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Playboy: What is the problem with Sagan?

Bradbury: With each passing year he grows stiffer because he goes around thinking he's Carl Sagan. Just as Norman Mailer thinks he's Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal thinks he's Gore Vidal. I don't think I'm Ray Bradbury. That's a big distinction. It doesn't matter who you are. You mustn't go around saying who you are, or else you get captured by the mask of false identity. It's the work that identifies you.


Dear Mr. Bradbury:

The first science fiction story I ever remember reading was one that gave you a lot of trouble. Serling and you had a falling out over it. It was about a nanny that was a robot. A mommy that could not die to replace a mommy that had. I had a lot of trouble with it, too. I didn't really understand why. Until I heard the slogan (not long ago, and possibly thirty years too late) that the purpose of Science Fiction (according to Greg Egan, whoever he is—I don't really know) is to "burn the motherhood statement". I think Greg Egan was right.

I kind of suspect you do, too. That's why the humans on one of your Marses turned into martians. You can't live in the future, in the impossible, without becoming something impossible. But you were always stubborn that way. That's one thing I always admired. Refusing to fly. Until you did. Stubborn until you realized you were being silly. Then you changed. Just like science. You never forgot that the eye that beholds the mirror can never see itself. That all mirror-images are false. And that when you try to imitate your mirror-image, you freeze up. Die.

So I rewrote your story. I wrote it where the Nanny is a zombie. A process that did not die in an AI container wired into a boy's mind. And that daddy didn't really want to deal with the boy, and so he reprogrammed the AI to love daddy and to train the boy to behave like his daddy wanted. It's what I see happening to the Internet. I suspect you saw that, too.

Anyway, you'll never read the story, so I'll spoil it. The boy discards the AI in the end. Mommies should die eventually. Or else their boys will never grow up. Which means, as far as I can tell, to stop pretending to be a grown-up. To quit looking in the mirror and trying to be themselves. I hope SFF does that, too.

Good on you, Mr. Bradbury.

Thanks for everything,

BK

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
asakiyume
Jun. 6th, 2012 05:54 pm (UTC)
You know, I have actually never read any Ray Bradbury, but of course many people have told me what I'm missing.

I like your letter, though the thing I think I like best about it is the word "Marses" as a plural of Mars. Nice.

You mustn't go around saying who you are, or else you get captured by the mask of false identity --that statement I can entirely get behind.
barry_king
Jun. 7th, 2012 08:41 am (UTC)
Yannow, I only ever read his stuff in 1980-1981. Three collections of short stories and two novels (451 and Wicked). Never read Dandelion Wine. Read Brave New World and 1984 the same year. Thought those were more interesting.

Can't say I was a huge fan, but in school libraries where there were few SFF books, there was always a Bradbury or two. Alongside Roald Dahl and E. B. White.
peadarog
Jun. 7th, 2012 03:10 am (UTC)
Greg Egan is a pretty good SF writer, actually :)
barry_king
Jun. 7th, 2012 08:41 am (UTC)
With a quote like that, I'm not surprised. What's he like? A bit of Iain M. Banks?
peadarog
Jun. 7th, 2012 08:45 am (UTC)
He's more like, Bruce Sterling, in my opinion. Without the jokes.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )