The Last Sci-Fi Blog: Remembering Ray Bradbury

The Last Sci-Fi Blog: Remembering Ray Bradbury

Jun 07, 2012

Ray Bradbury: 1920-2012

There are few people who can truly be called legends. In the realm of science fiction, the pantheon of great names goes something like this: HG Wells, Jules Verne, Arthur C.Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison, Robert Heinlein and, of course, Ray Bradbury, who passed away yesterday at the the age of 91. He leaves in his wake eleven novels and enough short stories to fill dozens of collections.

Bradbury is perhaps most famous for The Martian Chronicles, a series of interconnected short stories that explore the future the colonization of Mars. The book's success amongst readers and critics remains one of the most important moments in all of science fiction, forcing a re-evaluation of the entire genre by the literary community. The Martian Chronicles has inspired countless writers in the 62 years since its publication and it is, to put it mildly, one of the most important genre novels ever written.

Many people were introduced to Bradbury through Fahrenheit 451, AKA, "the one good book you were forced to read in high school." The story of a future where literature is illegal and burned on sight by government employed "firemen," the novel has proven timeless, its message about the importance of knowledge relevant in any era. Of course, Bradbury wasn't just "important" sci-fi -- Fahrenheit 451 also features the main character in a life-or-death chase with a vicious robotic dog built to hunt down fugitives, so Bradbury wasn't above just being plain awesome.

You can tell if someone is influential by counting the parodies of their work and Bradbury's short story A Sound of Thunder may be the most parodied science fiction tale of all time. Even if you haven't read the story, you probably know a thing or two about it: men go back in time for a specialized hunting expedition (who doesn't want to hunt a dinosaur, really?), don't follow the rules and their tiny mistakes cause a chain reaction of events that lead to a disastrous future upon their return. HG Wells may have written the first great story about time travel with The Time Machine, but it's Bradbury's story that has defined the parameters of the subject in modern fiction. Movies like Back to the Future, with its depiction of events in the past rippling to the future, owe everything to Bradbury.

With his passing, the literary world has lost a giant and the science fiction genre has lost a titan. In an age when so much sci-fi (even good sci-fi) is cold, action-heavy nonsense, Bradbury wrote tales of the fantastic that were also about the human condition. He wrote from the heart. His actual science was never as sound as Clarke's or Asimov's, but he didn't need that. He knew that science fiction wasn't about providing an explanation for why a spaceship works, but rather what the people on that spaceship were thinking, feeling and experiencing as they journeyed into the unknown.

We'll miss you, Mr. Bradbury.

On a final note, newcomers to Bradbury can't go wrong with grabbing any of his short story collections, but The Illustrated Man, The Martian Chronicles, Something WIcked This Way Comes and Fahrenheit 451 are often considered great starting points. If you want to get a taste of his work before opening a book, check out our list of great Ray Bradbury movies right here. If you're even more pressed for time, check out a few short stories based on his work here.

The Sci-Fi News: 'Star Wars' For Adults, Samuel L. Jackson in 'RoboCop' and the Trailer For 'Dead Space 3'

You remember that long-in-the-works live action Star Wars TV series apparently called Star Wars: Underworld? As you may recall, the series would focus on the criminals of the that far, far away galaxy a long time ago. Recently, Lucasfilm producer Rick McCallum was asked about the status of the series and he spilled some, er, interesting information. He described the series as "Deadwood in space" and "unlike anything you've ever associated with…Star Wars." I'm assuming his Deadwood comparison is about the show dealing with shady characters, not because it will feature Boba Fett spewing all kinds of fanciful variations on your favorite four letter words. McCallum went on to say other insane things, like each episode costing $5-6 million dollars and that the whole project is comparable to James Cameron's Avatar. He concludes by saying that they have completed the scripts for 50 episodes, apparently unaware that the best TV shows know to change things up and go with the flow and that locking in three seasons worth of episodes can actually be a very bad thing if something isn't working. I've gone on record about my Star Wars fatigue and it's going to take a lot more than an expensive "adult" Star Wars to get my attention again.

In other news, Samuel L. Jackson has joined the upcoming remake of RoboCop, playing "…Pat Novak, a charismatic media mogul and a powerful force in the RoboCop world." This character is apparently a brand new creation for the remake, but hopefully his existence is evidence that the film will have some pointed things to say about the media, much like the heavily satiric 1987 original. Ten bucks says that, at some point, Jackson will shout "I'll buy that for a dollar!"

Finally, here's the trailer for the upcoming Dead Space 3, which seems to up the action and dial down the scares, continuing the path set by part two. The first Dead Space is one of the scariest games I've ever played (so much so that I would dread turning on my Xbox to play it), so it's disappointing to see them taking the series in such a drastically different direction. Making it a two-player co-op game just removes the sense of isolation that defined the series previously, no?

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