Wingrove on Bradbury and the Chinese space program. Thanks as always, David!
I was sad to see the obituaries for Ray Bradbury recently, but that said, he did have ninety one years
on this planet, and he did write a lot of good (no, rephrase that, BRILLIANT) work which will live on
long into this century (let’s hope). I was fortunate enough to correspond with the man himself back
in 1983/84, when I persuaded him to write an article for a book I was editing – THE SCIENCE FICTION
SOURCE BOOK. In his letters he was generous, and humorous, but what I most remember is the
garishly illustrated heading to his correspondence, which took up a good half of the A4 page. Though
Bradbury’s best work was already accomplished by the end of the fifties, what a body of work he
left us even so. FAHRENHEIT 451, THE ILLUSTRATED MAN, THE GOLDEN APPLES OF THE SUN, DARK
CARNIVAL, and the best of all, THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES.
Speaking of which, China took one huge step closer to landing a manned crew on Mars the other
day, when their Shenzou-9 capsule – with three crewmen aboard (one of them female) went into
orbit, in practice for the 35 million mile journey they’ll be taking sometime in the near future.
Reading about it, I was reminded of THE RIGHT STUFF yet again, principally because this little crew
was chosen from over 1500 Chinese air force pilots, all of whom would give their right arms to be on
that flight. Not that they’d get to go if they actually lost their right arms… But hey, they’re actually
going ahead and doing this, while we in the West – for as much money as we’re pumping into
private space schemes – just aren’t competing for this prize. And we ought to be. As I’ve said a few
times before in these blogs, NASA’s demise is more than a funding issue. It’s a handing over of the
future to the Chinese. Right now, no one is competing with them. Mars will be theirs, if not in 2020,
then certainly by 2030. And hey… I’m gonna write that one before it becomes a fact.
Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, the Chinese authorities are acting as only the Chinese authorities
can, in their treatment of the artist, An Wei. Having conjured up a false charge of An Wei owing
them one and a half million in unpaid taxes, they’ve now refused to let him attend the hearings
which are being kept a secret anyway. They hate being criticised, these Mandarins, and their usual
answer (as now) is to bully and intimidate until they get their way. And hey, when I criticise the
Chinese, it isn’t them as a race, but that aspect of Chinese government (especially of the CCP) who
are in control and want to stay that way. In the next week or so I’ll blog about Bo Xilai and all that’s
happening in that regard, lest you missed the whole furore. You simply couldn’t invent this stuff.
By the way… speaking of Bradbury and the piece he wrote for me, I took THE SCIENCE FICTION
SOURCE BOOK down from the selves and had a look at it. Aside from Bradbury, who else did I
persuade to write me a “How I Write” essay? … Well, I was actually quite surprised. The listing is as
follows – Fred Pohl, Poul Anderson, Ray Bradbury, Richard Cowper, Chris Evans, Ursula LeGuin, Larry
Niven, Robert Silverberg, John Sladek, Lisa Tuttle, Gene Wolfe and Roger Zelazny. Not bad, huh?
Okay. Sue got back late last night from the Coronation Street short term conference she was
attending up in Manchester. There’s one every three weeks and I think she rather enjoys staying in a
5-star hotel and sitting round the big table, arguing her side of things against 18 other writers. She’s
currently writing her sixth episode, the first of which gets its TV airing in two weeks’ time. And me?
I’ve been watching some early episodes – from 1960 and 1961… Talk about enduring. There are at
least three characters there in those early shows that are STILL there, 52 years on. But thing were
much slower-paced back then. What would now be told in 25 to 30 scenes, fast-paced and intercut ,
was then told in about ten.
It’s raining here, else I’d be out in the garden, finishing preparing the gap where our wall previously
was, so it can be rebuilt. If it’s dry tomorrow, that’s where I’ll be, so we can get the brickie in and the
wall back up. If not, then I’ll blog about Bo Xilai.
22 June 2012