Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’: A Cultural Crystal Ball

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Author’s note: This piece first appeared on the now-defunct Yahoo Contributor’s Network.

Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” is celebrated for its condemnation of censorship and groupthink, but Bradbury — a writer who has always been categorized as “science-fiction” over the tonier synonym “speculative fiction” — deserves recognition for that book’s eerie prescience of culture. What he foresaw, from six decades out, is remarkable.

Though Bradbury copyrighted “Fahrenheit 451” in 1953, as described by The Big Read, it was adapted first from a short story called “Bright Phoenix” published in 1947, and then “The Fireman,” which was published in 1950. While increasing numbers of households would get televisions in that decade, at the beginning of the ’50s TVs were new. Yet not only did he foresee them in every household, he foresaw them taking over households: huge, wall-sized televisions. Bradbury imagined ear buds with his seashell radios long before the concept existed. And, in the dreaded Hound, he saw a future of robotics far out of line with the technology of the time.

But those details are prescience of technology, which, though still a neat trick, is not quite as stunning as understanding the evolution of culture if left to its natural course. With a beauty of language also often not given the credit it is due, Bradbury says: “With schools turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, tinkerers, grabbers, snatchers, fliers, and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knowers, and imaginative creators, the word ‘intellectual,’ of course, became the swear word it deserved to be.” (Del Rey 50th Anniversary Edition, pg. 58).

Bradbury writes of the condensation of thought from book to digest to blurb in a way strangely predictive of Twitter, where all ideas must fit within the constraints of 140 characters. He sees the rise of advertising so incessant it’s nearly ritualistic, and long before the advent of reality TV, he predicted shows that were little more than life itself, with home participants easily joining.

He even wrote about the future of attempts to erase any signs of age, of having lived a life, of a world lacking depth and texture, with his description that sounds predictive of Botox long before people decided injections of neurotoxins were preferable to wrinkles: “So do you see now why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless.” (pg. 83).

And then there is that beauty of language that comes from its clarity, from each word in a sentence chosen for both its overt and subtle meanings while still seeing the far-off future from quite a distance. At a time when newspapers were in nearly every home, he said “I remember them dying like huge moths. No one wanted them back. No one missed them.” (emphasis in original; pg. 89)

There are classics that are classics through some sense of tradition, and then there are books that become classics because what they tell us about ourselves is unchanging, unencumbered by movement of culture in the world around us. “Fahrenheit 451” is about so much more than censorship. With amazing insight from more than half-a-century away, it is about the willing relinquishment of critical thinking.

 

P is for Promotion (Self)

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I’ve decided to combine my laziness today with the undeniable urge to push my own work. Winning combination, no? No?

OK, fair point.

Nonetheless, today I am going to dangle a little Aunty Ida in front of you, though you might want to make sure you’re wearing your protective brain gear. On account of the likelihood that she wants to get her hands in your noggin.

Probably metaphorically speaking. Probably.

Anyway, in Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), Margaret really doesn’t have much of a choice. If she wants to keep her job as a judge after her tiny, minuscule little meltdown live on LawTV, she’s got to let Aunt Ida help her. It doesn’t matter, though, because Margaret knows none of it was her fault. She was set up, and she’s going to prove it.

Here’s the cover:

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Yes, Aunty Ida is weird. Yes, Aunty Ida is a weird book. But don’t we weirdos need a place to hang out, even if it’s only between pixelated pages? See, that’s what I thought.

And so ends our latest self-promotion bulletin. I hope that no sensibilities were injured in the making of this post.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

Sign up for my spamless newsletter. And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

The Aunty Has Landed!

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Well, it’s here! Aunty Ida finally has a second adventure, and you can read it, right now, if you want. Go ahead, stop what you’re doing. Unless you’re driving. Although if you’re driving, why are you reading this blog? Eyes on the road!

Anyway, you can now get Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) on Amazon, if you are so inclined. You might want to read Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only) first, though. Or not if you’re a rebel.

Aunty Ida loves rebels.

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So I hope it’s another fun visit to the world of Aunty Ida, and I hope you leave it with your brain intact. Or mostly intact. You can’t have everything.

One More Day Until Aunty Ida is Back!

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So excitement is in the air. At least it’s in the air over here. I could be mistaking it for the frigid temperatures, but I don’t think so.

The Aunty Ida sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) comes out tomorrow! In case you have forgotten what it looks like:

Aunty Ida 2 correctly filled in3

 

It’s available for pre-order until it is released on January 7, and I really can’t seem to think about everything else. I hope the people who enjoyed the weird and funny world of Aunty Ida the first time will have just as much fun — or more — this time around. Brian’s not going to have as good a time, but that’s pretty much standard for one of Ida’s guinea pigs. I mean experiments. I mean patients.

Hmm.

Anyway, tomorrow should be pretty exciting. For everyone but Brian.

Last Chance to Get Aunty Ida for FREE!

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What funny and weird and totally free? Aunty Ida! And today, December 27, is your last chance to pick up a copy of Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only) for FREE! Get one now, you know you want to. Or, to be more accurate, Aunty Ida knows you want to.

Ida1What do you mean, “How does she know?” She knows. She knows everything. Well, almost everything.

 

Reminder, Aunty Ida is FREE Today and Tomorrow!

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If you haven’t gotten your copy of Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), what are you waiting for? It’s free through tomorrow, December 27. Get it while it’s still loony. Or before you’re loony. One of those two things.

Though it’s also convenient if you’re already loony. Oh well, it doesn’t matter, just get reading!

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I hope you enjoy it, and your long weekend, if you have one.

 

 

Get Aunty Ida FREE Today through Saturday!

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In honor of her upcoming sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended), Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only) is FREE, starting today, and running through Saturday, all around the world. So grab yourself a copy, and enjoy. Just make sure you read it while wearing a helmet. You wouldn’t want Aunty Ida to see you thinking.

Click away to grab your free copy:

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Have a great Christmas if you celebrate Christmas, a great day if you don’t celebrate Christmas, and an early Happy New Year to all 🙂