In Memoriam: Ray Bradbury

June 6, 2012 § 2 Comments

I’m struggling right now to find the words to properly express my feelings about Ray Bradbury’s death. I’m not one who gets extremely upset when celebrities pass away. It’s not like I knew Bradbury personally. I would have liked to, but when I was an editor at Writer’s Digest Books, our paths never crossed—and that time of my life was the closest I would come to him. Before that, and afterward, Bradbury might has well have lived on Mars, so remote were the chances he and I would meet.

So I don’t feel the complete shock and dismay I experience when a close friend or relative passes away, but I do feel a profound and deep sense of loss.

When I was growing up, I spent most of my free time with my nose in a book, and several of the books I read were written by Ray Bradbury. My favorite Bradbury short story is from A Memory of Murder, and it’s called “A Careful Man Dies.” (I just looked for the book on my shelves and didn’t find it; somewhere along the line, in a moment of stupidity, I must have given that old friend away. Such great stories, and such a wonderful, lurid cover.)

As an adult and a writer, Ray Bradbury inspired me. Although he’s widely considered to be a science fiction writer, he never considered himself as such.

“First of all, I don’t write science fiction. I’ve only done one science fiction book and that’s Fahrenheit 451, based on reality. It was named so to represent the temperature at which paper ignites. Science fiction is a depiction of the real. Fantasy is a depiction of the unreal. So The Martian Chronicles is not science fiction, it’s fantasy. It couldn’t happen, you see? That’s the reason it’s going to be around a long time—because it’s a Greek myth, and myths have staying power.

Bradbury was simply a writer—of science fiction and  mysteries, of plays, of books and short stories, of fanzines. He was a writer, and in his introduction to The Illustrated Man, he explained why:

“My tunes and numbers are here. They have filled my years, the years when I refused to die. And in order to do that I wrote, I wrote, I wrote, at noon or 3:00 A.M.

So as not to be dead.”

In perusing Mr. Bradbury’s Wikipedia page this morning, I was reminded of so many things that inspired me at various times in my life. To wit:

  • Ray Bradbury never attended college. “Libraries raised me,” he said. “I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”
  • He never learned to drive and, thus, never had a driver’s license.
  • On a rented typewriter in UCLA’s Powell Library, Bradbury wrote his classic story of a book-burning future, Fahrenheit 451.
  • One of his many inspiring quotes was, “If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.”

Whenever I thought I could never possibly succeed as a writer, I’d remember what Ray Bradbury overcame…and I would shut up and get back to writing. For that inspiration alone, I owe Ray Bradbury a great debt.

My favorite tribute to Ray Bradbury is the raunchy and hilarious video created by comedienne Rachel Bloom. It’s called “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury,” and I probably wouldn’t mention it here except for the fact that Mr. Bradbury watched it and loved it. Here’s a photo of him watching it, actually:

So I’ll end this with her video. Rest in peace, Mr. Bradbury. And thanks for all the wonderful stories.

(NSFW — obviously!)


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