Perhaps you read Fahrenheit 451 in high school, or perhaps you didn't because it was on a banned books list. Maybe you came across it as an adult, or maybe you were a sci-fi fan who'd read all of Bradbury's prolific body of work. Ray Bradbury, who died in 2012, continues to be relevant – increasingly so, as technology develops rapidly in many directions Bradbury had only imagined in the 1960s.
The Fahrenheit 451 author's background is in some ways unusual – he grew up in Hollywood at a time when it was possible to wait for stars outside movie studios – and in some ways typical of many who grew up in poor families. There was no money for college, so Bradbury got his education at the library. He married the first woman he dated, and over the years he penned more than 27 novels and over 600 short stories. The movie lover even worked in film and television.
Anyone who has read dystopian fiction, be it 1984 or Brave New World or The Handmaid's Tale, likely doesn't have a hard time drawing parallels to today's world. But our reality was eerily predicted by Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451. For example, the book describes "seashells" and "thimble radios" that many have compared to earbuds.
The people who live in the Fahrenheit 451 world also have huge televisions that take up walls, and the citizens are able to connect with friends via digital means that resemble Facebook. He also wrote about machines that functioned like ATMs, artificial intelligence, and self-driving cars.
Read any account of Bradbury and you'll likely be struck by his self-deprecating humor. In a 2010 interview with the Paris Review, he was asked about the night in 2000 he received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Instead of speaking on the importance of the award, Bradbury instead launched into a story about trying to find a restroom.
He'd had a stroke in 1999 and walked slowly, and the hotel was large with no available restroom. Bradbury described what happened next:
Some women were taking me back to my room and I said, "For God's sake, where's the men's room?" We couldn't find one. One of the girls said, "There's a potted palm over there, why don't you go use it?" So I went over. Nobody saw me. At least I don't think so.
Bradbury had a long history with Playboy. The magazine published Fahrenheit 451 when other outlets were uninterested, but that wasn't where his love ended.. Though he lauded Playboy's interviews and selected literary works it had published, Bradbury didn't hide his affection for other parts of the magazine:
I wish I'd had Playboy when I was 14... Those pictures were great. There was nothing when my generation was growing up. Like it or not, I rest my case, except to add that Hugh Hefner is one of the great sexual revolutionaries.
Bradbury had no fear speaking his mind and telling what he saw as the truth. He was a supporter of Bob Packwood, arguably the Harvey Weinstein of Congress in the early 1990s.
Bradbury was a huge proponent of NASA and the space program, as was Packwood. Bradbury called him a "visionary," and maintained that status even after Packwood's resignation. He elaborated to Playboy:
I wish he were still in Congress. I sent him a telegram a year ago and told him to stand firm because those women are jerks. They wait 20 years. They are offended 20 years later. Don't hand me that. There are very few other senators like him, and it's a shame he's gone.