Fahrenheit 451 fits into the science fiction genre because it depicts a future in which technological advancement has significantly transformed society. Science fiction stories can employ a range of different tropes, but what links them all together is their shared speculation about the future of technological innovation and its potential to influence humans in either positive or negative ways. Fahrenheit 451 fits squarely into the science fiction genre due to its exploration of the social and political consequences of scientific innovation.
In the future that Bradbury imagines for his novel, the main technological innovations are in electronic media. One of the most prominent examples of technologically advanced media is the wall-sized television installed in every household “parlor,” designed to make the experience extremely immersive. The parlor in the Montag residence has three walls installed, and Mildred spends nearly all her time with her television “family.” Along with other forms of media, such as the thimble radios that constantly pump music and advertisements into everyone’s ears, the television walls are meant solely to keep the viewer entertained and to prevent critical thinking. As Captain Beatty explains at the end of the novel’s first section, innovations in media technology create a feedback loop. In this feedback loop, the increasing simplification of information leads to an increasing desire for uncomplicated happiness, which in turn drives further simplification. The result of this feedback loop is the growing hollowness and callousness of society. No one thinks for themselves, and individuals grow shallower and more self-involved, then begin to completely lack empathy for others. In Bradbury’s imagined future, technological innovation transforms society for the worse.
Fahrenheit 451 is an example of dystopian fiction, which is a subgenre of science fiction that depicts a negative vision of the future. As opposed to utopian fiction, in which the author envisions a future that aligns with their social and political ideals, dystopian fiction focuses on problematic aspects of society that do not align with the author’s ideals, and which prevent the development of a better version of the world. As such, dystopian fiction frequently focuses on life under totalitarian governments and police states, where surveillance and suppression of public opinion lead to mass fear and suffering. Fahrenheit 451 fits into this dystopian fiction subgenre because it emphasizes how innovations in media technology negatively affect future society. As Bradbury envisions, the negative effects on future society will eventually become reflected in the law, leading to something akin to a police state in which firemen actively repress reading, learning, and critical thinking through violent acts of destruction. Firemen like Captain Beatty see book burning as necessary for maintaining people’s peace of mind. Bradbury treats this oppressive future world as a dystopia where no one is truly happy.