on May 24, 2010


Bradbury never wrote the same book 12 times while constantly making jokes about girls' underwear.
posted by GuyZero at 10:09 PM on May 24, 2010


heavy and plodding, or ponderous, with overdone stifling sentimentality?

I guess I see what you mean. I suppose his stories tend to the sentimental on some level. I don't personally read them that way. I read the stories as capturing a longing that's an essential part of the human experience but I suppose if you were dead inside that you might interpret that as maudlin.
posted by GuyZero at 10:12 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


GuyZero: I feel that Bradbury's style is one hundred percent fake longing that's not even remotely human. imho. I'm a bit pissed off at him because I had to read him when I was too young to tell that he's not a real writer. If he wasn't the first SF writer I've read I would happily ignore him.
posted by rainy at 10:16 PM on May 24, 2010


Also, comparing Banks and Bradbury is like comparing ee cummings to a James Bond film. It's a nonsense comparison.

In all seriousness, my beef with Anthony is that while he does have some notable books he wore out his welcome with thirty-four Xanth books which tipped the balance from "writes broadly" to "hack". Certainly he had several respectable books among the 140 he's published, but he's also had far more really, really bad ones.
posted by GuyZero at 10:18 PM on May 24, 2010


I had to read him when I was too young to tell that he's not a real writer.

Which is odd because every writer I know (which is admittedly only a very few) thinks that Zen in the Art of Writing is a very good book on being a writer.

You might not like his stories, sure, but Bradbury paid for his dinner by writing, just like Anthony and Banks.
posted by GuyZero at 10:21 PM on May 24, 2010


GuyZero: I absolutely agree that Xanth is mostly boring trash. But I don't see it as erasing his better books. It's similar to how Philip Dick's trashy books don't erase his best books (having said that, I do know that Dick's best books are better than Anthony's best and he didn't write as many crappy ones). Still, Bradbury offends me on a much more basic level than Anthony's cheerfully repetitive hack-y romps.
posted by rainy at 10:22 PM on May 24, 2010


Oh man, methinks Rainy has some water on the brain-y...

You're over doing this. Bradbury is a masterful storyteller don't blame him because you had to read him when you were young. I wonder what Banks, Wolfe, Dick and Ballard thought of the man, and I'd be willing to bet they have deep respect for him.

Look, a lot of Sic-Fi writers aren't really writers. But for you to say Bradbury wasn't a real writer is ridiculous. IMHO.
posted by Skygazer at 10:47 PM on May 24, 2010


I don't think Wolfe or Dick would think well of Bradbury. Banks I'm not so sure. He's not as introspective, I think he might be writing well by inspiration, almost by accident. Being a good writer does not necessarily mean that you can tell other good writers apart from bad. I haven't read Ballard. When I say Bradbury is not a real writer, that's not precisely right.. it'd be more accurate to say that he's pretending to be a better writer than he is, and that makes it hard to enjoy his books for what they are.
posted by rainy at 11:01 PM on May 24, 2010


Dick would have drinks with Bradbury and talk shop. Anyhow, It's alright not to like Bradbury, I heartily disagree and hope you give him a shot sometime, but to each his own.
posted by Skygazer at 11:26 PM on May 24, 2010


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