June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury has died.

He was 91.

Instapundit says: "People are mostly talking about The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451, but I liked Dandelion Wine."

I think I was assigned "Fahrenheit 451" to read in high school, and I was impressed by it, but for some reason what I most remember of his is "The Veldt." Plot summary:
A family lives in a house with the latest technology. It is called the “Happylife Home” and its installation cost $30,000. The house is filled with machines that do everything for them from cooking meals, to clothing them, to rocking them to sleep. The two children, Peter and Wendy, become fascinated with the "nursery," a virtual reality room that is able to connect with the children telepathically to reproduce any place they imagine.
That was written in 1950, long before video games, etc.

The parents, George and Lydia, soon realize that there is something wrong with their way of life. George and Lydia are also perplexed that the nursery is stuck on an African setting, with lions in the distance, eating the dead carcass of what they assume to be an animal. There they also find recreations of their personal belongings. Wondering why their children are so concerned with this scene of death, they decide to call a psychologist.

The psychologist, David McClean, suggests they turn off the house and leave. The children, completely addicted to the nursery, beg their parents to let them have one last visit. The parents relent, and agree to let them spend a few more minutes there. When they come to the nursery to fetch the children, the children lock them in from the outside. George and Lydia look on as the lions begin to advance towards them. At that point, they realize that what the lions were eating in the distance was not an animal, but their own simulated remains.

The kids realized that the only way they could stay in their nursery is to get rid of their parents by locking George and Lydia in the nursery with the lions.
Don't take our video games away! Parents! Leave those kids alone!

29 comments:

Jon said...

"The Nursery" may have been the earliest appearance of the idea that later became Star Trek's holodeck.

Jon said...

I mean "The Veldt".

dmoelling said...

His best books were those built around his childhood, Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This way comes. (The movie of Something wicked with Jonathan Pryce is worth seeing).

dmoelling said...

His best books were those built around his childhood, Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This way comes. (The movie of Something wicked with Jonathan Pryce is worth seeing).

ndspinelli said...

Ray Bradbury can still vote in Chicago.

Revenant said...

Rest in peace.

Orion said...

The Veldt was one of the very first Bradbury stories I ever read and I can almost quote it to you today.

One of my all time favorites.

The world is a poorer place today...

Orion

Old Dad said...

Don't forget The October Country, especially "The Cistern."

RIP Ray, and thanks for many hours of fascination

Janette Kok said...

The children are named Peter and Wendy? At the risk of stating the obvious: Peter Pan homage.

I never read Farenheit 451. I've heard all about it; it's part of our culture. I did read Dandelion Wine in high school, as an assignment.

I'll have to look up "The Veldt" and read it.

ooonaughtykitty said...

Read Martian Chronicles in grammar school and was hooked. My mom bought me all his books. Still have them. RIP, Ray. You were a big part of my childhood.

aronamos said...

He also wrote the screenplay for the Gregory Peck "Moby Dick" and fought tooth-and-nail with John Huston over every word.

And my very first memory of him is seeing the "Brave New Prunes" commercials he did with Stan Freberg.

He was, truly, the finest thing to ever come out of Waukegan, Illinois!

John Burgess said...

"October Country", "Something Wicked", and "Dandelion Wine" were his best.

It was really strange when he adamantly refused to identify himself as a science fiction writer. He seemed to draw lines where none existed.

I'd certainly agree, though that "Martian Chronicles" wasn't SF. Simply setting the story on Mars didn't make it more than ruminative fantasy. "Fahrenheit 451" on the other hand, was nothing but pure SF.

Maybe he was afraid of being corralled with a bunch of 'just genre writers.'

Jaske said...

You can listen to the old X Minus One radio show of "The Veldt" here.

http://www.hardsf.org/0AudAuth.htm

Lucius said...

I read "The Veldt" as a kid and it scared the bejesus out of me.

It's the only reason I know what a "veldt" is today.

Paddy O said...

Yes! The Veldt!

We were assigned to read it in sixth grade.

I never forgot it and years later (like a couple of years ago), I thought about it, but didn't remember the name of the story. I went hunting for it and ended up getting a couple Bradbury collections of stories.

Most were, sad to say, disappointing. But, The Veldt is still a good read.

cold pizza said...

