July 2, 2012

"There were other science fiction writers, and we loved them, just as there were baseball players besides Willie Mays and rock groups besides the Beatles..."

"... but we loved him best, and when I try to remember why, I have to conclude, proudly, that it wasn’t because his alien worlds were so magazine-cover thrilling, or his dystopian predictions so convincing, or his speculative inventions so original — they were, but plenty of others’ were too."

26 comments:

Bob Ellison said...

Bradbury was more fantasist than SFist.

Joe said...

Bradbury strikes me as one of those authors everyone claims is great, but nobody actually reads. And for good reason; he starts with great concepts, but his actual writing is boring as hell.

traditionalguy said...

Fictional Science is all we get these days. Bradbury was a true pioneer.

At least Bradbury admitted that there was always an evil intelligent person behind the wars against (fill in the blank) that came with the new technology.

Robert Cook said...

"Bradbury strikes me as one of those authors everyone claims is great, but nobody actually reads. And for good reason; he starts with great concepts, but his actual writing is boring as hell."

Sez who?!

I've only read two of Bradbury's major works: THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, which I read when I was a teenager and then again in my 20s, and FARENHEIT 451, which I read only two months ago. They are both terrific books and there is nothing at all boring about his writing, unless you consider a prose style with actual style is boring, as opposed to the (at best) often workaday or (when not at best) clumsy prose of so many science fiction writers, especially of Bradbury's vintage.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

My God, Joe, I couldn't disagree more. There are plenty of SF writers of that generation with terrific concepts, but no one who wrote prose like that. I re-read my Bradbury short story collections frequently.

"There Will Come Soft Rains" is the most unutterably terrifying picture of nuclear apocalypse I've ever come across. There is no violence in it at all, and it's maybe four pages long. Here.

Dale Light said...

What Joe said.

LarsPorsena said...

Bradbury can't hold Heinlein's jockstrap.

ricpic said...

Willie Mays' over the shoulder basket catch of Vic Wertz' tremendous shot to dead center field at the Polo Grounds, running full tilt with his back to home plate, was more fantastic than anything Ray Bradbury ever wrote...and it was for real!

Salamandyr said...

Agreed with Lars. I never really cared much for Bradbury; he seemed a pale shadow of the likes of Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov.

It's probably not his fault. He always seemed like the author that English professors read because they couldn't stand real SF.

Old Dad said...

Taste is, of course, indisputable. can see why hardcore SF fans might not care for Bradbury. He wasn't trying to write SF. I guess Fantasy comes closest to his genre, but I doubt he would agree, or even care very much.

I think he was a genius, and his works will be popular for a very long time.

RonF said...

Bradbury wasn't hard SF and he wasn't hard fantasy.

It's kind of like Jimmy Buffet. He's not rock and roll. He's not country. He is an artistic genius. If you fail to read one or listen to the other because they don't fit in the defined genres, you'll missing a bet. It's a deficiency of classification, not a deficiency of artistry.

Astro said...

In terms of bold philosophy, wildly speculative fiction and solid writing, Heinlein was the best.

Bradbury was of course the poet, and dealt more with human fears and aspirations, but across the years he was much more successful not just with novels but with movies, TV and plays.

Asimov was next, and nobody cranked out more really good books; but he was a polymath and most of his best books were non-fiction. As good as his robot and Foundation novels were, his science books like "Science, Numbers, and I" were incomparable.

Last of the big 4 was Clarke. None of the other 3 had the one mega-success that Clarke had with 2001. Someday some director will finally make a movie of "A Fall of Moondust" and Clarke will posthumously enjoy a second mega-success.

caseym54 said...

Bradbury was a word artist, but his work was mostly without substance. I read nearly everything he wrote when I was 17, and very little thereafter. And remember none of it.

caseym54 said...

It wasn't that it wasn't SF, it was that it was right-brain SF, which borders on oxymoron.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

caseym54,

It wasn't that it wasn't SF, it was that it was right-brain SF, which borders on oxymoron.

Oh, there are other examples. Quite a bit of Ursula LeGuin. Much of Orson Scott Card (all of the Ender books but the first, which is rather more "hard SF").

Philip Dick isn't so much "right brain" as "brain on acid," but belongs in there too.

Re: Heinlein, he's terrific except when he gets on the subject of sex, at which point he becomes an unbearable bore. Unfortunately he gets on the subject of sex rather often. I was quite enjoying The Number of the Beast until Liz and Lori Long showed up in it :-(

tiger said...

What Joe said, I would have phrased it differently but what Lars said,especially what Sal said and what Ron said (but mentioning RB and Jimmy Buffet - music for people who like they music, soft, bland and spoon-fed to them - is wrong in so many ways).

