Tim Hamilton, who you may remember me mentioning on here before for his excellent work on the webcomics collective Act-I-Vate and for his contribution to the consistently fascinating Next Door Neighbor series on SmithMag, has been busy adapting a prose work to the graphical medium. Nothing new in that, you might say – after all graphic adaptations of prose tales have been around for the best part of a century and recent years have seen a whole batch of new comics adaptations of classics, from manga versions of Shakespeare to Robert Louis Stevenson. I have to say though, I think this one could be special – its an adaptation of one of what I would unhestitatingly call one of the most important novels of the 20th century: Fahrenheit 451 by the great Ray Bradbury.
Imagine a world where the authorities control thought by controlling information – including using firemen like Montag, firemen who start fires rather than putting them out. Firemen who burn books. Fahrenheit 451 has stood as one of the great novels of the last half a century and it remains one of my personal touchstones; reading it first in my teens it gave me not only a continuing taste for Bradbury’s work but also a strong, personal dislike of authorities or special interest groups trying to dictate what we can read (or watch, or hear). We’re in a world where even in technologically advanced, democratic nations certan groups demand that some books be banned (and even burned) because they encourage children to ‘Satanism’ (I mean really, reading Harry Potter isn’t going to turn your child into an evil dark lord worshipper who wants revenge on the world – stopping them from reading it through censorship might though!), plays or films not performed or shown because they ‘offend’ one group or another and even death threats over cartoons, to say nothing of actual government approved censorship such as deciding any writing that might inspire ‘terrorism’ is illegal, whatever the hell that actually means – and it could mean anything depending on the person interpreting the law. And in such a climate Fahrenheit 451 remains as essential a piece of reading as it was when first published.
It still gets me on my high horse now, as you can no doubt tell. I can’t help it, book burning is the act of a vicious barbarian and something to be resisted; more reading and more thinking about and conversing about the ideas reading sparks is a much preferable path.Hill & Wang in the US are producing a hardback edition while Blighty’s own HarperVoyager are publishing a paperback version this summer; they are both available to pre-order from our site now.