Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is an American classic and widely regarded as one of the most important science fiction works ever published. The novel presents a future dystopian America where books are outlawed and the job of “firemen” is to burn down houses in which books have been discovered. For everyone who read this classic in school, here are 15 Facts about Fahrenheit 451.
Facts about Fahrenheit 451:
- The first draft of Fahrenheit 451 was written in nine days. Ray Bradbury wrote the short story entitled “The Fireman” which was published in 1951 in Galaxy Science Fiction, a digest-size science fiction magazine. This is largely considered to the be the first draft of Fahrenheit 451 which was published in 1963.
- Ray Bradbury wrote “The Fireman” in the basement of UCLA’s Powell library on a pay typewriter. He paid 10-cents-per-hour in typewriter rental fees and the story ran about 50,000 words to print. It cost him $9.80 to print the story. “I was wandering around the UCLA library and discovered there was a typing room where you could rent a typewriter for 10 cents a half-hour. So I went and got a bag of dimes. The novel began that day, and nine days later it was finished. But my God, what a place to write that book! I ran up and down stairs and grabbed books off the shelf to find any kind of quote and ran back down and put it in the novel. The book wrote itself in nine days, because the library told me to do it.” Fahrenheit 451 was laster published by Ballantine Books along with two other stories from Ray Bradbury, “The Playground” and “And the Rock Cried Out,” Fahrenheit 451 was not published as a stand alone novel until April 1960.
- Ironically, Fahrenheit 451 is one of the most frequently banned books. Ballantine Books, Bradbury’s own publisher, even issued a censored version.
- A year after Fahrenheit 451 was published, it was serialized in Playboy magazine. It might seem difficult to believe now, but Playboy really helped with the circulation of the book.
- Bradbury only permitted Fahrenheit 451 to be published as an ebook in November 2011. Bradbury had once said that ebooks “smell like burned fuel”, but at the age of 91, Bradbury finally relented and allowed his landmark work to be an ebook. Simon & Schuster offered a very lucrative deal but also explained that they couldn’t do the deal without an ebook version. Bradbury ultimately relented, but with one final concession: libraries would be allowed to get digital copies of Fahrenheit 451 for free.
- An HTTP error code pays respects to the novel. A bit like a “404” page that you might see when you follow a broken link or if you type in a website address that doesn’t exist, the error code “HTTP 451” appears when a webpage cannot be viewed because the material you’re seeking has been censored by a government in some way possibly because of a copyright violation or are a threat to national security.
- Many of the items described in Fahrenheit 451 later appeared in real life. Drones, earbuds, giant flatscreen TVs, Facetime, ATMs and more can all be found in some form in the novel. For example, the “seashells” and “thimble radios” are basically earbuds. Self-driving cars, heightened electronic surveillance , and social interaction via digital friendships are all things Fahrenheit 451 predicted.
- There was a prequel. Published in 1951, Bradbury’s short story The Pedestrian is a precursor to Fahrenheit 451. In an interview in 2000, Bradbury states that ‘The Pedestrian’ is a direct prequel to Fahrenheit 451. “When I was walking on Wilshire Boulevard one night, 50 years ago, with a friend, a police car pulled up and the police inquired why we were walking on the sidewalk. And I said well we’re putting one foot in front of the other. Well that was the wrong answer, and the policeman was very suspicious of us for walking in an area where there were no pedestrians… He told us to go home and not to walk any more. Then I went home and wrote The Pedestrian, which is the beginning of Fahrenheit 451. All because that policeman stopped me, thank God for that policeman.” A collection of short stories which serve as a Fahrenheit 451 companion piece called A Pleasure to Burn was published in 2010.
- The time and place for Fahrenheit 451 is unknown. The location where Fahrenheit 451 takes place is only identified as the “city,” and on year is ever given. It is probable that the novel takes place over 100 years from the time of its publishing in 2053, which is also when The Pedestrian is set.
- Mel Gibson had planned to direct a remake of Fahrenheit 451. French director François Truffaut directed the movie adaptation which was released in 1966. In the mid-1990s, Mel Gibson obtained the rites to the film and had planned a release with a Frank Darabont script. It was intended to be a Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt vehicle, but it never got off the ground. An HBO film starring Michael B. Jordan was eventually released in 2018.
- Bradbury considered it his only science-fiction novel. Even though Bradbury is largely considered a sci-fi author, he felt that Fahrenheit 451 was his only work in the genre. He said so himself in a his web site: “I don’t write science fiction. I’ve only done one science fiction book and that’s Fahrenheit 451, based on reality. Science fiction is a depiction of the real. Fantasy is a depiction of the unreal. So Martian Chronicles is not science fiction, it’s fantasy.”
- In the novel, the government didn’t mandate the burning of books, the people did. Book burning was imposed because society wanted to avoid disturbing concepts. Books could bring about too much to think about or could be upsetting. Rather than deal with these thoughts, the people decided to avoid them and burn the books.
- Fahrenheit 451 is NOT about censorship. While book burning in Nazi Germany inspired the story and it was written in the height of McCarthyism, Bradbury was very clear that the book is not about censorship. He was deeply concerned that television would kill the desire to read and end the need for books. He made this clear in a clip on his web site titled “Bradbury on censorship/television.”
- There was a video game of Fahrenheit 451 released in 1984. Set as a somewhat Semi-sequel to the book, the game was computer strategy game where the player helps Montag evade the police and make contact with an underground movement. Bradbury wrote the prologue to the game and the responses of the game’s intelligent computer “Ray”.
- The title of the book is all wrong. Fahrenheit 451 is a very cool sounding title, but there is one hitch – there isn’t a set auto-ignition point for all book paper. There are several factors that determine the temperature at which a book will catch fire and burn. Age of the book, thickness of the paper, the thickness of the book and more all will influence what temperature will be needed which will likely be much hotter than 451 degrees Fahrenheit.