“The Pedestrian” — Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury is the beloved author of innumerable classics, such as Dandelion Wine, The Illustrated Man, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Martian Chronicles, and the dystopian classic Fahrenheit 451. He is a master of the short story form, with more than 400 published stories to his credit, including such classics as “There Will Come Soft Rains,” “A Sound of Thunder,” and “All Summer in a Day.” Bradbury is a Science Fiction Writers of America Grand Master and a Science Fiction Hall of Fame inductee, and is a winner of the World Fantasy Award for life achievement and the Bram Stoker life achievement award—in short, a living legend of the science fiction and fantasy field.

One marker of a dystopian society is a lack of fairness.  For some people, the field isn’t just unlevel—it’s hideously slanted, and there’s no way to get a hand up it.  It’s like one of those country-western songs where bad stuff just keeps piling up.

If our next story was a country song, it would probably be Patsy Cline’s hit “Walkin’ After Midnight,” because not only is it the story of a confirmed night stroller, it’s classically unfair.  Nothing eases a soul like a simple walk.  Nothing causes less harm.  It takes a truly dystopian society to punish a man for being a pedestrian.

A hallmark of dystopian fiction is the light it sheds on our own world.  When you look out at many suburban developments, you’ll see big-box stores and parking lots strung along busy streets, with no sidewalks for meant for meandering.  Multiple lanes with infrequent crosswalks guarantee a pedestrian must run, not stroll across the street.  Modern suburbia has almost succeeded in excising the walker from society.

Maybe the dystopia of “The Pedestrian” isn’t so far away…