The death of Ray Bradbury reminded me that he was among the least believable of science fiction writers. (See my discussion of believability.) I couldn’t find the quote online, but I recall him saying that he gave up science fiction after a nine-year-old wrote him to complain about the science in one of his stories (“The Golden Apples of the Sun”, maybe?).
Like most people I came across online who talked about Bradbury in the past day, I haven’t read him in decades. I have a feeling that his work hasn’t aged well — except for Fahrenheit 451, I suppose, which is the perfect novel to assign to schoolkids. Science fiction as a genre, of course, has a tendency not to age well. Here is an excerpt from an essay about Bradbury by Damon Knight from 1967 that sounds about right. He says:
Although [Bradbury] has a large following among science fiction readers, there is at least an equally large contingent of people who cannot stomach his work at all; they say he has no respect for the medium; that he does not even trouble to make his scientific double-talk convincing; that—worst crime of all—he fears and distrusts science.
For better or worse, I think he helped give me the courage to imagine that I could write science fiction. Also, I remain spooked by Something Wicked This Way Comes.
I recently reread Something Wicked via audiobook. It held up pretty well, though it didn’t have quite the power of my first reading of it. I think it’s true that he feared and distrusted…maybe not science itself, but certainly technology and the ways we put science to work.
It’s been a long time since I read any of his work, but as best I can remember his strength was in his prose. I’ll have to revisit it (if I can find any of the books on my shelves) and see if it still strikes me that way.