Boris Smus

interaction engineering

The Toynbee Convector by Ray Bradbury

I picked up this volume after reading The Toynbee Convector and really enjoying it. I'm surprised Ray Bradbury wrote so much horror and so little science fiction. Perhaps it's selection bias in this volume? Here are a few stories that really stood out to me:

  • Let Me Remind You of Why We Are Here: resonates strongly on a personal level, exploring the nuances in communication between parents and children at various stages of that relationship.

  • Trapdoor: a slightly loony story about monsters in the attic. Creeepy and surprisingly compelling, very far from my usual taste.

  • The Last Circus: Ominous and timely once more.

  • Banshee: Another horror tale that I enjoyed. He had it coming.

  • Bless me Father, For I have Sinned: who blesses the givers of blessings?

  • A Touch of Petulance: Relationships are so complex. A self fulfilling time travel tragedy.

  • Come, and Bring Constance: Cute story with multiple possible interpretations.

I also really liked the titular story. Here's the basic premise: Craig Bennet Stiles travels a century into the future and returns with detailed descriptions and photographs of a bright future in which all of humanity's problems have been solved. This gives people hope in a hopeless world much like our own:

You name it, we had it. The economy was a snail. The world was a cesspool. Economies remained an insolvable mystery. Melancholy was the attitude. The impossibility of change was the vogue. End of the world was the slogan. ...a fifth horseman, worse than all the rest rode with them: Despair, wrapped in dark shrouds of defeat, crying only repetitions of past disasters, present failures, future cowardices.

There is of course a giant twist which I will leave out, out of respect for you, dear reader. But you might piece together where things are going anyway.

Overall I loved it. One remarkable thing is that this is a truly consistent time travel story, no caveats. It left a strong impression on me and reified the power of positive visions (see Positive visions are necessary).

Stray thoughts still linger:

  • Fake it 'till you make it is almost trite, but how much 'faking it' is too much?

  • How much credence to give Toynbee's idea that "any group, any race, any world that did not run to seize the future and shape it was doomed to dust away to the grave, in the past"?

  • Is Stiles a science fiction writer? So many technological efforts are inspired by fiction, even dystopian fiction (see Dystopian fiction that inspires real products). In this light, this is a pretty self serving story, Mr. Bradbury!