Wednesday, June 6, 2012

RIP Ray Bradbury

People who do “my kinda thing” need to recognize them.

Even if we haven’t read as much of their work as we could have.  Or should have.

They are giants.  Like most giants, they are recognizable simply by their last names.  Asimov.  Clarke.  Heinlein.   Last night, one of those giants left us…and the universe is a bit dimmer today.

Ray Bradbury died in Los Angeles at the age of 91.  You can get the full details at this link.  

I'm not even sure how to give him adequate enough praise.  I'll start out with his identity as a writer.  First and foremost, even coming before science fiction, was his reverence for and his unswerving ability with the written word.  He spent several nights a week in libraries, ultimately proclaiming them "the real schools."  He committed what today sometimes feels like a geek transgression: he read material outside of "genre."  That helped make him into a true master.

More than that, his depth and breadth of knowledge allowed him to make science fiction accessible to non-fans.  His characters were far more like you or I than pulpier manifestations.  Bradbury's creations worried about wages, had interpersonal conflicts, and were flawed just as we all are. This helped make his stories among the first SF to be printed in mainstream magazines.

He had the greatest story titles.  They were almost pure poetry.
"Dandelion Wine."  "Something Wicked This Way Comes."  "Selected From the Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed."
I'd be lucky to come up with a title that resonates half as much.

Then there was his never-ending sense of wonder.  He was in awe of the universe and delighted in things both big and small.  He was not a science fiction writer penned into a "sub-genre" as many are mandated to by the ever-disgusting "branding" these days.  He liked space, true.  He also liked dinosaurs, time travel, fantasy, and ghost stories.  Not only did these varied interests allow him to write his classic work, The Martian Chronicles, but magnificent stories such as "The Fog Horn," "Sound of Thunder," and Something Wicked This Way Comes.  He also loved "popular" science fiction and had a collection of SF-themed toys that was surpassed only by Forest J. Ackerman.  This was before such things were widely looked down upon by those only consuming "hard science fiction."  Even if he did or had encountered such sentiment, I doubt Ray would have cared.  As a matter of fact, here's a story he once told on the subject.  From his website:

"For him it was the Buck Rogers cartoons.
He collected them as a boy, cut them out of the newspaper every day. Then his friends started making fun of him.
"Why do you do that?" they asked. "That's so stupid."
Listening to them, the idea did seem somewhat stupid. What was the point in collecting comic strips, anyway?
So Bradbury tore up the comic strips. Then he cried.
"I started thinking,'Who's funeral is it?'" he says. "Then I said, Fool, it was your future you killed."
"If you have a passion, do it. If people doubt you, they are not your friends."
Meantime, Bradbury started collecting his Buck Rogers strips again and didn't give a darn what anyone said. And where exactly did that get him?
Think about it. Bradbury is considered a master of science fiction and dark tales of the supernatural. Buck Rogers represents every part of that.
If he hadn't continued collecting, readers might not have had the privilege of getting lost in such stories as those in The Golden Apples of the Sun and I Sing the Body Electric."

I can relate.  I think a lot of us can.
If there was one aspect of Ray Bradbury that I did have difficulty relating to it would probably be his optimism.  Even in relatively recent years, Bradbury still believed that we were on the cusp of heading towards the stars or to the Moon and Mars at the very least.  I sadly do not see us colonizing space anytime soon, maybe not even in my lifetime.  I suppose my view of the future is far closer to his short story, "There Will Come Soft Rains" where an automatic household continues to operate while the humans are dead from nuclear fallout.

Then again, maybe what the world needs now is more Bradbury optimism and fewer voices like my own.

Bradbury's voice, fortunately for us all, will always live on through his books.  The majority of his stories have no doubt been loaded into ebook format, granting that they will last the ages.

Even if you burn them at 451 Fahrenheit.

"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."

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

1 comment:

  1. On Google+, David said: "Very enjoyable!"

    Thank you, David!