Bewildering Stories

Kevin Ahearn writes...

about the “Fahrenheit” title debate

The raging debate over Michael Moore’s titling of his political documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 without “permission” from Ray Bradbury, the author of Fahrenheit 451, seems divided in two camps: those who understand that titles can not be copyrighted and that free speech knows no bounds, and those who resent the “theft” of a classic title and all it has come to represent and exploiting to enhance a film’s agenda they may not agree with.

This is not about politics. Whether one is a staunch conservative or a flaming liberal is not the issue. Nor should this be personal. Love or hate Bradbury or Moore, one or the other or both, is your right and should not bias your judgment.

I, for one, admire Bradbury who has taken a number of stands against intolerance and ignorance, but I also love and respect him as the author who first opened that “genre gate” for me into the realm of fantasy and science fiction.

Was it really a half century ago that I got to leave home for the first time to attend a fancy sleep away camp for “underprivileged city kids?” Every night in our tents, the counselors would read to us short stories. One entranced me to the point that I would switch tents every night, following the story around so that I could hear it again and again.

It was one of Bradbury’s early classics. In his imagined future, the ruling class had burned all the great literature (Yes, a recurring Bradbury theme!) and an electronic genius and his machines had the perfect revenge.

Invited to the genius’ luxurious mansion for a great feast, à la “The Masque of the Red Death,” the pompous politicos were treated to the sight of their owns deaths as acted out by lifelike robots via stories by Edgar Allen Poe: “The Telltale Heart,” “The Cask of Amontillado.” Ape-like robots performed “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”

Of course, the politicos were being killed and robots were taking their places. And at the end, after the last one had been done away with, the house itself sank into the ground.

Bradbury titled his story “Usher Two.”

There are those of you who may want to continue this argument of stolen titles, permissions and apologies. For me, Poe’s raven said it best: “Nevermore.”

Copyright © 2004 by Kevin Ahearn

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