Fuck you, Ray Bradbury

Well, not really, I’m sure he’s a nice guy (and of course I love the “Fuck me, Ray Bradbury” video, which started this thread, because I realized that I had never actually read anything of his, so I took out a book of short stories and read it.) It was awful, no characters I cared about, just awfully boring, premise-driven dreck of no literary merit that I could see. So fuck you, Ray Bradbury: there’s a few hours I’m not seeing again.

I think it’s SF generally, though. I decided to read another classic that I’ve had sitting around on my shelf for years, which I got because it’s the basis of one of my favorite movies, BLADE RUNNER. I suppose I could just not be a Philip K. Dick fan or a Ray Bradbury fan, but I’m afraid the whole genre does nothing for me, and I often like premise fiction, if the premise is interesting enough. I do like Vonnegut’s early work, though–it had people, it had humor, and the premises were clear and logical for the most part. Or is that not considered SF? (Sirens of Titan, stuff like that.)

Which Bradbury book did you read?

You had never read a Ray Bradbury story? Did you not go to school in America? I only ask because I think Bradbury was the most heavily assigned author in my schooling K-12.

I’m not exaggerating. Here’s what I had to read:

Something Wicked This Way Comes (novel)
Fahrenheit 451 (novel)
Sound of Thunder
The Veldt
All Summer in a Day

And about a hundred others that I’m sure I’m forgetting. Anyway, these are all pretty good stories, especially for kids. However, I checked out the mammoth collection of Ray Bradbury stories out from the library, this one, and it was terrible. The first story, The Whole Town’s Sleeping, was creepy and cool, and it was all downhill from there. Any story set in Ireland, especially the ones with banshees, are nigh unreadable.

Anyway, it opened my eyes to the fact that the teachers had been cherry-picking the best of Bradbury, and that there is a lot of dreck in that back catalog.

It was a “Best of…”, “Greatest Hits,” sort of book. One story I remember was “The Veldt.” (I returned it to the library.) “Illustrated Man,” too. Ugh.

Have you tried Robert Heinlein instead? :stuck_out_tongue:

I found both “The Martian Chronicles” and “Dandelion Wine” to be a waste of time, but like the OP, I like science fiction better in theory than in practice. I have read a lot of Philip K. Dick and it’s pretty enjoyable if you recognize that most of his books were written quickly on deadline and were intended as essentially pulp fiction–so the stories may be badly flawed or just peter out, but there’s always an inventive premise and some good early scenes. It’s no wonder Hollywood likes to use Dick novels but changes the stories around.

I can’t recall being assigned to Bradbury in school, but being in the scifi crowd I was certainly aware of his work.

I think you meant to say on amphetamines.

When I saw the phrase, “fuck you, Ray Bradbury”, I thought of what I considered to be his betrayal of the genre. He was the first science fiction author to appear on the cover of the New York Book Review, if I remember right. Really broke out of the ghetto, really set a precedent. I know from interviews he grew up a fan. I even like that he never learned how to drive, said he never missed it, it was like sex and the 13-year-old.

Hey, he went to high school a long time ago and never got laid, stop laughing.

But Ray did very well off science fiction, used a lot of the tropes in his work. Wrote under deadline, as mentioned. Got picked up by Hollywood, as mentioned. I read his Wiki page. What caught my eye?

“First of all, I don’t write science fiction. I’ve only done one science fiction book and that’s Fahrenheit 451, based on reality. Science fiction is a depiction of the real. Fantasy is a depiction of the unreal. So Martian Chronicles is not science fiction, it’s fantasy. It couldn’t happen, you see? That’s the reason it’s going to be around a long time—because it’s a Greek myth, and myths have staying power.”

Yeah, Ray, The Martian Chronicles was good when I was 12. It isn’t the Illiad.

Ray Bradbury is a difficult person to categorize. Although many of his stories are set in an SF environment, they are not really hard science fiction like Clarke, Heinlein and Asimov. His use of prose is better than the average bear, and some of his earlier works are quite interesting.

Some of his horror is quite good. Something Wicked This Way Comes is a classic.

