Ray Bradbury: a Merciless Critic

By Irina Pino

HAVANA TIMES The Martian Chronicles by US author Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) is an enlightening read. It’s an analysis of our world, which I like to flick through again every once in a while.

I’m always taken aback by his perception of man’s predatory nature, colonization, its unjust wars and miscommunication. Most of his stories foresee an uncertain future for planet Earth.

It is now the 100th anniversary of this versatile author who wrote works of so many different genres, such as horror, fantasy and science fiction. The latter a genre he rejected, claiming he wasn’t a science fiction writer. In the last interviews he gave, he openly spoke about his disgust for the Internet. “The Internet distracts, it doesn’t make any sense, it isn’t real. It’s someplace in the air.” In the meantime, he continued to write on his typewriter.

Convinced through and through, he would say that physical books could never be replaced by digital ones. He tried to thwart plans to digitalize some of his most famous books, more than once.

Whether we think he’s right or not, the harm of being addicted to social media is real. The inability to form your own opinion, if you let yourself get caught up in what it means to follow the masses without a reason. 

Bradbury knew human nature

He knew human nature. In many of his stories in Chronicles… he describes how a citizen in his country flees in order to escape the Law and social conventions, but then takes all of this infrastructure to Mars. He can’t adapt to a new way of life. He begins to baptize cities and seas with names of US cities, such as New Chicago and New Texas.

In The Off Season, Sam Parkhill sets up a hot dog stand on Mars. He awaits a rocket to arrive that will bring 100,000 Mexicans and Chinese. His business will boom as a result and he’ll become rich: the American Dream. The protagonist would destroy entire cities to defend his interests, without listening to what the Martians have to say.

Racial discrimination is present in Way in the middle of the Air. It talks about the white people’s impotence and disappointment in the face of a mass influx of black people to Mars, seeking social status to redeem themselves.

The Silent Towns

We learn about human isolation in The Silent Towns. Walter Gripps lives in absolute solitude and spends his time consuming and wandering about. Every city was abandoned, you can go into any home, and eat whatever you want from any store without paying.

Walter enjoys himself eating food, going to the movies and going for long walks. He fantasizes about meeting a woman. One day, while going on his regular walk, he hears a telephone ringing inside a house. When he picks it up, there’s a woman’s voice on the other side of the line…

They finally meet; however, he is disappointed. He sees that she is a hideous fat woman who only thinks about gobbling down sweets. Even so, he shares some moments with her, but things get complicated when she shows him a wedding dress. And tells him she wants to get married. The guy runs away as fast as he can, going to the most faraway city. He never again answers a ringing phone.

Here, Bradbury displays his biting sense of humor. Implicit messages about beauty standards imposed by society are abundant. Likewise, allusions to marriage and the banalization of the concept of culture.

I recommend all of my dear readers to seek out Bradbury’s work. He’s one of the authors you have to read who never gets old. Especially The Martian Chronicles. I can tell you you’ll really enjoy reading these insightful stories, written in poetic prose.

Read more diary posts by Irina Pino

Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.