Ray Bradbury: Day dreaming and doing what he loved

Author Ray Bradbury

Author Ray Bradbury (Photo by Alan Light)

Writer Ray Bradbury died June 5, 2012 at the age of 91 at his home in Los Angeles following a long illness due to stroke. This father of some of the best science fiction books of the twentieth century wrote anthologies, eight novels and hundreds of short stories. A 1966 movie was made of his book Fahrenheit 451, a 1969 anthology movie featured vignettes from his book The Illustrated Man and a 1980 television mini-series was made of his book The Martian Chronicles.

A lover of Jules Verne and Buck Rogers, Bradbury wrote his short stories by renting a typewriter for 20 cents an hour at the University of California — Los Angeles Library. During his lifetime he never used a computer and didn’t even drive.

Bradbury’s influence on writing

The question of exactly what kind of writing Bradbury did has been debated by literary scholars. Bradbury himself said he wrote social commentary more than strict science fiction. In Ray Bradbury: A Critical Companion by Robin Anne Reid, found on the Ray Bradbury topic page on Questia, Calvin Miller asserted that instead of “ray guns, interplanetary wars, and glass-domed demons,” he found “real people and circumstances which, while only mildly scientific, soared far above what I expected from science fiction,” and which included an “enthralling sense of cosmic spirituality.”

Academic critic Thomas P. Linkfield agreed, saying “although most people [associate] Ray Bradbury’s name with science fiction, due to the success of The Martian Chronicles and other stories dealing with space, a large proportion of his work has nothing whatsoever to do with either space or science fiction.”

Movie director Frank Darabont, who wants to film a modern remake of Fahrenheit 451, commented in NPR’s Morning Edition, “Bradbury takes us into a journey to the core of the human heart and glories in the potential of humankind.”

Bradbury on the joy of writing

Bradbury loved writing his whole life and brought that passion to others. He was always encouraging hopeful writers to write every day and enjoy what they do, despite any nagging doubt they might have.

Bradbury advised, “Love what you do and do what you love. Don’t listen to anyone else who tells you not to do it… Imagination should be the center of your life,” as reported by Maria Popova in the March 9, 2012 article “Ray Bradbury on Doing What You Love and Reading as a Prerequisite of Democracy.”

Current influences

Fans haven’t waited for the legend to pass away before honoring him. Science fiction conventions for years have held panel discussions about his influence on the genre. Already in the planning stages, ComicCon in San Diego this summer will honor Ray Bradbury with the premiere of the anthology Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury, edited by Mort Castle and Bradbury biographer Sam Weller.

The book collects 26 stories written by fellow writers who have been influenced by Bradbury’s works, including Neil Gaiman, Harlan Ellison and Margaret Atwood. “These are stories inspired by Bradbury, but to be clear they are not pastiches. No one here is trying to pull off the charade of being a genial Midwestern daydreamer transplanted to Los Angeles,” according to Rich Johnston in “Celebrating Ray Bradbury At San Diego With Neil Gaiman, Harlan Ellison, Joe Hill, Dave Eggers And More,” in the May 13, 2012 blog on Bleedingcool.com. “What is most praiseworthy of the book is its sheer variety of stories. There are tales of horror and tales of heart, science fiction sitting right next to the everyday. It is, in other words, almost exactly like a book of Bradbury’s own stories.

Bradbury’s resting place

Bradbury was fascinated with Mars and envisioned mankind settled on the planet by 1999 (in The Martian Chronicles). Assuming that since we reached the moon in 1969, it would be only a short time before we would sail off to Mars. Unfortunately, in the 43 years since, we are no closer to settling the red planet.

Bradbury stated his wish in a 1996 interview in Playboy, “At one time, I had planned to have my ashes put into a Campbell’s tomato soup can and then have it planted on Mars,” reported from the raybradbury.com. Now, Bradbury said, “I plan to design a big, long, flat gravestone that will be inscribed with the names of my books and lots of dandelions, as a tribute to Dandelion Wine, because so many people love it.”

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