Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fahrenheit 51: In Honor of Ray Bradbury

On Tuesday, I joined the crowd gathered at City College to watch Venus pass in front of the sun.  I told my two boys to get a good look because the next time it happened, they’d be 109 and 111 years old, respectively. 

But all I could think about while peering through that spotting scope was Margot, the little girl who got locked in the closet on Venus in Ray Bradbury’s ‘All Summer in a Day.’

I must have read that story thirty years ago, but it was clearly unforgettable.  From there, my thoughts wandered to Hollis, the doomed astronaut who blazed through the atmosphere at the end of ‘Kaleidoscope.’  That’s the kind of story that makes you rethink your whole day.
I grew up reading Ray Bradbury.  He was the subject of all my book reports from 1979-1983.  He got me excited about science fiction.  He’d famously claim that he wasn’t at heart a science fiction writer, but he was. 

‘The Martian Chronicles’ kept me up at night wondering about future histories.  ‘Fahrenheit 451’ made me worry that we might not have any future at all.  And ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ instilled in me a lifelong fear of demonic circuses. 
Ray Bradbury made me want to be a writer.  Strange then, waking up on Wednesday to learn he had died.  Best of luck, Ray.  Like the small boy on the country road at the end of ‘Kaleidoscope,’ I’ll join the world’s sci-fi readers and make a wish.  And because I could not resist the temptation, a small tribute:

Fahrenheit 51

“Damn totalitarian government,” Gary Montag growled, inching his way into the frigid water.
“Stop your complaining,” Mildred scolded, shivering in the hot tub.  “Once you get in, it’s not so bad.”
Montag glared at his wife.  “What would be the crime in heating the water?”  He finally took the plunge, collapsing into the icy froth.  “I’m growing weary of this dystopia.”
“You’ve heard the stories,” Mildred reminded him.  “Back in the day, people got so relaxed in their hot tubs that productivity suffered.  The economy all but collapsed.  No, I think the new law makes sense.”
“Well, I’m not going to take it anymore,” Montag announced, reaching for the thermostat.
“That’s forbidden,” Mildred shrieked.  
“It’s time somebody stood up for the people,” Montag said, flipping the switch.  The heater roared to life.
Mildred dialed 911.  “You’re in hot water now, baby,” she said as the SWAT team moved into position.


Patricia Gligor's Writers Forum said...

I understand how you feel about Ray Bradbury. I feel the same way about Mary Higgins Clark.
I knew, from the time I was a little girl reading Judy Bolton mysteries, that I wanted to be a writer but MHC's first mystery novel, "Where are the Children?" gave me the added inspiration I needed. When I met her in person, her words "Write that novel," motivated me to do just that.

john M. Daniel said...

Bill, Ray would be pleased to read your tribute and your spin-off story...and he'd tell you so!

Dac said...

Bill, I still have my copy of "Martian Chronicles."

Liane Spicer said...

How could I have forgotten Something Wicked? It sat on our bookshelf throughout my childhood, bound in black, and gave off a sort of air. (Talk about the power of titles.)

My sister and I eventually plucked up the courage to read it - don't remember which of us went first - but even now that we're middle aged and remember little of the story, we remember how utterly spooked we were by it.

Cool tribute.

William Doonan said...

Thanks, guys. Funny, even now just thinking about it, I'm remembering more and more bits of his short stories.

Charles Gramlich said...

I remember that story about the little girl too. My first introduction to Bradbury was in his story about a "pair of lightfoot tennis shoes."

jrlindermuth said...

Nice tribute, Bill. The only place I'd disagree would be in classifying him. He wrote some fine sci-fi, but in no way was he restricted to one genre. He was a Writer.

Cora said...

I've been wanting to re-read Fahrenheit 451, but after reading your post, I decided I need to re-read more of his short stories. Nice tribute.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Nice tribute to a legend.

Eileen Obser said...

What a wonderful way to say goodbye to someone who was a real inspiration in your life. Thanks for this.

Augie said...

William, thank you for this post, I reread All Summer in a Day by Bradbury, what a phenomenal piece. He wrote the words as good as Rod Sterling (I hope you do not mind the comparison-correct English would be 'as well as,'), but this is exactly what I meant. They both were excellent writers, to me that's as good as it gets when it comes to the imagination.