Thoughts on Ray Bradbury

June 6, 2012
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My brother collected autographed baseball cards. I wrote notes to writers.

In each, I included a self-addressed stamped envelop and an index card for an autograph.

Ray Bradbury was one of the writers who responded.

Bradbury was my gateway drug into science fiction. For many like me, he was the literary equivalent of Peter, Paul and Mary—the one who buffed off the edges and made a genre palatable to a wider audience. Bradbury was the fantasist who your English teacher may actually have approved of (back before they were teaching science fiction and fantasy in colleges).

Even when set on Mars or beyond, Bradbury’s stories were somehow pastoral. His characters all seemed to have run through wheat fields in their youth, getting giddy on dandelion wine.

I soon became more enamored with the character-based speculative fiction of Robert Silverberg and the edge of Harlan Ellison. But I would still return to Bradbury, if for no other reason than to feel safe in some way. When, after moving away from home, I purged most of my science fiction convention, my Bradbury paperbacks were among the few boxes than I held onto.

And still have.

No, I haven’t read them in a while (Besides sharing The Halloween Tree with a daughter years ago). I’m not quite sure how they would hold up. But my memories of “The Fog Horn,” “A Sound of Thunder,” “Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms in Your Cellar,” “One Timeless Spring” and other stories are clear and important to me. In Bradbury’s words, I never felt talked down to. I felt welcomed into his world.

I’ve loved books ever since. And I still have that autograph. Somewhere.

(FYI: IUPUI is home to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. If you want to learn more about him, it’s a good place to start. Click here.)

Your thoughts.

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  • Ray Bradbury got it!
    I have a letter I received from Ray Bradbury in response to my asking him to have his publisher re-release Dandelion Wine in hardback - they did this shortly afterward. I gave this book in hardback to my then 12 year old son (who is now 36). I intend to donate the letterif they want it to the Ray Bradbury Center at IUPUI. You could tell he types it himself and signed it with a purple Flair pen.
  • his stories will live on
    I hadn't heard about IUPUI's Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. Thanks for mentioning it, Lou!

    Like you, I read many of Ray Bradbury's stories when I was younger but haven't had a chance to revisit them here in middle age. However, many of the images I have from them are still very fresh and potent. And in my mind, at least, still relevant.

    For example, when people talk about bullying nowadays, I often think of his story about the kids that lived on a planet where it rains all the time except one sunny hour per hundred years (something like that.) Some of the kids locked one kid in a basement and forgot about her so that she missed her one chance to see the sun. I still remember the anguish I felt on her behalf.

    And whenever I see someone with a tattoo I am fascinated and I think again of the frame story to his collection of short stories called "The Illustrated Man."

    Oh! And what about the story about the technologically "advanced" house that had a virtual reality room: one day the parents disappeared, and when the kids opened the door to that room, the scene was locked into "Veldt" mode, and off in the distance, lions were fighting over a kill.

    And didn't Ray Bradbury write the one about the person that wanted to meet the Master in person? He kept traveling from planet to planet, each time getting closer and closer, but always just missing Him? And always thinking that if he just moved faster to the next location, he would get there in time to "really" touch Him, all the while missing the reality of the Master that was everywhere?

    Something like that. As many others have said, it was Ray Bradbury's way with words that made the stories so powerful. Professional storyteller Carol Birch tells (out loud, as live performance art) a whole program of his "Dandelion Wine" stories. She tells them rather than reciting them, but she honors Ray Bradbury's original language in her telling. Because she performs his stories as part of her living, she wrote to him first to get permission to use his stories. I think she gives a percentage of her income back to him as well every time she tells them, like a royalty.

    And, of course, Fahrenheit 451 has become a classic. I have never been able to decide which book I would memorize in order to preserve it from the firemen (the book burners), if I lived in such a world as that novel's. I hope I never have to.

    If I haven't already given it away, somewhere in my house I have a publisher's gift copy of Ray Bradbury's 2010 collection of stories, We'll Always Have Paris. I love that he kept writing his entire life.

    Looking up that title on Amazon just now, I discovered that he wrote a book about writing, too: Zen in the Art of Writing. I'd like to look for that at my local public library.

    Yep. Ray Bradbury was a treasure. Thanks for this tribute post to him, Lou.

    Hope Baugh
    Indy Theatre Habit
  • Saving Ernest Hemingway
    Ray's short story "The Kilimanjaro Machine" has stuck with me since the first time I read it, probably thirty years ago. In this lovely story he goes back in time and offers his hero an escape to a better end. What strikes me about it still is the compassion and longing to make things better.

    Maurice Sendak passed away in May. June brought Ray Bradbury's death. I truly hope that this has not set a precedent for the summer ahead. I can't bear to lose any more magnificent writers.

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