Bradbury is pretty strict about it. He would agree with you that these stories (except the Chocolate Bar) are fantasy and are NOT science fiction. The terms get bandied about pretty freely, and I am probably guilty of that myself.
I agree with Bradbury's distinction academically, but emotionally, I still see a gap between SciFi and Fantasy. For Bradbury, anything that is beyond the scope of reasonable extrapolation of possibility is Fantasy. Anything that seems reasonable to extrapolate from modern technology and the laws of science would be SciFi.
I still have a prejudice that SciFi involves the future and space -- even when the technologies or conditions (i.e., breathable air on Mars and Venus) are beyond normative possibility. When I think of fantasy, I think of Tolkien's Middle Earth, Donaldson's alternate universe (Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever), and things like Tarzan and Conan. But I do actually agree that Bradbury's distinction makes more sense.
I stand [sort of] corrected (as I designated them as SciFi/Fantasy).
Glad you see it that way as I've explained my positions on the story classifications thread and am not changing my classifications based on someone else's definition--even the author's.
dandelion I don't understand what you mean, to what you refering? sorry
Dandelion has posted (I don't remember where, now) a very detailed listing of ALL of Bradbury's stories, broken down into various categories. I know she bumped it back up a few months ago, but I don't see it again. It was EXCELLENT, and represents an amazing amount of thought and research.
Maybe she can bump it up again?
For your edification, I have ordered several anthologies with rare/early/uncollected stories. When they arrive, I will read and classify them, which will bump the thread up and maybe motivate me to work some more on it.
Dandelion would you please tell where is that list? which is the tittle?
"Story Classifications (UNDER CONSTRUCTION!)" in the Resources forum.
While "The Man," "The Messiah," and "The Fire Balloons" deal overtly with religion and religious themes, "The Blue Bottle" seems to be a story heavy with religious implications, but doesn't really overtly mention religion. Nevertheless, its focus on themes and functions of religion seem obvious enough that it would be difficult to imagine religion was not in the forefront of Bradbury's mind as he wrote.
While some religions (denominations, movements) are relatively new (Christian Scientists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, etc) they are still rooted in antiquity. Religion, as a vital part of the human condition, is very ancient and powerful. In the beginning of "The Blue Bottle" the city on Mars is seen as no longer alive. The songs had died, and 'Mars was dead'. The beautiful towers of the cities had become so fragile, many would collapse at the mere sound of the human voice. The opening line of the story is a great one: "The sundials were tumbled into white pebbles." The sundials represent measured time, and their antiquity is such that, not only are they crumbled, but they have been tumbled into white pebbles by time. I grew up near beaches and would frequently find pieces of broken glass that had been eroded by the waves and sand into colored pebbles. The imagery of the sundials being 'tumbled into white pebbles' reminds me of that eroded glass. A process that takes time.
The story centers around two men searching for a blue bottle. There are legends about the bottle that say the bottle could hold "anything". The fact that what the bottle actually holds is a mystery is precisely what drives so many to seek it out. As Beck (the character seriously searching for the bottle) says, "...because it could hold anything -- well, that stirs a man's hunger." The bottle, it seems, drives men to seek it because it's promise is so vaguly defined. For many, religion holds promises of happiness, peace, etc., but those characteristics are often only vaguely held ideas to people. There are so many promises of future happiness in religion; but what, exactly, is the nature of those promises? Bradbury seems to think that, like the mystery involved in what the contents of the Blue Bottle are, many pursue religion as a means of seeking something they may not even be able to fully define.
That lack of definition, in fact, is part of what drives people to seek religion -- if we assume the Blue Bottle represents religion in this story. In a later discussion, Beck and Craig try to figure out what is in the Blue Bottle. There is speculation, and then Craig comments: "What's in the bottle would depend, maybe, on who's looking." Why would this increase the appeal of seeking religion, or in pursuing a religious quest? Precisely because each person defines what that quest would mean, based on their own desires and needs. Because it would be based on their own needs, it would have the power to compel them to seek out what it is that religion or the religious quest means to them. It compels because it fills their own needs.
