According to Isaac Asimov, “Science fiction is that branch of literature which is concerned with the impact of scientific advance upon human beings.” I strongly agree with Asimov, because I believe he makes an important point. The “big idea” of science fiction writing is not simply to depict the scientific future but to depict the effects that such technology would have on humans. Technological advancement in human society can sometimes be driven by the desire for an easier, more leisurely, and stress-free future. When unchecked, such motives may be realistically detrimental in the long run, since once enough of those technologies have been developed, there is no longer a need to be conscientious. Safety, along with thought and progress, could be much less of a concern when one is provided with all the tools for instant gratification. In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Asimov’s classification rings true. In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury presents a society in which recklessness reigns. People drive cars at high speeds for leisure. There is no speed limit – only a speed minimum. The technicians who pump Mildred’s stomach reveal that drug overdoses happen all the time among a population that doesn’t understand the meaning of true happiness. People around the country spend all their money on luxuries with barely a thought about savings. In this futuristic age, the technological comforts developed by mankind have rendered him careless.
Ignorance in general is also a widespread phenomenon in Bradbury’s future America. In fact, ignorance is actively encouraged. The main focus of the book, of course, is that almost all books have been banned by the government. People don’t care about their children or their families; they only care about the phony “families” on their parlor walls. In this society, people vote for the President of the United States based on how handsome he is, and people are content to blindly convince themselves that America will swiftly and painlessly triumph in the oncoming war. Just as Asimov says, it is the people, in their ignorance, around which this story revolves.
Overall, in the story, the future has yielded a halting of forward progress. The lack of books prevents real education from taking place. The only jobs are far from innovative in nature; most of them involve assembly lines or being a fireman, which is actually destructive in nature. America is doomed to eventually crumble because its reckless, ignorant, and stagnant populace cannot sustain itself. As the subject of this science fiction novel, the citizens are a product of the technology available to them.
It is no surprise that the writings of Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury, two science fiction novelists with similar styles and ideas about their field, should stand parallel in theory. To me, Asimov has provided a succinct and accurate analysis of science fiction writing by placing the emphasis on the people, and the passionate warnings of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 exemplify this. Whatever the work, the author always has a motive; in terms of science fiction, the story is always about the people.