Ray Bradbury: '''Science Fiction' the art of the obvious"

Finally back from a vacation that featured ample time spent by the Atlantic beaches and salt marshes of South Carolina armed with a Kindle loaded with essays, profiles and other Longform editorial picks, I want to share this interview with the late Ray Bradury, who appeared as a holograph (yes, really!) at the 2007 IdeaFestival. 

It was a night of magic. He talked about his life as a boy, of how Mr. Electro made everything seem possible, of the very early professional years pounding away at a typewriter as a writer of pulp fiction. He described a mind still restless, still searching, still writing many decades later - a mind, moreover, unconcerned with popular opinion.

One got the feeling he said exactly what he wanted to say.

And along the way he shared intimate details about how the Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 came to be, of his pulse-pounding love for libraries, and, despite still showing the effects of a relatively recent stroke, he captivated the audience with a passion and zest for life that could hardly have dimmed. Some of the stories he relayed that night also appear in the Paris Review piece, but it was the riff below on the nature of creativity, of possibility in "Ray Bradbury: The Art of Fiction No. 203" that grabbed my attention. I don't recall him addressing "science fiction" as "the art of the obvious" in Louisville, but because the following paragraphs go to the very nature of discovery and the importance of ideas, and thus, to the IdeaFestival, I had to share them with you. Are you ready?

Everything can change in an instant. Bradbury:

Science fiction is the fiction of ideas. Ideas excite me, and as soon as I get excited, the adrenaline gets going and the next thing I know I'm borrowing energy from the ideas themselves. Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn't exist yet, but soon will and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again....

Imagine if sixty years ago, at the start of my writing career I had thought to write as story about woman who swallowed a pill and destroyed the Catholic Church, causing the advent of women's liberation. That story probably would have been laughed at, but it was within the realm of the possible and would have made great science fiction. If I'd lived in the late eighteen hundreds I might have written a story predicting that strange vehicles would soon move across the landscape of the United States and would kill two million people in a period of seventy years. Science fiction is not just the art of the possible, but of the obvious. Once the automobile appeared you could have predicted that it would destroy as many people as it did.

Catch the entire interview at Paris Review, or grab it Longform.

What "obvious" things do you see today that might change everything?


Image: Geoff Oliver Bugbee