I had the same experience; I bought a Ray Bradbury collection called “Quicker Than The Eye,” and it went back on my bookshelf after reading a couple of the stories. The word to describe this book that comes to my mind is “tedious.” I am a science fiction fan; just, apparently, not a Ray Bradbury fan.

No, it’s not; you just happened to pick horrible stuff. Bradbury is one of those people who tries to be all literary and shit and ends up being tiresome, and PKD is one of those people who is better admired in the abstract than by actually reading his work.

ETA: If you want to sample SF, I’d recommend starting off by embracing the pulp-ness. Try a best-of collection from Henry Kuttner or Leigh Brackett, for example. Ted Sturgeon is more “quality” but is still readable.

OTOH, I love Bradbury and think Dick is unreadable.

Try some early Asimov or Clark.

On the gripping hand, add some early Niven as well.

Right. Bradbury’s own quote that he feels he’s a writer of fantasy and not of Science Fiction is his way of reminding the reader that he will not be meeting all the reader’s expectations. He’s not serving (or betraying) some Greater Ideal of SF, he’s a working writer making a good living in his field, where his stuff that sold best was under the broad-and-loose umbrella of “Fantasy and Science Fiction”.

That said, indeed much of Bradbury does leave some people cold. A lot of his material is really succeptible to the reader’s emotional state and sensibilities in order to “click”; specially when you have some that are more “mood pieces”, it just will not grab the reader. I know a few people for whom Bradbury was at best a slowly acquired taste, that grew into respect, rather than “like”.
(Interestingly I seem to have similar tastes to silenus in this matter…)
And yes, prr, Vonnegut wrote very good SF; yet he figured how to not get pigeonholed as “just” a SF writer.

PS: From my own assigned/suggested HS reading lists for ESL we had Bradbury as: F-451 (suggested), Martian Chronicles (suggested; “There Will Come Soft Rains” required), Illustrated Man, Sound of Thunder (stand-alone), Something Wicked This Way Comes.

I’m another big sci-fi fan who find Bradbury dull and tedious. Phillip K. Dick sucks, too.

I’m a big Ray Bradbury fan. I don’t know if what he writes is really science fiction, but I like it. I’d say what he writes is almost magical realism.

I’m a sci-fi fan. The only thing I’ve ever read by Bradbury was Fahrenheit 451, assigned when I was a freshman in high school. I found the premise to be utterly ridiculous, and couldn’t get past that. If I’d picked it up for pleasure, I wouldn’t have made it past the first few pages; unfortunately, I was forced to read the whole thing. Ugh.

I think the only Bradbury I was ever required to read was the shorts “There Will Come Soft Rains” and “All Summer in a Day” (it seems to me there might have been one other, but I can’t remember it off the top of my head). I won an essay contest for an essay I wrote about “Summer”, and got a copy of The Martian Chronicles for it. Man, I just could not finish it. I used to think that Steinbeck was depressing, but the worst that ever happens in Steinbeck is that someone dies pointlessly.

Fahrenheit 451, however (which I only read because my mom, not a usual source for sci-fi recommendations, recommended it) is actually fairly optimistic. Sure, the setting’s bleak, but the protagonist fights against it, and is winning.

What can I say? I am a huge Bradbury fan, and some of his stories are up there with my personal favorites from Vonnegut, Du Maurier and O. Henry. When he gets it right, he amazes me. When he gets it wrong… yawn.

I love this audio version of The Rocket Man (here with music and video). There’s also a great old audio version of The Veldt, truly terrifying stuff.

The Concrete Mixer was about a Martian participant in a invasion of Earth having doubts based on his reading pulp 1930’s Science Fiction, where Martian invasions are always thwarted by plucky Jack-Armstrong-type heroes; only to see the actual invasion swallowed by crass American consumerism. That story would never be outdated.

I see that recent editions of the Martian Chronicles don’t include my favorite: Night Call, Collect. One of the humans abandoned alone on Mars devises a project to keep his sanity: recording a series of harassing phone calls to himself, all time-delayed to go off years later, calculated to drive him crazy.

If he’d written like that consistently, he’d be up there with Kafka, Samuel Beckett and Jorges Luis Borges, but hardly anyone would be reading him.