Beck is compelled to find the Blue Bottle because of a specific need he has. He identifies that need in reflecting on the age of the Blue Bottle and on his own life:
"All my life, thought Beck, I've done nothing and nothing inside the nothing. Others, better men, have done big things, gone off to Mercury, or Venus, or out beyond that System. Except me. Not me. But the Blue Bottle can change all that."
Two aspects of this paragraph come out strongly: (1) His life is defined as 'nothing'. (2) He sees the Blue Bottle as providing the meaning he has been unable to create by himself.
The line that he has done nothing and nothing inside the nothing, is very evocative of a paragraph out of Hemingway's great short story, "A Clean, Well-lighted Place" where he says:
"What did he fear? It was not fear or dread. It was a nothing that he knew too well. It was all a nothing and a man was nothing too. It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order. Some lived in it and never felt it, but he knew it all was nada y pues nada y nada y pues nada. Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kindgom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. hail nothing full of nothing. nothing is with thee."
Hemingway is often concerned with the question of nothingness. In his case, it is often the nothingness of being or the nothingness impled by the lack of meaning. He "deals" with it by having his characters create meaning through order. Bradbury's character, Beck, does not have a way of dealing with this very real sense of nothingness. He seeks the solution in the Blue Bottle -- something outside of himself. While Hemingway has his characters create order in their external universe, it is still them creating the order. For Beck, he seeks the answer to nothingness -- not in something he can do -- but in the Blue Bottle. The allusion to this part of Hemingway may not be intentional, but given Bradbury's comments that Hemingway is one of the writers he admires, and the closeness in the language in reference to nothing in nothing, it seems reasonable to conclude that the passage in Hemingway is implied in Beck's reflections on his own lack of meaning and in his sense that his life has been "nothing inside the nothing". In other words, Beck is clearly a troubled person seeking a solution outside himself. The quest for the Blue Bottle is a life-and-death matter for him, as opposed to a quietly academic one. For him, the Blue Bottle represents the end of nothingness.
Craig tells Beck that he doesn't know what's in the Blue Bottle; but the truth is, Beck feels it is the thing that will neutralize his sense of nothingness. He appears obsessed with it to Craig -- who has no real need of whatever it is the Blue Bottle can offer.
When Beck begins to feel he may someday find the Blue Bottle, he wrestles with the fear that it may NOT solve his nothingness. He begins to see the quest for the Blue Bottle itself as the thing that gives meaning. For Beck, there is no resting place (at least he is afraid there isn't) and so he sees the quest for the Blue Bottle as what will provide meaning.
Beck and Craig observe that there are thousands of other seekers -- each presumably seeking their own future in the Blue Bottle.
When they find the Blue Bottle, Craig has not considered it as being the legendary Blue Bottle, because all he sees is a blue bottle with Bourbon in it. He takes a swig and sets it back down. But Beck rushes back into the room to get it -- only to have it robbed from him before he can "partake" of it. Beck is not that upset because he now has years of pursuit ahead of him. These years will allow him to continue to find meaning in the activity of the quest itself.
In the end, the robber dies and dissolves, and it is taken by three other men. They open it and die and are dissolved. Beck has continued to pursue the bottle, and Craig has dropped out, as he doesn't really need it. Beck, on the other hand, has been driven by a sense of wanting, of desiring. And that undefined longing is what has been making him unhappy. Craig is not worried about it. Craig is not unhappy. He is not overwhelmed by a sense of nothingness or meaninglessness. He lives in the moment. Beck's reflections drive this point home:
"A few men were like animals in the universe, not questioning. Drinking at pools and breeding and raising their young and not doubting for a moment that life was anything but good. That was Craig. There were a handful like him. Happy animals on a great reservation, in the hand of God, with a religion and a faith that grew like a set of special nerves in them. The unneurotic men in the midst of the billionfold neurotics. They would only want death, later, in a natural manner. Not now. Later."
Craig doesn't need the Blue Bottle because he lives in the moment. He has no anxiety about meaning or nothingness because, for him, apparently, living itself is enough. There is no need for abstraction. Living gives meaning to him. Religion is as natural to him as his own nervous system.
