The Stories Of Ray Bradbury
The best stories have a strange familiarity about them. They're like long-forgotten acquaintances—you know you've met them somewhere before. There is, for instance, the tale of the time traveler who goes back into time and accidentally steps on a butterfly, thereby changing irrevocably the course of history ("A Sound of Thunder"). There's the one about the man who buys a robotic husband to live with his wife so that he can be free to travel and pursue adventure—that's "Marionettes, Inc." (Not to be confused with "I Sing the Body Electric!" about the man who buys a robotic grandmother to comfort his children after his wife dies.) Or "The Playground," about the father who changes places with his son so that he can spare his boy the cruelty of childhood—forgetting exactly how cruel childhood can be. The stories are familiar because they've been adapted, and plundered from, by countless other writers—in books, television shows, and films. To the extent that there is a mythology of our age, Bradbury is one of its creators.
Science fiction dates as quickly as any genre, and Bradbury is not entirely immune to this. The futuristic rocket ships he wrote about in 1950 look a lot like the first-generation NASA rockets; the music of the future is Rachmaninoff and Duke Ellington; and in the terrifying "Mars is Heaven," the planet bears an eerie resemblance to Green Bluff, Ill., right down to Victorian houses "covered with scrolls and rococo." But the reason Bradbury's stories still sing on the page is that, despite all his humanoid robots, automated houses, and rocket men, his interest is not in future technologies but in people as they live now—and how the proliferation of convenient technology alters the way we think and the way we treat each other.