Wednesday 6 June 2012


Martin: As your president, I would demand a science-fiction library, featuring an ABC of the genre. Asimov, Bester, Clarke.
Student: What about Ray Bradbury?
Martin (derisively): I'm aware of his work...
From 'Lisa's Substitute', The Simpsons

Acclaimed science fiction author Ray Bradbury died today.

Once, deep in my youth, I thought science fiction was about cowboys battling aliens, and wanted to read nothing else.

Later I decided science fiction was actually about boffins battling ignorant hordes and was written by Clarke and Asimov, and I wanted to read nothing else. I threw away the cowboys battling aliens, and never missed them.

Later still I discovered Ray Bradbury. It was insightful and imaginative and funny and satirical and horrific, it was packed with vivid images and it speculated not about rocket propulsion drives but the human condition. Above all, it was literary. Suddenly, there was no longer any reason why a science fiction writer shouldn't spend more time constructing a sentence than constructing the plans for a rocket drive. Science fiction became about widening your mental horizons, not narrowing your expectations. I threw Clarke and Asimov to the same place I had thrown the cowboys battling the aliens. I had Ray Bradbury. I wanted to read nothing else.

Unsurprisingly, I got past the age of just wanting to read Ray Bradbury. But throw him away? I have his books on my shelf to this day. Some things just stay with you...

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