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Imagining New Worlds June 22, 2012

Posted by ccbooks in Analysis.
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When I was a kid, I was in love with the past. Reading all the Little House books, to say nothing of Louisa May Alcott and All of a Kind Family, meant that I was much more interested in daily life a hundred years ago than in possible future worlds. Sewing clothes and traveling by wagon was far more romantic to me than spaceships and far-away planets. As you can imagine, I wasn’t reading very much science fiction. So I came a bit late to the master, Ray Bradbury.

My first memory of  a Bradbury story was ‘The Veldt,’ which I read as part of an English class in seventh grade. It was the first year that the Internet really started becoming something that kids in my class talked about, the beginnings of a barrier going up between those with access and interest in things like email, chat rooms and websites, and those who could care less. As you can probably guess, I was part of the latter group. But in ‘The Veldt,’ the central piece of technology–the fabulous house that does everything for you and creates simulated environments such as Africa–turns out to be quite sinister and dangerous in the end.  It felt incredibly validating–see, technology can have a downside! Maybe I’m not such a geek for preferring books over TV after all!

I sought out more Bradbury stories to read after that, and although I discovered that he wasn’t always against technology, he always made me think about the results and consequences of using it. What might actually happen if we could go back in time and shoot a T-Rex?  And it was heartening, as well as heartbreaking at times, to read about characters who were still incredibly human, although they lived in worlds that were very different. Children were still thoughtlessly cruel, teasing a girl who was different, although they lived far away on Venus and not on Earth. I think of that character Margo on sunny days.

I’ve never given up on my love of the past. But thanks to Ray Bradbury and the science fiction writers he led me to, I learned to look ahead with more excitement than anxiety. Thank you, Ray Bradbury, for showing me the value and rewards of imagining the new worlds of the future.

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