Saturday 9 June 2012

A Ray of Sunshine, R.I.P.

Probably Ray's most famous book was Fahrenheit 451, but he wrote lots of other books too, and I have read almost all of them. Ray almost single-handedly founded the school of what has become known as Hard-SF. The term "science fiction" has fallen out of fashion, replaced by "speculative fiction", which term begs the question, "As opposed to what other sort of fiction?" By its very nature, fiction is speculative, but on this momentous day, I am not here to quibble, but to sing the praises due to a man who changed my life, a man who shall be missed.

Fahrenheit 451 was probably the first dystopian SF novel, and it also became a pretty good movie. He lived to the ripe old age of 91, and wrote hundreds of novels. Since his peak, SF has taken another turn, and is currently less about science than dystopia. Recently I attended an event held at the Toronto Public Library's central branch, in which our two most famous SF authors spoke. The star, whose first work of non-fiction was the occasion, was William Gibson, and the co-star was Robert J. Sawyer. We like to think of them both as Canadians, although technically Mr. Gibson was born in the USA. But he has lived here since the early days of Rochdale College, so I think that we're entitled to call him one of our own. Gibson is probably most well-known for Neuromancer, but its dystopian take owes a lot to Fahrenheit 451. And as he said that evening in the Toronto Public Library (I'm paraphrasing), "I've never written anything pessimistic. Look around! Darfur, Rwanda, Nigeria, Sarajevo, North Korea... Nothing I've written comes even close. I'm an Optimist!"

Ray, you shall be missed!

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