Ray Bradbury’s worlds were never this bad

images-slides-1960_2Bad news today. I could be moaning about the failed attempt to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. That news only confirmed what I’ve already known for a while. That the most-important election demographic isn’t “undecided” voters, but what’s charitably called “low-information voters.” Dumb people who can be convinced to vote against their own self interests. And I already knew that the most-important tool in any election is the lie. Walker lied his way back from the brink.

No, the bad news today was Ray Bradbury has died at age 91. He wrote 50 books in his day, and two of them I remember quite well from my younger reading: Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. I read others as well, but those two stick out.

He seemed literary to me, where a lot of science fiction does not. It’s unfortunate that, politically he evolved into a bit of a right-wing political parrot in his later years – he thought George W. Bush was “wonderful” – but Bradbury earned a little wiggle room in his time with us. I picked this quote off the Internet, in which he defended science fiction in an interview:

The mainstream hasn’t been paying attention to all the changes in our culture during the last fifty years. The major ideas of our time — developments in medicine, the importance of space exploration to advance our species — have been neglected. The critics are generally wrong, or they’re fifteen, twenty years late. It’s a great shame. They miss out on a lot. Why the fiction of ideas should be so neglected is beyond me. I can’t explain it, except in terms of intellectual snobbery.

That’s the truth. Fiction is often more honest, and generally gets to the heart of the matter, with more clarity than non-fiction, with all of its official filters and biases.

Science fiction looks forward, and tries to guess where we’re heading. It tries to warn us where we’re heading. The future looks bleak. I find it it amazing that this country is stumbling backward on so many fronts. Serious political ideologies are being set in place by leaders who act as though they don’t have to live here; they’ll keep their heads above water while standing on the backs of the rest of us.

Last week I counted three news stories about separate incidents of cannibalism. As dystopian a world as Fahrenheit 451 was, Bradbury was never as outright shocking and nauseating as the real world can be.