The Ray Bradbury FBI files

Posted by David Konow

Sci-fi and communism were strange bedfellows in the fifties.



During the McCarthy-led "Red Scare," there were several great sci-fi stories that spoke out against indiscriminately labeling people commies. The most famous is Invasion of the Body Snatchers, while the 50’s version of The Thing was also steeped in the paranoia of the time.

And who could forget the great Twilight Zone episode, "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street," where a neighborhood starts accusing everyone on the block of being aliens (read "communists"), finally culminating in a full-blown riot when paranoia reaches its boiling point. 



As Rod Serling proved many times, sci-fi was a great Trojan horse to sneak important messages through, and via genre stories a number of writers spoke out against the communist witch hunts, which needlessly destroyed people’s lives.
 
Now The Huffington Post and io9 are reporting that one of the greatest sci-fi authors of all time, Ray Bradbury, was being investigated by the FBI because they believed he was a communist. According to these reports, the FBI staked out Ray’s house, and ran a check on his passport records, but they eventually gave up on their search, and didn’t call Bradbury in for questioning.
 
These papers came to light thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, which allows people to view FBI files. It turns out the Bureau was looking into Bradbury in the sixties, and Bradbury took out a full page ad in Variety to denounce the House of Un-American Activities Committee, calling their search for commies "claptrap and nonsense."
 
It turns out a screenwriter named Martin Berkeley was suspicious of Bradbury, and he felt sci-fi writers were likely to be communists, except Berkeley’s theory was that sci-fi was the Trojan horse to covert people to being commies. As the FBI files tell us, Berekley "noted that some of Bradbury’s stories have been definitely slanted against the United States and its capitalistic form of government."
 
Berekley also believed a writer like Bradbury could "spread poison" against the government, and as the FBI papers continue, Berekley told them, "the general aim of these science fiction writers is to frighten the people into a state of paralysis or psychological incompetence bordering on hysteria which would make it very possible to conduct a Third World War…"
 
Of course, all of this is foolishness. As we’ve seen with the best sci-fi, the genre has tried to warn us against war, not promote it. And after Berkeley claimed 155 people in Hollywood were also active commies, he ended up relegated to writing sci-fi himself, but not great sci-fi like Bradbury, more like grad B stuff like Tarantula and The Deadly Mantis.