Thursday, June 07, 2012
Ray Bradbury died Tuesday night, at the age of 91, and I am very sad about it.
It isn't that he didn't live a long, full life. He did. But now there won't be any new stories from him, and that is sad for his millions of readers. I've been one of those readers for many years now - since the age of about eight, when my father brought me a copy of one of Bradbury's short story collections when I was stuck home in bed with almost-pneumonia.
I honestly can't remember which collection it was (although I think it might have been R is for Rocket), or which stories were in it. That was a very long time ago. But I do remember reading his stories, loving them. I remember being entranced that he could take a series of short stories and weave them in and around each other so that when I think of books such as The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man, I think of them as novels and not as collections of short stories, which was what they really were.
He did write actual novels as well. Fahrenheit 451 comes to mind, of course, as does Something Wicked This Way Comes. Somehow, I just read Fahrenheit 451 for the first time a couple of years ago, in the context of a public marathon read-aloud sponsored by my local library system. I got to participate as a reader and had a wonderful time. It was a unique and lovely way to finally read a book that manages to project hope even out of a story set in a dystopian future.
Bradbury was, above all, a storyteller, and he could do that sitting in front of an audience and talking as well as or better than he could on paper. I had the good fortune to hear him speak one year at LosCon, in the main ballroom at the Burbank Airport Hilton. The room was full, or close to it, and he held his audience in the palm of his hand for close to two hours, telling stories of writing short stories and novels, of screenwriting and playwriting, and of the writers and others he knew along the way. Among other things he said that day, he confirmed the story that he had actually heard L. Ron Hubbard say, as has been attributed to him and has also been called an urban legend, that the easiest way to make a million dollars is to start a religion...before Hubbard ever invented Scientology.
That book of Bradbury short stories that my father brought me when I was a child was...I guess you could call it a gateway drug into my love of science fiction. And, really, fantasy as well, because in many of Bradbury's stories, the line between fantasy and science fiction was fine, and sometimes nonexistent. It was one of the first science fiction books my father handed me to read, one of the first of many, and it was probably a good place to start, a good writer to start with, because throughout his writing, and his life, Bradbury was able to maintain a childlike wonder about the world and the universe and he was able, as well, to project that wonder onto the page and into the consciousness of his readers.
If there is anything this world needs, especially today, it is a sense of childlike wonder. We still needed Ray Bradbury in the world. But, since he is gone now, as many of us as are able need to take up the torch and carry it along with us and spread it as far as we possibly can.
So, go read something Ray Bradbury wrote, in remembrance of one of the greats. And spread the word...he may be gone, but is work is still here and it is still wonderful.