Tuesday, 18 January 2011

I've Agreed to Disagree With Ray Bradbury

I love Ray Bradbury. There are many reasons for this, possibly as numerous as the stories he's written, but there is one reason above all others: he's the first of my idols that I've ever disagreed with.

I didn't grow up with Ray Bradbury in the same way that I did with Douglas Adams(more about him in the future, I'm sure,) but he was there during that weird, confusing, universally upsetting period when I wasn't quite a child any more, but I definitely wasn't a teenager yet. I read Fahrenheit 451 in school, and made it my gospel. I cherished the copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes that I was given one year for Christmas. I remember fondly the summer spent on swing sets, reading Dandelion Wine with my mom and my sister. His prose had a way of carrying me away just that much more completely than other books, and for a child with an over-active imagination, who got lost in any story e came across, this was something special indeed. In my eyes, for the longest time, the man could do no wrong.

Then about four, five years ago, I reread Something Wicked. The book hadn't changed of course, but I had.  I'd grown up some, read a whole lot of other things, and had done some of my own questioning about the nature of 'good' and 'evil'. And as I was reading I realized that I no longer agreed with what he was saying, or at least parts of how he was saying it. I still loved the book, and I always will, yet it was a rare and precious moment, realizing that I could disagree with my idol's point of view but still respect him and love his work. It opened me up to the possibility of questioning my other idols without losing my love for them.

Why did I suddenly feel the need to share this with you all? Well, a few days ago TheEchoInside brought this video of An Evening With Ray Bradbury to my attention. It was a wonderful thing, listening to him talk about the art and the craft of his writing. There were many things he said that I agreed with, things like reading. A lot. Reading everything you can get your hands on, no matter how random or unrelated. Short stories, poetry, essays. Anything. And again, as with Something Wicked, there were things I didn't agree with. Mainly the value of the internet.

He seemed to view it as some sort of cultural sink hole, the information here trivial and without substance. I became incredibly aware then, the difference in perspective that a couple of generations and ten years of advances in information technologies can make(the video is from 2001.) I could see why, from his perspective, the internet could never hold a flame to hours spent exploring a library, and it's true that nothing can replace that experience. However, I don't see the internet as trivial or unimportant. Here I have access to information, even ancient information, that I wouldn't necessarily be able to find at my local library, and I have access to people I would never have come across otherwise. People I can share ideas with, who get excited about the same things I do, or have the same fears. Even ten years ago this was possible, if slightly more difficult.

In short, I love Ray Bradbury. His works will always have something to say to me, even if I don't always agree. And that's ok.


  1. Hrrm, a nifty post. Looking forward to the Douglas Adams.

    My own dealers were first Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov, I didn't actually know about Bradbury until later (comes with living in a dictatorship, Fahrenheit 451 is frowned upon ;P). I didn't quite have the same sort of experiences, I debated with myself on the ideas shown even as they sparked awe inside me, but I'd have to agree that disagreement is certainly alright or risk further turmoil in childhood memories. And I do agree. Plus, from what I know, I'd think most great authors at the very least accept, if not welcome, disagreement. We build upon what came before, sometimes shaping it, adding to it, sometimes carving away pieces that don't fit. Sometimes what was true, changes.

    Before Wikipedia, Google, online repositories, the Gutenberg project, etc, the internet was... a little rough around the edges, let us say. But, even then it came down, as now, to how you use it. Twitter is an example, considered to be one of those sinkholes. But, follow the right people and you harness one of the best information aggregators I've ever known, and maybe make some friends/community to boot. Perspective counts for a lot of things.

    My prime thought after reading this, is that it's good to share even if all of what you share doesn't connect. Seems a good thing to me. =)

  2. It is perhaps an odd thing to say in the context of this post, but I agree with your points here, too :) Twitter as an information aggregator is a good one, and it feeds into my ideas on the internet making it easier to build interest-based communities rather than just geographically-based ones. (I haven't really unpacked these ideas on community yet though.)

    Having been more-or-less raised on Hitchhiker's, I think a Douglas Adams post is somewhat inevitable :)