Today is a sad day for scribes. This morning brought with it a news announcement – Ray Bradbury died in his sleep, in Los Angeles, at the age of 91.
To say that Bradbury has been an influence on my work is a gross understatement. I remember my first glimpse of The Illustrated Man. It was my brother’s copy – assigned reading at our prep school. He was several years older than me, a fact that caused me endless consternation as I simply could not comprehend that I would have to wait for certain things until I was of a certain age.
The book was a paperback. The cover was painted in shades of red, and displayed a naked man sitting on a wooden platform. He was bald – only his back was visible – and he was covered with tattoos.
To me, the book seemed mysterious. Enticing. Dangerous. A veritable Pandora’s box of prose… and, when I was finally assigned the book in my English class – and fulfilled this assignment using my brother’s copy, by this time yellowed with age – I found to my great delight that Bradbury did not disappoint.
Bradbury’s prose was elegant and poetic. Who could forget the poignant despair of Kaleidoscope? Or the eerie solitude of There Will Come Soft Rains? To this day, I can visualize Africa as seen in the playroom of The Veldt, and when I do, I catch that coppery whiff of blood.
The Martian Chronicles did not disappoint. Mars is Heaven, Usher II, and the tragic tale of The Martian – jewels, all.
Of course he gave us great novels as well. Farenheit 451 has withstood the test of time that so many books of its era have not. Something Wicked This Way Comes was a gorgeous albeit nightmarish foray into the inner recesses of the mind of the pubescent American male.
It is a difficult to think of a world without Bradbury. He, like his words, seemed eternal.
“I remarked to an interviewer once that most great writers have a certain curious childish look to their faces, and that this seems even more pronounced in those that write fantasy. It is perhaps most noticeable in the face of Ray Bradbury, who retains very strongly the look of the boy he was in Illinois – his face retains this indefinable look in spite of his sixty plus years, his graying hair, his heavy glasses.”
~ Stephen King, Danse Macabre
I wonder what Harlan Ellison is doing today. He, too, is facing life without Bradbury. Ah. Wait. There he is. Yes. I believe I hear the sound of one hand clapping.
R.I.P., Mr. B. You will be missed.
But your stories will live on.
Now, go write