I liked Bradbury as a person, he always came across well in interviews but his writing never really engaged me; it was some hybrid - neither sci-fi not fantasy but a little of both but not enough of either.

The truth is I'm not that impressed by Asimov or Clarke, either and I was raised on SF. FWIW I'm a Heinlein guy.

ndspinelli said...

What ricpic said.

beast said...

1)Heinlein
2)Sir Arthur
3)Isaac
4)Ursula,Andre,Marion,Clifford,Roger
In Short anybody but Mr.Pretentious

Astro said...

Michelle D T - I completely agree with your comments on "Number of the Beast". The first half was excellent, then the wheels fell off. And true of the last few of his works at the end of his career; very uneven. But only a mild tarnish on a spectacular body of work.

gpm said...

Going way back (e.g., Farmer in the Sky, Farnham's Freehold and many others), Heinlein seemed overly prone to having a big shift halfway through his novels where both the storyline and the tone changed. Even in major works like Stranger, as well as lesser ones like (one of my favorites) Podkayne of Mars. It just got totally out of control in his later works, when people started going back in time so they could do it with their mother or changing bodies so they could do it with themselves (I Will Fear No Evil was one or the other of those). And the Oz stuff also got totally out of control.

Still love RH, but Bradbury was always a snooze to me. Started with Andre (sic) Norton and then Asimov back in grade school, RH in high school, then Larry Niven in college (plus Harry Harrison, Frederick Pohl and many others in the interim). Haven't read so much in the (many, many) years since then.

And I'll put in a word for Jimmy Buffet. Not so much the music (I come from a musically deficient family), but he has had a lot of songs with interesting lyrics. Ditto Randy Newman.

--gpm

tiger said...

Michelle D T - I completely agree with your comments on "Number of the Beast". The first half was excellent, then the wheels fell off. And true of the last few of his works at the end of his career; very uneven. But only a mild tarnish on a spectacular body of work.

Fark had a sci fi author thread about a year ago and there was a post stating that Heinlein had a brain tumor that effected his writing. This was the only place I've 'heard' about that.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

gpm,

Going way back (e.g., Farmer in the Sky, Farnham's Freehold and many others), Heinlein seemed overly prone to having a big shift halfway through his novels where both the storyline and the tone changed. Even in major works like Stranger, as well as lesser ones like (one of my favorites) Podkayne of Mars. It just got totally out of control in his later works, when people started going back in time so they could do it with their mother or changing bodies so they could do it with themselves (I Will Fear No Evil was one or the other of those). And the Oz stuff also got totally out of control.

Yeah, you could certainly say that of Farnham's Freehold. Half of the book's one thing, and half is ... well, among other things, pretty, shall we say, edgy for 1964. I read that for the first time last summer, as well as Podkayne of Mars. (I was visiting my parents, and my mom had a $50 credit at the local used bookstore that she had no intention of using, so I went to town.)

I'm afraid my knowledge of Heinlein is spotty. The book I like best of those I've read is The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Stranger in a Strange Land devolves into Heinlein's free-love obsession at the end; but for that, I liked it. I haven't read Starship Troopers. (Nor seen the movie.)

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

tiger,

What Joe said, I would have phrased it differently but what Lars said,especially what Sal said and what Ron said (but mentioning RB and Jimmy Buffet - music for people who like they music, soft, bland and spoon-fed to them - is wrong in so many ways)

Well, I like my music like Gyorgi Ligeti's wind bagatelles, and Steven Mackey's string quartets, and Frank Martin's Maria-Triptychon, and Morton Feldman's Rothko Chapel, and I dare you to call that pablum. At least after you've heard it.

And it is "Buffett" with two t's. I know this because I've spent an unconscionable fraction of my life in sheet music retail.

jaed said...

"Heinlein had a brain tumor that effected his writing."

Not a brain tumor - a blockage of one of his carotid arteries. It had effects like causing him to sleep sixteen hours a day and a lot of difficulty writing, before it was diagnosed and treated. He wrote about it in a couple of places - I think there is a piece in Expanded Universe about the experience.

Mitch H. said...

I think, God bless us, it was because of his words.

Damn, that's easily the most self-regarding, narcissistic thing I've read this week. This is the Professor's ex?

Not that I disagree with him that Bradbury's pretty damn neat. Not the greatest of SF writers - too sentimental for me - but still pretty damn good. The only better stylist of his genre and era was probably Bester. And maybe Lafferty, although really, Lafferty's more of a Sixties New Wave guy than those two Golden Age of SF poets.

gpm said...

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is probably Heinlein's best. TANSTAAFL!

--gpm