I thought this the best place to post a question that's been in my mind lately. Not exactly about influence, but about the current state of writing and publishing.
Would Bradbury, if fresh born into our age, attain any degree of success?
Okay, let me qualify this question, and before anybody asks, I love Bradbury, so I'm not denigrating his talent or the absolute joy of a person he is. My question comes as part observation, part wonder. Recently, while rifling through the shelves of a local large retail chain's book selection, I noticed that there weren't many books that grabbed me. In fact, none at all. Those with interesting titles (Across the Nightingale Floor) were written rather flatly, almost without any kind of 'personality'. It was if a machine fed with plot points, character and location descriptions and a spattering of research had been turned on, and the resulting book was delivered at the end. Those on the 'best seller lists' were even more disappointing. When not the billionth gimmicky detective vs serial killer, they were of a story type that could only be described as: ridiculously overqualified hero stumbles upon mystery/conspiracy, meets woman, gets chased, nearly dies, wins in the end.. and the writing... well, I'll leave that up to you.
Nowhere in this store did I see a Bradbury book. There was one Asimov novel in the science fiction section, sandwiched amongst a woeful tide of TV-to-book adaptations of Doctor Who and flanked on all sides by the umpteenth reprints of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. In the horror section were every Stephen King story ever written, some Koontz that had somehow jumped from the thriller shelves, and way too many Buffy the Vampire/Vampire hunter/Vampire everything else serial novels.
As I bemoaned the fact that I couldn't find any Bradbury, I began to wonder why he wasn't there? Here is a man who has a crater on the moon named after one of his novels. A man who nearly all of the most respected writers in the horror and fantasy field cite as an influence. A man who has written, along with 1984 and Brave New World, one of the most important novels in the last hundred years (Fahrenheit 451). Yet with all this, he wasn't anywhere to be seen.
Is this a market force, I wondered? Have we become such a 20second culture that even our novels must abide by the rules of reality television and Paris Hilton cult status?
I probed further. I wandered over to the 'literature' section, a terrible description if I've ever heard one. Here I found books of meandering, dull, introspection. Ridiculously 'hip' and gawdy covers promising all kinds of twisted delights, but little in the way of story.
Dejected I began to wonder if Bradbury, writing now would ever see a shelf anywhere in the world? Would his magical realities, his dark fantasies have ever been published when Jackie Collins and Dan Brown make the besteller lists? Would any editor have the guts to foster such a talent? Would there have been room enough for Bradbury in our modern world?
What do you think?
I think you're a pretty good writer yourself, WT!
But I can relate to your discouraging, even depressing, book store experience.
"20 second culture" indeed!
I'll have to give some thought to your initally-posed question.
Mind you, it wasn't long ago I was talking with a youth recently out of high school who'd never heard of Mark Twain...
Never heard of Mark Twain? I'm English (UK) and that's quite depressing to me, even from across the pond. I would assume that Mark Twain would be as much a national treasure as Shakespeare is to us Brits.
You can blame the media for this situation. Everything is on fast forward, a 10 second sound bite, a 20 second video, no meaning, no editorial content, just sound and no fury, other than the volume of the sound, that really causes fury.
When the present generation slows down, in their retirement years, they may have time to rediscover some of what they have missed by traveling soooo fast.
It is really hard to blame them, though, they have so much more to injest just to keep pace with the ever accumulating base of new knowledge, the Hockey Stick of information growth.
Multi-tasking is now manditory as a skill set to survive. Imagine what it will be like when eyes are no longer needed for transfering information, or text, into brains. Just a data dump at Mbytes per second and you will have all the words of the book in your brain.
The hope is that somehow, this ever-increasing transfer rate of information will still trigger an emotional response in the transferee, as that is the real joy of reading, isn't it? I think as the rate of information transfer increases, the need for more to transfer also increases, and the quality of what is being transferred is of lesser inportance.
Timing is everything! That's why we are here celebrating Mr. Bradbury like no other author has been celebrated in this day of technology. He has crossed from pulp to, what, light beams, ions, cyber-particles? That's some pretty impressive traveling!
Another poster asked about the presence of a Bradbury-like contemporary writer out and about now, waiting to be discovered. Yeah, he is here amongst us. Give someone a book by this new author. Then they will know him,too. I have been doing it for many years now, to classrooms filled with young people.
The author's name? Ray Bradbury. Enjoy him.
(Our 2 young boys know him well already.)
Live forever, indeed!
My work recently tried to give me a workload which I deemed too much for one fellow at one time, and I told them as much. "You have to multi-task", they told me. "I can multi-task", I told them, "as long as it's one thing at a time!"
Yes - clearly the modern successor to Ray Bradbury is Ray Bradbury!
It's times like these that make me so grateful that I've cultivated a personal relationship with this giant of a man, however small.
WildGravity, if that was Hastings in Walla Walla, there was only one Bradbury book and I got it.
Can't comment on whether his excellence would be recognized in an age of everything reduced to the lowest common denominator. Once or twice a year a good movie or TV show comes out, too, but they have to compete with a vast sea of garbage.
You sadden me! My attempts at becoming published now seem all for nothing! Is there room upon those shelves for a lover of Bradbury? Of Wells? Of Verne? One willing to speak with a contemporary voice about love, science and freedom? I've oft wondered if the shelves at the book store have room for me. But that's me...
As for Bradbury? My objective side says "I dunno..." as my fanatic side screams "ALWAYS!" while it runs away in sun-stained fields carrying only a smile.
Free sci-fi mag online at:thelordshen.com
This brings up an interesting point. Is it possible to bring the horizons, deep forests, dust-towns, to the light of the flicker populace?
I believe that Ray's way would still suceed, though maybe not as much as it used to.
I want to find a way to streamline the worlds we writers create without ruining their substance. Is it possible? I believe so.
You have hit the proverbial nerve...I believe we have all experienced what you are currently observing. Where is Bradbury?! How about Bloch? Asimov? Beaumont? Simak? What about Frank Belknap Long and Eric Frank Russel and the other scores upon scores of futurist that have brought to this great 2nd age of enlightment...
Forget modern, sterile, supermarket-size bookstores and find the little ones with the musty,aging book odour and the unshaven proprietor. There you will find the Masters...
believer in Douglas
Are you saying that once the world starts producing writers with ideas worth reading people will start reading again?
Waiting Tom, going back to a question you raised back in May of this year as to whether or not Ray Bradbury would be able to make it as an author in today's literary market.
I find that a very interesting question. If his works were promoted in the same fashion as the Harry Potter books where kids await during night-long vigils drooling at the mouth at the prospect of paying $20-30 for a thick book of J.K. Rowling's fiction, yes then I would say Ray would have a chance.
But when Ray started out how much marketing was involved back then? I don't know, maybe Donn Albright might be aware, and even Ray himself (a good question to ask Ray) might know. But whatever it was I am positive that it was not to the degree that we see today in regard to some modern day authors.
But, what are the numbers for Ray's books today? Someone must have those numbers. Look at all the reprints of his classics let alone the new publications just out.
Apparently it's not easy getting accurate figures for how many books Ray has sold. Jon Eller had some estimates for various titles.
I think there is a different perspective on Waiting Tom's question, which is that the young Ray Bradbury was very adept at finiding markets for his work, and for adapting himself to different formats and markets. He went from weird tales to detective fiction to science fiction to autobiographical fiction; later he explored radio, television, film, theatre, pOetry; all the while allowing his style to develop.
So while it might be hard to imagine some of Bradbury's existing books becoming best sellers in today's market, the reality is that if RB were starting his career today, he would make it work whatever the market conditions.This message has been edited. Last edited by: philnic,
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