Thursday, 7 June 2012

R.I.P. Ray Bradbury

Photo by Alan Light
Sad to hear that Ray Bradbury, one of science fiction and fantasy’s greats, author of Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and The Martian Chronicles, among many others, died June 5th aged 91.

On the website io9, which broke the news earlier today, Bradbury’s grandson Danny Karapetian shared these words about his grandfather: "If I had to make any statement, it would be how much I love and miss him, and I look forward to hearing everyone's memories about him. He influenced so many artists, writers, teachers, scientists, and it's always really touching and comforting to hear their stories. Your stories. His legacy lives on in his monumental body of books, film, television and theater, but more importantly, in the minds and hearts of anyone who read him, because to read him was to know him. He was the biggest kid I know."

Ray Bradbury was one of those authors who clearly loved writing and books so deeply and so passionately that it came through in every sentence, drawing readers in and bringing out the same joy in them, for the future, for the imagination, for vivid new worlds and mythical tales, and for the wonderful power of stories. He will be remembered mainly for the books mentioned above, but for me, some of his short stories have had the deepest effect. In many, such as ‘R is for Rocket’ and ‘The Golden Apples of the Sun,’ Bradbury provides a magically optimistic, exciting vision of the future. Amongst today’s more jaded, dark and ‘gritty’ speculative fiction, it’s always nice to be able to read back over Bradbury’s stories and feel that childlike, hopeful wonder for the unknown again. This does not mean that Bradbury thought the future, or human nature, was all roses. There are stories that warn against the misuse of machines and weapons (for example, ‘The Murderer’ and ‘The Flying Machine’), or that comment on racism and prejudice (e.g. ‘The Big Black and White Game’). But there is a refreshing sense of hope and love for life that runs through most of his short stories. He seems to have always remained the boy from ‘The Sound of Summer Running,’ with his new tennis shoes and his awe of a beautiful future that is alive with possibility. It is well worth picking up a collection of Ray Bradbury’s shorts.

Many authors are deeply indebted to Bradbury and the influence he has had on their own work. On his blog, Neil Gaiman expresses the beauty of Bradbury’s fiction and the profound effect that it has had. Gaiman also writes that Bradbury “was kind, and gentle, and always filled with enthusiasm, and the landscape of the world we live in would have been diminished if we had not had him in our world. And I am so glad that I knew him.” Read his tribute here.

Bradbury liked to tell a story about meeting a carnival magician, Mr. Electrico, when he was a young boy. At the end of the show Electrico touched the boy with an electrified sword to make his hair stand up, and commanded him to “Live forever!” Bradbury said that he started writing every day since then, and never stopped. Bradbury’s stories are so loved and so popular that he does indeed seem to have fulfilled Electrico’s command – he will never be forgotten.


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