Ray Bradbury on Writing Science Fiction
I recently purchased a subscription to The Paris Review, a literary magazine, after stumbling upon some great articles online. Lately, I’ve been interested in not just the art of writing science fiction, but what other authors think about the subject too.
In “Ray Bradbury, The Art of Fiction No. 203,” The Review interviews the famed sci-fi writer of The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, and other classics.
Two parts of the interview in particular stuck out at me. The first was when the interviewer asked Bradbury why he writes science fiction. Bradbury’s response resonated with me deeply:
“Science fiction is the fiction of ideas…Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world you are writing science fiction. It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible.” — Ray Bradbury, The Paris Review
I can’t tell you how much I love this sentiment. You might recall that it’s similar to Robert Silverberg’s first characteristic of science fiction:
“An underlying speculative concept, systematically developed in a way that amounts to an exploration of the consequences of allowing such a departure from known reality.” — Robert Silverberg, Science Fiction 101
Science fiction is the fiction of ideas. That’s exactly why I love it so much, and I think Bradbury’s response is perfect. The second part of the interview that really stuck out for me was when Bradbury discussed how to write sci-fi without lecturing or pontificating to the reader. He says:
“I often use the metaphor of Perseus and the head of Medusa when I speak of science fiction. Instead of looking into the face of truth, you look over your shoulder into the bronze surface of a reflecting shield. Then you reach back with your sword and cut off the head of Medusa. Science fiction pretends to look into the future but it’s really looking at a reflection of what is already in front of us. So you have a ricochet vision, a ricochet that enables you to have fun with it, instead of being self-conscious and superintellectual.” — Ray Bradbury, The Paris Review
This is one of the main reasons I love science fiction as a genre and part of what makes great science fiction: the ability to reflect us and our truths back to ourselves.
I highly recommend this interview for anyone interested in Ray Bradbury as a man and writer.