Science fiction author Ray Bradbury died yesterday at the age of 91 and fans are expressing sadness over the loss of this visionary. His career also touched the world of radio, as many of his stories were adapted for both television and radio.
If you’re itching to hear some radio dramatizations of Bradbury’s material, there are several options, including Colonial Theatre on the Air’s interpretations of The Martian Chronicles and Dandelion Wine. Recently, the radio series Bradbury 13 aired on BBC’s Radio 4 Extra.
Radio buffs should also pick up a copy of Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 in order to see some spot-on predictions about the dangers of personal electronics. In the book, protagonist Guy Montag is married to a woman who blocks out the world by listening to thimble-sized seashell radios that fit in her ears. One notable passage reads:
“His wife stretched on the bed, uncovered and cold, like a body displayed on the lid of a tomb, her eyes fixed to the ceiling by invisible threads of steel, immovable. And in her ears the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in, coming in on the shore of her unsleeping mind. The room was indeed empty. Every night the waves came in and bore her off on their great tides of sound, floating her, wide-eyed, toward morning. There had been no night in the last two years that Mildred had not swum that sea, had not gladly gone down in it for the third time.”
The novel portrays a future in which books are banned. It stands to reason that in this landscape radio and television are not heroic characters, as they are part of the culture which eschews books and literature. Another line from Fahrenheit 451 describes a vomiting radio:
“The train radio vomited upon Montag, in retaliation, a great ton-load of music made of tin, copper, silver, chromium, and brass. The people were pounded into submission; they did not run, there was no place to run; the great air-train fell down its shaft in the earth.”
Each generation expresses fear about new technology and this passage reminds me of anecdotes that my dad shared with me about his parents warning him about listening to too much radio. In turn, he warned me about the dangers of television. And, today, parents fret about the Internet, social networking, and video games.
Yet, I do think that there’s something to be said about life before technology. Like Bradbury, I worry about the isolating power of earbuds, mobile phones, and mp3 players. I fear that we are forgetting how to be alone with our own thoughts and that we are losing the ability to kill time without feeling the need to reach for our cell phones to check email or send a text. So, in his honor, let’s take out our earbuds, have a conversation with the stranger sitting next to us, and take in the sights and sounds that surround us.