Late science-fiction legend Ray Bradbury was actively investigated by the FBI during the 1960s for suspected Communist leanings, according to FBI files released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by The Huffington Post.
Bradbury aroused the suspicion of the FBI due to his outspoken criticism of the U.S. government and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which was investigating real and suspected communists in America. In a full-page ad in Variety, Bradbury had denounced the committee’s probes as “claptrap and nonsense” and several informants in Hollywood also voiced their suspicions about the acclaimed writer to the bureau.
Bradbury’s suspected activity was reported to the bureau by screenwriter Martin Berkeley, who claimed that science fiction writers were prone to being Communists and that the genre was uniquely capable of indoctrinating readers in Communist ideologies. “He noted that some of Bradbury’s stories have been definitely slanted against the United States and its capitalistic form of government,” according to the file.
A popular writer like Bradbury was positioned to “spread poison” about U.S. political institutions, Berkeley told the FBI. “Informant stated that 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 in which the American people would seriously believe [sic] could not be won since their morale had been seriously destroyed.”
Berkeley even compared the appeal of Communist-leaning science fiction writers to scientists who “hold that it is impossible to conceive of war without threatening the isolation of the Universe.” The informant also stated that science fiction writers “have created illusions with regard to the impossibility of continuing world affairs in an organized manner now or in the future through the medium of futuristic stories concerned with the potentialities of science.”
Berkeley told the FBI that Bradbury was “probably sympathetic with certain pro-Communist elements” in the Screen Writers Guild. And he said that Bradbury once rose to his feet and condemned fellow guild members as “Cowards and McCarthyites” for discussing a resolution that would have prevented Communist members and writers who invoked before HUAC their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination. Bradbury’s FBI file was previously noted in Sam Weller’s biography, “The Bradbury Chronicles.”
Years before talking to the FBI about Bradbury, Berkeley gained notoriety for his dramatic about-face during testimony before the HUAC in the mid-1950s, first denying any involvement in leftist politics and then claiming that he had been a card-carrying Communist for seven years. He ended up telling the committee that 155 people in Hollywood were active communists – his betrayal doomed his career and he was relegated to penning B-movies like “Tarantula” and “The Deadly Mantis.”
A comprehensive investigation into Bradbury’s life and career resulted in a report that included his resume, background and “subversive information,” which was included in the FBI’s “Communist Infiltration of the Radio-Television Industry” file. It also noted that he had a “diagonal scar” on the left side of his forehead. But the bureau eventually concluded after talking to other informants that: “No evidence has been developed which indicates he was ever a member of the CP [Communist Party].” As a result, the bureau decided not to interview Bradbury since “he does not possess informant potential.”
The bureau also must have realized it was barking up the wrong tree when it was told about Bradbury’s appearance at the La Positino Coffeehouse in Malibu on April 19, 1959, where he talked about how his short story, “The Fireman,” (the precursor to "Fahrenheit 451") was banned by the Russian government since they felt it “slandered their type of government as well as many other countries.”
Among its findings were that Bradbury was arrested on December 31, 1943 by the Los Angeles Police Department for violating the Selective Service and Training act - later he was ruled ineligible for military service due to bad eyesight. Agents also conducted surveillance on Bradbury’s home on Cheviot Drive in Los Angeles, according to a memo dated March 7, 1968,
At one point, the bureau tracked whether Bradbury had traveled to Communist Cuba to take part in that country’s Cultural Congress at the Havana Libre Hotel in January 1968. But after looking at his passport file, agents determined that he had not made the trip.