Thursday, June 7, 2012

RIP Ray Bradbury

When I read the Martian Chronicles in middle school, the story where Spender abandons his own crew to explore and possibly preserve Martian culture ("The Settlers") was so mind-blowing to me in so many ways:

-The way it showed how important independent thought is, how important it is to forge our own personal perceptions of the world and reject traditional realities, even if no one else will listen or pay attention. Even if (or maybe because) every trace of you will one day be gone

-Its particularly harrowing way it tied fiction to history, recalling the colonial story of America in a way that didn't just provide an interesting parallel, but instead applied a sense of apocalypticism to our own time, showing that we're all standing on rubble and our luxury is built on the graveyards of those who would never enjoys such fruits.

- The way it showed a civilization with a greater technological advantage and mental capacity than ours still struggling to reconcile their fears, showing that "progress" is not always a straight line to freedom

- The way that Captain John Black consented to Spender's assassination, despite essentially agreeing with him and offering nothing to prevent the erasure of an entire civilization

-The way it showed my still developing mind that there was nothing about the good guys that made them inherently good, that they were just as capable of great evil.

-The way it flipped the dynamic between every other piece of lit I had read up until that point and proved that the written word could realign people like that, shake them out of their sleep and force them to stay up late at night thinking about what they'd read. It made thinking less of a chore or an exercise and more of an intrinsic necessity. Before this, I had never been hungry to read more in a way that didn't just satisfy some constant need for gratification/stimulation. It made me want to be challenged.

-The way it made me feel this kind of dizzying and exhilarating confusion. The way it made me feel like Spender, lost but liberated, alone but assured in my solitary path. It made me realize that in order to fill an honest life, I would have to go it alone more often than not. It was the first time where I felt the root word in "alien"ation. I've felt pretty much like an alien ever since, finding it difficult to identify with practically any one around me, feeling like my "people" are some remote civilization, only to be found in odd corners of the world, hiding in the shadows at concerts, stuck in low pay jobs, and scattering the fringes of the internet, deliberately pushed to the side by an indifferent culture trying to make them disappear.

It'd be pretty hard to argue that Ray Bradbury isn't singularly responsible for the person I am