Wednesday, June 6, 2012

B IS FOR BRADBURY


One of my favorite photos of Ray.
John wrote:

“There's no use going to school unless your final destination is the library.” ― Ray Bradbury

As a writer, my influences have been varied and many. My early ‘teens were filled with the spells cast by Poe, Lovecraft, Howard, Burroughs. In high school and later, the archaic styling of the aforementioned was supplanted (though never altogether discarded) by the more acceptable literary works of Hemingway, Steinbeck, Brautigan, Collier and Beaumont.

But it didn’t take until his passing to realize that, even if I hadn’t read anything by him for quite some time, my favorite writer all along has been Ray Bradbury.

My first “Bradbury” was A Medicine for Melancholy, followed by Dandelion Wine, then The Illustrated Man, and the rest.

In one of the life’s irony of ironies, just over a week ago I was packing for a trip to the Oregon Coast. I was searching for something to read that was a little different from what I had currently been reading. So help me, my search lingered for a time over my stack of Bradburys. And, while I ultimately ended up picking out something different (for fear of loss or damage to my collection of mostly older editions), I did stop to reflect on the power and greatness of his writing and the poetic alchemy of his words and phrases. Little did I know at the time, but I consider it now a portent of what was to happen in the very near future.

You’ve no doubt heard the phrase, “He could paint a picture with his words”. Well, this guy Bradbury could do it. RB was on the shortlist of the most visual of writers. He could virtually summon at will any image he chose, and using his familiar potion of heart-wrenching nostalgia and sentimentality, did not need to go much further to show any reader that they were in the presence of genius.

Bradbury’s imagination never waned. Throughout his career he revealed, one precious word at a time, the evolution of a master craftsman.

His stories sparkle like diamonds whose luster will not be diminished by time. He never compromised and most certainly never sold out. Even his most commercial works were full of fresh ideas and wholly original.

Ray Douglas Bradbury was born on August 22, 1920 and he died yesterday. He was a writer of science fiction, fantasy and visions of the future. He is one of, if not the last, of the weird fiction and sci-fi authors from the golden age of WEIRD TALES and THE SATURDAY EVENING POST. You wanted to be a magician, Ray, and, indeed, you ended up working your special brand of magic on the world.

According to the title of one of his books, R is for Rocket. But B? B will always be – in my world, anyway – for Bradbury.

Ad astra, Ray.

“You must write every single day of your life... You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads... may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.” ― Ray Bradbury


Three Giants: Ray Harryhausen, Forrest J Ackerman and Ray Bradbury
signing autographs for fans at the 2006 San Diego Comic Convention.
[SOURCE: The Ray Bradbury Website]

Doug wrote:

While the death of a nonagenarian is never entirely unexpected, it still hits hard, especially if it is a loved one or a hero. It is hard to think of Ray Bradbury being gone, as he was an inspiration to me. Along with Robert E. Howard and “Kenneth Robeson”, he was one of the first authors I read and collected. R is for Rocket was my first Bradbury book, followed by The Illustrated Man, The Martian Chronicles, and Fahrenheit 451.

I remember once some science-fiction fans disparaged his work as being too soft, the language too flowery, the technology lacking. But they were wrong. Good characters, memorable plots, and excellent writing make for great stories and Ray Bradbury had the talent for all three.

The opportunity for John and I to see him speak in person while we were in high school changed my life. I had reached that age where peer pressure affects individual behavior: I was “too old” to read comics and monster magazines; science-fiction and horror films were for kids.

The library at Pierce College in Southern California's San Fernando Valley was packed that night and we had to stand in the back of the room for the entire speech. Bradbury spoke casually and easily. One of the stories he told was about his love of Buck Rogers comic strips when he was young. He collected them until someone—either a parent or a friend—told him he should throw them out because he was too old for that stuff. Reluctantly, he did. And he said in his speech that he regretted it to that day. The irony, of course, was that he had recently been asked to write an introduction to a hard-cover collection of the very same comic strips!

He also made the point, which changed my life then and has stayed with me to this very day, that a person should do what he wants, follow the path of his own choosing, pursue his own dreams, without regard to what other people say. Something “clicked” in my brain the moment I heard him say those things. That is when I started re-building my comic book collection, getting back into monster movies (and ‘zines), and reading whatever the hell books and magazines interested me. In a way, he liberated me. I heard Bradbury make some of those same points in a talk a few years later at the San Diego Comic Convention, but not with quite the same power. At that time, he was writing and dreaming about cities of the future, working with other futurists to lead humanity toward a brighter day. Not enough people are following his vision, I’m afraid. I will always be grateful to him for teaching me these lessons.

To whatever cosmic destination the essence or soul of a human being goes after death, Godspeed Ray Bradbury!

"We must move into the universe. Mankind must save itself. We must escape the danger of war and politics. We must become astronauts and go out into the universe and discover the God in ourselves." -- Ray Bradbury

4 comments:

Doug Brown said...

John, you have written a very beautiful tribute to Ray Bradbury. He was a great writer and will be remembered for generations to come.

John said...

And yours, too Doug! The comments about Ray that you sent inspired me to write my own.

Urban Wild said...

Very nicely done, both of you! Ray was a favorite of mine, too. And my very favorite story was "A Sound of Thunder." I read a lot of his stories and always loved the beautiful way he wrote. It will be a long time (if ever) befoe we shall see another of his caliber.

Doug Brown said...

To Urban Wild: A Sound of Thunder is also one of my all-time favorite stories. It is a brilliant piece of writing which transcends the science-fiction genre.

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