Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ray Bradbury to William Gibson

Distrust That Particular Flavor is William Gibson's latest book.  It's narrated on audio by Robertson Dean, whose deep melodic voice guides listeners into the thoughts and working process of one of science fiction's most iconic writers.  Gibson weaves techno-poetry into concise analyses of pop cultural transformations to plumb the zeitgeist of the early 21st Century.  These essays, taken from various sources, offer surprises of reasoning and prediction for the future of media, society, and technology.  "The really peculiar thing about me, demographically, is that I probably watch less than twelve hours of television in a given year, and have watched that little since age fifteen.  An individual who watches no television is still a scarcer beast than one who doesn't have an email address.  I have no idea how that happened.  It wasn't a decision.  I suspect I have spent just about exactly as much time actually writing as the average person my age has spent watching television, and that, as much as anything, may be the real secret here."
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is the perfect book illustrating the function of audiobook narrators. Just as in the science fiction world described, so too our own world has become one in which fewer people read and more people watch TV.  By spending all our time watching the boob tube, we are in fact burning books. (It has the same effect). Our imaginations suffer as a result, and we no longer see anything deeper than the surface tensions around us, while the connections between us diminish. Our fragmented view of the world, reduced to rapid fire images without meaning or context, tends to increase the violence, apathy, and loneliness of everyone in the media's stream. We are conditioned, like Pavlov's dogs, to salivate over junk foods we should avoid. We also drink soda by the 64 ounce "gulp," inducing the metabolic syndrome that has made Americans the fattest people on Earth. In his book, Bradbury saw much of this coming. A visionary, he wrote the novel--not out of concern for censorship as is widely believed--but to show how the new medium of television (relatively new at the time) might be abused in the future. And Ray was right. It has been abused. Yet we still hunger for more of this drug, seeking out the latest wide screen surround-sound HD systems available. In ignorant bliss we then settle back into the couch with our remote controls and our fattening snacks to live the advertising "life" that is anything but real living. The solution? Give imagination a chance.

1 comment:

  1. One of the best SF stories I ever read is "Hinterlands" by Gibson. Powerful like the movie Gravity was powerful, and with the same sensibility: awe. We live in a world of dueling egos, so those brief instances when we can be reminded with such devastating clarity of vision and artistic perfection that we are not who we think we are becomes unforgettable. --JL