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Read Todd VanDerWerff On What Makes Ray Bradbury’s Science Fiction So Distinct And Wonderful

By Alyssa Rosenberg  

"Read Todd VanDerWerff On What Makes Ray Bradbury’s Science Fiction So Distinct And Wonderful"

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As part of his Nerd Curious series, in which he goes back and explores artifacts of culture he missed in his youth, my friend and the AV Club’s television editor Todd VanDerWerff took a deep dive into Ray Bradbury’s short stories and emerges with what I think is one of the best summaries of what makes Bradbury’s work distinct, the element of nostalgia and emotional irrationality in decision-making, even in science fiction where we’re supposed to be enhanced–or at least, where rationality is supposed to rule:

In The Martian Chronicles, as happens so often in Bradbury’s work, people don’t look at the destruction of their world and run as far as they can from the mushroom clouds or the astronauts bearing chicken pox. Instead, they run toward them, trying in vain to preserve something that’s already gone. The Earthlings who have settled Mars decide to go back to Earth after nuclear war erupts there. That seems a very curious decision—wouldn’t those who had escaped such destruction by virtue of being so very far away count themselves lucky?—until it is situated in the context of Bradbury’s bibliography. The characters are haunted by memories of a past they can’t ever shake. In that context, their actions make perfect sense. They aren’t driven by practical sense; they’re driven by emotional sense, until both worlds are mostly dead and barren, a handful of survivors of two species straggling out a life on the margins.

You should really read the whole thing, which has too many big ideas to get into here. But I thought that was lovely and astute.

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