Ray Bradbury: The Man who Burned all the Books

Ray Bradbury (AUG 22, 1920 – JUN 5, 2012) was a prolific author who is credited with writing 27 novels and over 600 short stories, in addition to writing several film and television screenplays. His work helped shape the burgeoning genre of science fiction. He was awarded a Pulitzer Citation in 2007 for his “distinguished, prolific, and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy.”

Bradbury is recognized as one of the authors who, in the mid-twentieth century, transformed science fiction from a short-form niche genre into a respected format for novelists. Along with the likes of Arthur C. Clark, Phillip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov; Bradbury helped usher in the “Golden Age of Science Fiction” and pave the way for the mainstream success the genre has enjoyed in modern times.

Fahrenheit 451 (1953) is arguably Bradbury’s best known and most respected work. The seminal dystopian science fiction novel takes place in a future where “firemen” are tasked with seeking out and destroying books, which have been outlawed in this autocratic, nightmare future. Bradbury himself has stated that the themes of the book were born of the fear that fundamentalist leaders in McCarthy-Era America might take steps to censor the spread of unfavorable ideas; steps all too fresh in the post-war era of the mass book burnings undertaken in Nazi Germany.

It’s no surprise that this fear of information suppression, especially in the form of burning books, should have been a key inspiration for a man such as Bradbury. Any lover of books, be they reader or author, surely cringes at the idea. Moreso, Bradbury was also a student of classical literature. While he has cited H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Edgar Rice Burroughs among his primary influences; he also spent time delving into the works of Shakespeare, Frost, and Homer. As a true connoisour of literature, a lover of knowledge, and a forward-thinking futurist; Bradbury quite possibly valued the written word above any other venture.

Ray Bradbury passed away in June of 2012, at the age of ninety-one. He lived long enough to see the ignorance and intolerance of the 1950s and 1960s give way to a cultural revolution that lasted decades, only to be replaced by a threat as ominous as that in Fahrenheit 451. In our so-called “information age,” many are rejecting reason, logic, and empirical evidence. Were he alive to see the current state of the anti-intellectualism movement in America today, he might just be forced to write another book.

You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.

Ray Bradbury