Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury 1920-2012

"If you dream the proper dreams, and share the myths with people, they will want to grow up to be like you." ~ Ray Bradbury
Photo by Mel Traxel, 1984

Ray Bradbury's "The Illustrated Man" is one of the first science fiction books I can remember reading. I was enthralled by the short stories within. His ability to seamlessly weave together these otherwise disconnected stories through the tattoos of the title character entranced me. I read these stories and wanted more. There were countless worlds full of people, stories, and possibilities out there hidden in books and I wanted to know them all.

My parents were always avid readers. Our house was full of books, shelves upon shelves of them, many of them Science Fiction. I remember thinking that I was somehow going to get into trouble for sneaking "The Illustrated Man" off of mom's bookshelf, but once she saw what I was reading, instead of telling me to read something more age-appropriate, she handed me "The Martian Chronicles" and told me to read it next. I purloined all of my mom and dad's copies of Bradbury's stories and gave them a place of honour on my own bookshelf. I would frequently raid their shelves looking for something new to quench my insatiable thirst for the written word. Having exhausted their collection of Bradbury, I discovered Isaac Asimov, John Wyndham, J.R.R. Tolkien, Douglas Adams. The books that I particularly enjoyed, like Bradbury's would "accidentally" find their way onto my bookshelf and forget the routes back to their old homes. This worked with some authors, but mom shared my love of Bradbury and wanted her books back. Whenever she'd try to reclaim them, they would mysteriously find their way back to my room. Finally accepting that that I was not going to relinquish these tomes without a fight, my mom bought me a stack of Bradbury's books for Christmas. I returned her copies of the books she'd gotten me, but not those she hadn't – I was too sharp to fall for that!

I was drawn into the world of Science Fiction through Ray Bradbury's short stories, but I kept returning
for more. When I was a teenager we were on a long road trip when we saw some audiobooks for sale at a gas station. I looked through them and found one that had Bradbury's "Dark They Were And Golden Eyed."

"Mom! We HAVE to get this!" I was convinced that she would say no, but instead she told me to pick another one and did the same. We spent the trip listening to a handful of Bradbury's radio plays including "There Was An Old Woman," "The Veldt," and "The Fox in The Forest" as well as a collection of Jeffrey Archer's short stories (this was pre-jail and tarnished reputation.) For many years afterwards I would listen to these tapes as I went to sleep each night. I could visualize the colony and ruins on Mars, feel the heat of the African sun in the Veldt, see the spirit of a stubborn old woman refusing to die, and feel the rush of fear and excitement as Bill and Susan tried to escape into a simpler time. These stories fed my imagination and made me feel that anything was possible.

I discovered the realm of Science Fiction through Ray Bradbury's short story collections, immersed myself in his novels, went to bed at night listening to his radio plays, and was inspired by his genius. A legend has left us, but his works will stay with us forever.

RIP Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury on IMDB

"There are worse crimes than burning books.  One of them is not reading them." ~ Ray Bradbury

"If you enjoy living, it is not difficult to keep the sense of wonder." ~ Ray Bradbury

"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 own wings on the way down." ~ Ray Bradbury

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