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Ian Martínez Cassmeyer

The Stubborn, Unshakeable Optimism of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451

I know what you’re thinking. You think that this is going to be one long tirade about how our world is becoming like the one Ray Bradbury depicts in Fahrenheit 451. Well, sorry (not sorry), to disappoint you, but I’m not going there. (You can already find plenty that on social media.)

It might seem like an oxymoron to refer to a book like Fahrenheit 451 as an “optimistic dystopia,” and, to be fair to those who think so, they’re correct—there’s an innate contradiction at the heart of the phrase. Dystopias, by their very nature, are supposed to be depictions of society at its bleakest. We don’t expect them to give readers any sense of optimism; if anything, their purpose is to scare us into correcting our current course and to aim for something better.

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Listen to the Echoes: The Ultimate Profile of Ray Bradbury

When I decided to write my recent piece about The Bradbury Chronicles, Sam Weller’s biography of Ray Bradbury, I knew I’d also have to write (just a few words) about the book I always think of as its fraternal twin. Not to do so would’ve meant ignoring the other half of Bradbury.

I declared (perhaps rather grandly) that Weller’s subject in 2005’s The Bradbury Chronicles was a portrait of Bradbury as an artist, a narrative about the development of a writer—his “Other Me”—alongside the details and milestones of the life he’d led. What Weller gives us in 2010’s Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews is a portrait of the man behind the typewriter. How does it rate, then, when compared to the earlier volume? I’ll be frank and say that this book is not a “must read” for everyone who read The Bradbury Chronicles.

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Sam Weller’s The Bradbury Chronicles: A Portrait of the Artist That Every SciFi Fan Should Read

I’ll admit that, after combing through the archives (shamelessly searching for ideas for more articles), when I discovered no one had written about Sam Weller’s biography of Ray Bradbury, my reaction was twofold.

On the one hand, I was incensed. Here was the authorized biography of one of my heroes—one of the faces on my personal literary Mount Rushmore—and nobody had dedicated a word to it. That reaction, however, was short lived as a wave of joyful realization replaced it. If no one else had written about it, then the opportunity to do so could be mine for the taking.

Now, (to be fair to my great host), Tor only established its website in 2008. Weller originally published his biography in 2005. Thus, a three-year-old book was likely not on their radar when they started to publish their reviews and other nonfiction. However, late is better than never. Besides, a book about one of the most important authors of SF deserves to have a couple a thousand words said about it, even 13 years on.

So, what is the best way I can describe Weller’s book?

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Four Places to Start with the Work of Ray Bradbury

I’ve always preferred the writers I discover on my own to the writers others—be they teachers or friends—recommend to me.

Ray Bradbury is one such writer.

More than that, he’s one of my literary heroes, one of the authors who inspired and solidified my desire to be a writer. And I’m hardly alone—within the SF community, he’s one of a handful of iconic authors most often cited as an influence and a favorite, and many non-SF readers frequently cite him as their gateway into the broad genre of Speculative Fiction.

Yet, some readers find Bradbury difficult to approach.

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What to Expect if You Find Yourself in a V.E. Schwab Novel

Say you’re with your sibling, lounging next to a little brook beneath the boughs of a willow tree, like Alice before Wonderland. Like Alice, due to your sibling’s droning on about a subject you couldn’t care less about, you eventually lapse into sleep.

Upon awakening, you suddenly find yourself in an unknown landscape; unlike Alice, the landscape isn’t Wonderland. Instead, it’s a world resembling those V.E. Schwab masterfully depicts in her own fantastical tales. Not only that, but you’ve been transported to this imaginative realm to play the part of the protagonist in the next tale which she is crafting.

How can you be sure, though? And what can you expect? (Cue the Twilight Zone theme).

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