Main Content

A future that's never too late to change


Just last week a patron stopped me at the library counter and asked if I knew who Ray Bradbury was. Of course I did, I told him.

Bradbury, who died Sunday, was one of those authors of my childhood, along with Asimov and King, who made me fall in love with the short story, and with twist endings, and sci-fi.

Most people are familiar with the phrase ”the butterfly effect,” but how many know it comes from a rather chilling story Bradbury wrote, A Sound of Thunder, published in 1952? He didn't write the phrase. He came up with the idea of it.

Most known for the high school staple Fahrenheit 451, about a future where firemen burn books (and ideas) rather than prevent fires, and his collection of short stories The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury's writing challenged our ideas of where our society was headed at any given moment.

In a recently released interview initially conducted in the late 1970s by the Paris Review, Bradbury explained his craft as "not just the art of the possible, but of the obvious."

"Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world you are writing science fiction."

Bradbury also took issue with those who rejected "the fiction of ideas," accusing them of neglecting the progress humanity has made in order to focus on failures or shortcomings.

"The critics are generally wrong, or they’re fifteen, twenty years late. It’s a great shame. They miss out on a lot."

Although Bradbury never took to computers or the Internet, resisting having his works translated into ebooks until last year, his vision of our world has been the inspiration of generations of theoretical scientists and space explorers, not to mention other writers, artists and movie makers.

The patron who stopped in to talk about Bradbury was lamenting the fact that so few people seem to talk about his works anymore.

"He was the first green author," he told me. "He was the one pointing out where we going if we didn't pay attention."

Good thing it's never too late to revisit an old favorite.