It was with genuine sadness that I heard of the death of Ray Bradbury on 5 June. I have always enjoyed Science Fiction, particularly the short story form of the genre. As a teenager I loved the work of Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke and Silverberg, but it was Bradbury’s stories that were the most magical to my young mind.
Later while attending college I attempted to illustrate (without much success) ‘The Martian Chronicles’. I even remember approaching one of my tutors, the late George Jardine to ask for help. He naturally pointed me in the direction of the surrealists. But Ray Bradbury’s work wasn’t simply surreal. He created his own worlds, often seen from a child’s perspective in the small town America setting of the twenties and thirties.
To quote Margaret Atwood in a lovely piece on Bradbury for the Guardian Review, “Stories read with such enthusiasm at such a young age are not so much read as inhaled. They sink all the way in and all the way down, and they stay with you”.
The first Bradbury books I can remember reading were ‘Golden Apples of the Sun’ and ‘Dandelion Wine’. Wonderful collections of perfect short stories. When ever I read a Bradbury tale it always felt as though I had seen seen something from the corner of my eye, but when I looked it had vanished. That odd feeling of something perceived but not seen. There but not there.
I no longer think of Bradbury’s work as Science Fiction, it defies being slotted conveniently into a box. As did the man.
This is from raybradbury.com:
Throughout his life, Bradbury liked to recount the story of meeting a carnival magician, Mr. Electrico, in 1932. At the end of his performance Electrico reached out to the twelve-year-old Bradbury, touched the boy with his sword, and commanded, Live forever! Bradbury later said, I decided that was the greatest idea I had ever heard. I started writing every day. I never stopped.