December 1, 2022

Waving farewell to Ray Bradbury

Hi there,

I’d like to take a break from frivolous stuff about organ transplants and IVF and clinical trials. Ray Bradbury has died and it’s just not appropriate. Today I’d like to reminisce about my favourite science fiction writer. 

What I always loved about his novels and stories was their humanism. He was even endowed with the gift of being able to transmit joy, a rare talent in any writer, and almost unknown in scifi. I detected a bit of techno-snobbery in his obituary in the New York Times because his focus had been more on the fiction — character, vision, style — than on the science. The Martian Chronicles — I kid you not– were written as if Mars had an atmosphere! 

As if that made a difference. Bradbury was a poet at heart, not a scientist. And the romance of science is what drives it forward. Here are a few paragraphs from a wonderful interview in the Paris Review published only a couple of years ago. 

“[Edgar Rice] Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world… By giving romance and adventure to a whole generation of boys, Burroughs caused them to go out and decide to become special. That’s what we have to do for everyone, give the gift of life with our books. Say to a girl or boy at age ten, Hey, life is fun! Grow tall! 

“I’ve talked to more biochemists and more astronomers and technologists in various fields, who, when they were ten years old, fell in love with John Carter and Tarzan and decided to become something romantic. Burroughs put us on the moon. All the technologists read Burroughs. 

“I was once at Caltech with a whole bunch of scientists and they all admitted it. Two leading astronomers—one from Cornell, the other from Caltech—came out and said, Yeah, that’s why we became astronomers. We wanted to see Mars more closely.

“I find this in most fields. The need for romance is constant, and again, it’s pooh-poohed by intellectuals. As a result they’re going to stunt their kids. You can’t kill a dream. Social obligation has to come from living with some sense of style, high adventure, and romance.”

Cheers,

Michael Cook
I’d like to take a break from frivolous stuff about organ transplants and IVF and clinical trials. Ray Bradbury has died and it’s just not appropriate. Today I’d like to reminisce about my favourite science fiction writer.
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