Taking Notes: 'Yesterday's Tomorrows' column in Locus Oct 2007 by Graham Sleight

Graham Sleight 的專欄這個月主講 Ray Bradbury,分析的幾本書臺灣也在這兩年出版譯本。廢話不多說,作筆記。

Graham Sleight, "Yesterday's Tomorrows" in Locus 561 (Oct 2007), pp. 27, 29, 56.

p. 27
On The Illustrated Man:
There are two levels on which you can respond to a passage like this: the intellectual and the emotional. On the intellectual level, the illustrations are a device. Each one cues in a story in the book that the Illustrated Man narrative frames. In a sense, therefore, Bradbury has just given us a sales pitch for what's to follow. But sales pitches, by and large, don't work on the intellectual level. What sucks us in here is the language, the vividness of the description. ...... But more than that, there's an emotional color, an eagerness to explore. It's very different from the emotion you get in, say, Heinlein, even though he was also profoundly attached to talking about humanity taking the next step. Perhaps the distinction is something like this: Heinlein wanted to sell us on the fact of exploration; Bradbury wanted to sell us on the idea of exploration, the image of it.
p. 29
〔簡短分析幾則故事〕...... Each Story, you could say, works out a relationship between humans and the image at its heart. Even in a story like "Marionettes, Inc.", which has at its heart the Dickian/Wolfean premise of being able to make human facsimiles, what sticks with you is the sensual evocation of it. We're told, for instance, that a replica of one of the characters "even smells like you: Bond Street and Melachrinos!" This is very far from the science fictional way of working, where imagery is an emergent property from the extrapolative work of describing a new world. For Bradbury, it's means and end.

On Fahrenheit 451:
...... We might now look askance at Fahrenheit 451's value scheme placing books on a pedestal that, say, comics books or television could never aspire to. ...... It's that the elevation of books and what they represent above almost everything else in the world feels rigged -- just as does the creation of "firemen" who destroy them. A book that's centrally about the value of books risks feeling smug: you're reading a book, so you must be on the side of good, right? So what I at last took away from Fahrenheit 451 was not its central argument but its incidental pleasures of rediscovering human feeling. It's an old charge, but entirely relevant here: Bradbury is at his strongest when he shows, not when he tells.

On The Martian Chronicles:
...... If The Martian Chronicles has a successor, it's in SF tales of understanding and misunderstanding native populations like Dick's Martian Time-Slip or (more distantly) Wolfe's The Fifth Head of Cerberus. When you get to the point, in "Interim", at which a human-built Martian town is explicitly compared to a Midwestern one swept up by a tornado and deposited on another world, you know very clearly that Bradbury's a writer for whom the aesthetic side of science fiction will always be more important than the realistic.


Pathos is also one of the key notes of the book's stories of exploration, 〔以 "-- and the Moon Be Still As Bright" 為例〕...... It's a very different emotional charge from either, say, Heinleinian gusto or Stapledon/Clarke awe at the cosmos. It's one of those occasions when Bradbury's imagery points not to something describable, like the primitive VR of the veldt or the desirability of Clarisse, but to pure otherness, strangeness. Throughout the book, we keep being reminded of how humans are failing to grasp the planet they are on, and that this has destructive consequences. ......

On Something Wicked This Way Comes:
...... In a 1998 afterword reprinted in the UK Fantasy Masterworks edition, Bradbury acknowledges a number of debts in writing the book, but the most potent seems to be his own encounter with a carnival at a similar age. I don't want to diminish him by saying that capturing that moment of adolescence is the only thing he's good at, but it certainly seems to be one of the deepest wells he can draw on. Perhaps it's this that enables him to sustain the narrative so well; though one has to say that its simplicities about good and evil are offputting to an adult reader.
p. 56
...... reading Bradbury you're always conscious that each story, good or bad, is part of a body of work. You know the kind of person who wrote them, what he loves, what he believes in. Even if those beliefs are sometimes too simple to command adherence, especially in the world we now have, you long to inhabit their world.

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