So it's a short story set in (I think) the relatively-near-future about a man walking around at night, and he's pulled up by the cops. Then he's arrested, and I think the idea was that he's arrested for walking around; I think the idea was that it's not a reasonable arrest which makes it, I think, dystopian as well. It was fairly short, I think, and the only other detail I remember was that Ray Bradbury mentioned it as being one part of his inspiration for Fahrenheit 451.

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    I’m pretty sure I saw that plot in today’s newspaper.
    – Mike Scott
    Apr 6, 2020 at 15:58
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    @MikeScott dystopian indeed, then :)
    – Quesnel
    Apr 7, 2020 at 2:55
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    It is hardly science fiction: Already in the 1940s, the exiled German philosopher Günther Anders (originally Günther Stern, but in exile he called himself anders) was walking along a highway in Los Angeles. The police stops him: "Where is your car? Has it broken down?"-- "No, I don't have a car." The police take him with them (not sure: helping him or restoring order?) because they cannot accept a human walking in LA. Apr 7, 2020 at 6:28
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    It also was the reason why John Rambo got arrested in the first place…
    – Holger
    Apr 7, 2020 at 8:31
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    What's sci-fi about this? It's called "loitering" and these arrests happen a lot. Dystopia = present society :-(
    – einpoklum
    Apr 7, 2020 at 12:04

1 Answer 1


This is probably a short story by Ray Bradbury called The Pedestrian, published in 1951. It’s set in AD 2053, and features (much as you describe) a man walking around at night, alone. He talks to the houses as he walks, asking

“What’s up tonight on Channel 4, Channel 7, Channel 9? Where are the cowboys rushing, and do I see the United States Cavalry over the next hill to the rescue?”

He’s pulled by the last police car in the city, and they ask him a number of questions; what’s his name, what’s he doing outside, whether he has what’s referred to as a ‘viewing screen’. After he answers that he doesn’t, they ask him to get in the car, and then take him to what they call ‘the Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies’. The story ends with an account of the silence in the streets now that he’s gone.

Wikipedia states on the Fahrenheit 451 page that Bradbury

‘expanded the book-burning premise of Bright Phoenix [another of his short stories] and the totalitarian future of The Pedestrian into The Fireman

which was a novella that he published. He was then

‘urged by a publisher at Ballantine Books to double the length of his story to make a novel,’

and so expanded it into Fahrenheit 451, reportedly taking just nine days to do so.

Hope this helps!

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    I have a very faint memory of watching a documentary about Mr Bradbury, it included a clip where the street arrest in The Pedestrian was acted out. They just used a cop car and a loud voice. The awesome thing was that Ray himself played the man on the street.
    – Danny Mc G
    Apr 6, 2020 at 7:55
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    As if you'd find any pedestrian today without a viewing screen at hand ... Apr 6, 2020 at 17:44
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    @HagenvonEitzen Furthermore, there are places in the world right now, where that is cause for suspicion, and potentially arrest. (Albeit mostly because the "viewing screen" contains the means by which the authority verifies you haven't been spreading SARS-CoV-2... or subversive thought.) Apr 7, 2020 at 16:29
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    @HagenvonEitzen: There are a few of us. I refuse to join the new zombie apocalypse, and so do not own a smartphone. (And Michael, I've HAD the dam' virus, so, if the vaccines will do anything at all, I'm already immune, for a while at least.) Jan 10, 2021 at 13:07

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