“But what about Bradbury?”

| March 19, 2008

I’ve gotten some feedback on my memorial for Arthur C. Clarke, both direct and indirect, that the “Big Three” should include Ray Bradbury, either by expanding it to the “Big Four” or by dropping one of the “Big Three” (usually Heinlein).

My response is that Bradbury doesn’t belong in that group for two critical reasons.

First, Bradbury doesn’t belong in the Big Three because (in my opinion) he transcends science fiction and fantasy. Bradbury is a poet who happens to write mostly in prose and tends to use SF/F trappings in his writings. He is also one of the finest English-language authors of the 20th century. The only reason he hasn’t gotten more “official” recognition — though he’s gotten quite a bit — is because (much like Jack Vance) he used those SF/F trappings so heavily, though Bradbury has been punished less for doing so than Vance has. Lumping Bradbury in with Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein is a bit like lumping Jane Austin (whom I believe to be the finest English novelist ever) in with Daniel Defoe.

Second, I’m not sure I’ve ever met, talked to, or read of an engineer or scientist who was inspired to become such because of something Bradbury wrote. I’m not saying they’re not out there — I just think it’s a very small number, especially when compared to Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein.

So please don’t take my posting on Clarke to somehow be a slight on Bradbury. Far from it. ..bruce webster..

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Category: Books, Commentary, Main, Science, Space

About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at bwebster@bfwa.com, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.

Comments (1)

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  1. brucehoult says:

    I’m pretty sure that the very first thing I ever read that had an SF flavour was at seven or so when an assigned school reading (I recall a large box of cards containing short stories followed by self-evaluation questions on them) was a story of an ancient chinese inventor who made a flying machine, showed it to the emperor, and was immediately killed to avoid upsetting the status quo.

    I remembered the name of the author (Bradbury) and found more by him in the library, and thence discovered Clarke and Asimov. Heinlein was much later — Stranger in a Strange Land was the first of his I ever saw (not really suitable material for a 7 yr old I suspect, was probably about 14 or 15 when I found it). I don’t think I’ve *ever* seen any of his juveniles here in NZ.