The FBI felt Ray Bradbury’s sci-fi was part of a commie plot to sap American resolve

“The general aim of these science fiction writers is to frighten the people into a state of paralysis or psychological incompetence bordering on hysteria”

Written by JPat Brown
Edited by Michael Morisy

Science fiction - a commie plot to undermine American values? It’s an idea that the FBI was strongly considering during the height of the Cold War, as their lengthy investigation into acclaimed author Ray Bradbury shows.

The files released to former MuckRocker Inkoo Kang document the decade the Bureau spent trying to determine if Bradbury was, if not a card-carrying Communist, as least a sympathetic “fellow traveler.”

Bradbury’s membership in the Screen Writer’s Guild, as well as his vocal opposition to McCarthyism, drew particular attention. FBI informant Martin Berkeley - notorious for his role as the House Un-American Activities Committee’s “number one friendly witness” - drew a portrait of Bradbury as pinko boogeyman:

After noting that science fiction “may be lucrative field for the introduction of Communist ideology,” Berkeley goes on to declare the entire field of science fiction writers as a veritable fifth column, intent on crippling America before her enemies:

Similarly, Bradbury’s writing is discussed solely on thematic terms, noting disapprovingly of some moral message - such as The Martian Chronicles “repeated theme that earthmen are despoilers and not developers.”

Bradbury’s arguably best-know work, the anti-censorship Fahrenheit 451, gets a brief mention, albeit referred to by its original title, “The Fireman.” The file notes, seemingly without irony, that the story was banned in Russia.

Appropriately enough, the best summation of the Bureau’s interest in Bradbury - and the perceived threat posed by the author - is provided by Bradbury himself:

Read the full file on the request page, or embedded below:


Image by Will Hart via Flickr and is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0