Beck, on the other hand, lives with a constant sense of wanting and futility. He lives in a world of abstraction and worry and an awareness and dread of nothingness and meaninglessness.
Ironically, though, when he gets the Blue Bottle, there is an accompanying sense of peace and relaxation. The solution the Blue Bottle provides is exactly what he has feared.
"Beck raised the bottle. How simple, he thought, and how right. This is what I've always wanted. And nothing else. Nothing. . . [he "drinks" from the bottle] . . . I have it at last, he thought. He relaxed. he felt his body become wonderfully cool and then wonderfully warm. He knew he was dropping down a long slide of starts into a darkness as delightful as wine. He was swimming in blue wine and white wine and red wine. There were candles in his chest and fire wheels spinning. He felt his hands leave him. He felt his legs fly away, amusingly. He laughed. He shut his eyes and laughed. He was very happy for the first time in his life. The Blue Bottle dropped onto the cool sand."
What has happened to him? Why is he happy? Why does he recognize that the very thing he dreaded -- nothing -- is, in the end, what he wanted? He had spent his life fleeing what he wanted -- nothing. From the perspective of western religion, this doesn't make sense. But what if Bradbury has in mind an eastern sense of completion? If this reflects a kind of Buddhist perception, what has happened is that Beck has been allowed to let go of his attachment to himself, with all the concerns and worries associated with that, and has been able to embrace a sense of nothingness -- a sense that in his complete relinquishment of the self -- he has found the freedom of complete non-attachment. Nirvana is, in a sense, the complete letting go of the self and the ability to embrace that cessation of self-awareness and find peace. Beck seems to finally be able to embrace and find peace in the very nothingness that had preciously defined his greatest fear.
[This message has been edited by Mr. Dark (edited 03-15-2003).]
I also had thought about it, because as I read this story I always see it as a metaphor of the human being's quest for the unknown and also for a goal in life. Man has always been a fortune hunter, the tirst for power, for the fountains of youth, for treasures has always been part of man's life.
This is not...from Ray's works, or an inspection of his writings to ascertain his religious views, but from an outsider...observing Ray's religious views.... Thought it was a bit interesting. After window opens, scroll down 2 or 3 paragraphs....
click on, or type into finder: http://www.gurus.com/dougdeb/Courses/Happy/Compare/disagree.html
This was pretty interesting. You find the coolest stuff out there.
I haven't gotten to some of the stories in this thread yet, so I'm a little in the dark. However, your description a while back about how Bradbury uses the martian in "the Messiah" to display some of his religious thought, paralleled for me another story. I don't have my copy of the Martian Chronicles at school with me (only so much shelf space!), but it's in there- a man and a wife on Mars who have lost a child seem to find him again, but he is really a Martian, physically morphing into whatever satisfies their greatest longing. Maybe this connection sheds some light. I think that, in general, Bradbury uses the Martians to symbolize different things in different stories, but these two are, I think, kindred.
Also, many seem, on both sides of some of the arguments on this site, seem to assume that when you find truth and faith within yourself rather than through outside guidance, like the Bible or Koran, or any religious text, then it must neccesarily be what is the "most convenient" thing for you to believe in. I don't think that that is true at all. All I have time for. More later, maybe. Late for rehearsal. oh no!
Actually, I find that sometimes the portions of our faith that we find "in ourselves" are the outgrowths of some of our hardest lessons in life. In religious communities, it is sometimes easier to just follow the majority, rather than live by your own light. The idea of finding and following the light inside you often takes more courage than to just do what the prevailing customs are. So I think I agree with your last point.
- elron - You Frighten Me
Does he believe in God or not? ANSWER: It depends on how you define God.
Can you explain his whole position about this? ANSWER: Not yet, but working to understand it.
Part of the problem in discussing Bradbury's veiws on religion is that problem which is common to all discussions on religion/God: We use a finite tool (language) to discuss an infinite proposition (the existence and nature of "god/God".) I don't believe that language can fully define God, and so we are stuck with the idea that language points us to God -- but that there will always be a gap between who/what God/god is, and what language can say about him. The finite cannot fully encompass the infinite.
[This message has been edited by Mr. Dark (edited 05-14-2003).]
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