He helped show that science fiction could also be great literature. Raad The Illustrated Man. -CP

ooonaughtykitty said...

"A Sound of Thunder" was one of my favorites.

Mary Martha said...

I loved the Veldt too. Delightfully creepy.

My favorite Bradbury short story is 'All Summer in a Day'.

It's basically about bullying. We read it in jr. high and I remember talking about that story for weeks afterward.

Megaera said...

One of my favorites is the man in the (slightly) dystopian (then) near-future who is undergoing analysis because he force-fed his car phone french chocolate ice cream. After destroying all of his other communication devices that he had been carrying around all his life. The counselling session ends with the apparently harassed analyst trying to keep up with his own battery of devices, and leaving the patient in his detention cell, in wondrous, device-less beepless peace and quiet.

Megaera said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MikeR said...

Bradbury was a good writer, and The Veldt still makes me shiver when I think of it. But a science fiction writer he wasn't. A little science in with the fiction, pretty please.

Quaestor said...

Jaske wrote:
You can listen to the old X Minus One radio show of "The Veldt" here.

Over the I've listened to dozens of "X Minus One" and "Dimension X" radio dramas online. They're scattered all over -- some are free to listen, others are behind paywalls -- but they all are worthwhile, even today, because the producers of those series bought only the best scripts, and unsurprisingly, many of those were penned by Ray Bradbury.

The quiet conflict between parent and child was a theme Bradbury explored many times, "The Veldt" being perhaps the best and most terrifying. I particularly liked the adaptation performed by Rod Steiger and Claire Bloom in the Bradbury anthology film The Illustrated Man. I'm not sure what radio series hosted it, but another tale along these same lines was called "Invasion", which concernes a group of children who play a secretive game under the direction of an invisible alien commander.

Bradbury's screenplay for Moby Dick is pure epic poetry. The man surely had a voice for powerful deeds and trackless voyages -- a Virgil for 20th century America, and also like Virgil a man of small towns and grain fields.

The least effective use of his talent was that made-for-tv version of "The Martian Chronicles", which nevertheless was a fairly descent adaption, but being produced as a vehicle for Rock Hudson was its downfall (Jeez, given the timing -- 1980 -- it was pretty close to Rock's downfall as well.)

I started this day really upbeat with the election results being so right -- so much a visitation of Nemesis on the heads of some richly deserving people -- then this sad news. Oh, well... such is life. Actually I was surprised Bradbury made it this far. Several years ago I saw him on a program honoring his lifelong friend, filmmaker and animation pioneer Ray Harryhausen. Bradbury didn't look at all well even then. He was very frail and confined to a wheelchair, yet his mind and imagination flew above the madding crowd. I trust it continued to soar even to the end.

Farewell.

Jim S. said...

"The Foghorn" is an incredible Bradbury story. It's just the quintessential expression of loneliness.

aronamos said...

My favorite story is still "Then Will Come Soft Rains," about the house that continues to function long after its people have died.

Kind of like a 3-D Facebook account.

John Stodder said...

It would be interesting to know why "The Veldt" was taught in so many schools. Until reading this post and the comments, I thought my 8th Grade English/Social Studies teacher assigned it because she happened to like it. Ditto everyone's comments about the scariness and the high quality of the story, but now I'm thinking that its ubiquitousness back then was some kind of message from the Establishment to us pre-teens, like, "Your imagination is dangerous."

Bryan C said...

I haven't read yet read The Veldt, but that Dimension X radio adaptation was on my OTR playlist recently. It was downright chilling, all the more so when delivered with the usual radio-drama tropes of the day.

Joan said...

My son chose "The Veldt" as his prose interpretation piece for last year's speech tournaments. Consequently, my entire family knows the entire piece practically by heart. "George, I wish you'd take a look at the nursery..."

Ray Bradbury and Cordwainer Smith are in the same niche category for me, sf writers that are so much more. Bradbury did, I think, resent efforts to pigeonhole him into what some people still think of as "space opera", but science fiction gets a lot more respect now than it used to.

Astro said...

"The Veldt", "There Will Come Soft Rains", and 'A Sound Of Thunder" were all top-notch stories, but my favorite was "Night Meeting" from 'The Martian Chronicles'. It manages to be amazing SF and pure magic at the same time.

Methadras said...

RIP Ray, but honestly, I just don't care.