On the Passing of Ray Bradbury: “Meeting the Wizard”
Posted on June 6, 2012 Posted by John Scalzi 66 Comments
As many of my readers know by now, Ray Bradbury, science fiction grandmaster, has passed away. To note the day, and what he meant to me, Subterranean Press has graciously allowed me to reprint here my introduction to its edition of Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. It’s called “Meeting the Wizard”.
When I was twelve a wizard came to town.
And immediately I have to explain that comment.
First: Quite obviously, the wizard under discussion is Ray Bradbury.
Second: Understand that when you are the age you are now, and the age I am now, an author coming to town to talk about his work is no magical thing. The author may be your favorite author, and you may be genuinely excited to hear him or her speak—you may even be nervous and hoping you don’t act like a complete fool when you get your forty seconds of conversation with them as they sign your book. But you know them as what they are: an author, a person, an ordinary human who happens to write the words you love to read.
But when you were twelve—or perhaps more accurately, when I was twelve—things were different. To begin, authors were not just common schmoes who happened to string words together. They were, in a word, mystics. When I was twelve I had been a reader for a decade and a writer for about a year, and in both cases at a stage where I was old enough to finally understand that writing didn’t just happen; it was an expression of both will and imagination.
What I didn’t know—and honestly at age twelve couldn’t have known—was how to put the two together. I would walk through the stacks of my local library, where I spent a genuinely huge amount of my time, running my hands along the spines of the books, wondering that each book represented a single person. How did they make it happen? I could barely manage four pages in a lined composition book before I began to sweat. Here were whole books of dense, close-set, unlined words, spanning hundreds of pages.
I simply couldn’t grasp how it could be done, and I think now that I believed something at age twelve that I would describe as a literary consonant to Clarke’s Law: that any sustained effort of fiction writing was indistinguishable from magic. Magic was the only way people could possibly write as long, and as well, as they had to in order to make a book at the end.
Therefore: Authors were wizards.
And Ray Bradbury, to my mind at least, had to be the top wizard of all. Because of all the wizards practicing their craft—or of the ones I was reading at the time, which is possibly an important qualification—he was clearly the one most in control of his magic, the one who again even at the age of twelve I could see was doing something with his words that no one else I was reading was doing.
I should pause here to note that my introduction to Ray Bradbury had come the year before, in Mr. Johnson’s sixth grade class at Ben Lomond Elementary, when I was assigned by my teacher to read The Martian Chronicles. Now, understand that being assigned a book is no positive thing. It’s a well-known fact that if you wish to inspire in a child a vast hatred of any single book, all you have to do is assign it to him in school. This generally works like a charm, and is why, for example, I to this day loathe George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss with the sort of passion normally reserved for ex-spouses or whatever presidential candidate it is you’re damn well not voting for.
Fortunately for me and for the book, there were two significant mitigating factors. The first was that I had already been inducted into the cult of the science fiction geek; the door had opened in the fourth grade, with a copy of Robert Heinlein’s Farmer in the Sky. I had wasted little time getting myself over the threshold, burning through the school library’s rather meager collection of science fiction—mostly Heinlein juvies and a few poor imitations of Heinlein juvies, their titles and authors now lost due to pre-adolescent critical expunging from memory. I was primed, basically, to receive the book.
The second factor was that the book came, not from an approved curriculum list, but from Mr. Johnson himself. Every student has the teacher who looms in memory, and Keith Johnson is mine—a fine, handsome and fearfully smart man who didn’t take any crap (which is an excellent trait in handling sixth graders) but who also saw each of his students as an individual (which is an exceptional trait in handling sixth graders). Mr. Johnson gave me The Martian Chronicles to read and said this to me as he handed it over: “You should be reading this.” He also said it was one of his favorite books.
To get the book, vouched for in that way, felt like an intimacy between the two of us. I realize using the word “intimacy” there opens things up to an unseemly interpretation, which would be, mind you, ridiculous. What it means is that while in no way stepping out of the teacher-student relationship, Mr. Johnson was treating me as a confidant, and even in a small way as an equal: This book means something to me, he was saying. It might mean something to you, too. It was, in other words, a powerful recommendation.
And Mr. Johnson was right. It meant something to me. The Martian Chronicles is not a child’s book, but it is an excellent book to give to a child—or to give to the right child, which I flatter myself that I was—because it is a book that is full of awakening. Which means, simply, that when you read it, you can feel parts of your brain clicking on, becoming sensitized to the fact that something is happening here, in this book, with these words, even if you can’t actually communicate to anyone outside of your own head just what that something is. I certainly couldn’t have, in the sixth grade—I simply didn’t have the words. As I recall, I didn’t much try: I just sat there staring down at the final line of the book, with the Martians staring back at me, simply trying to process what I had just read.
I could tell you now about all of it—I’m a good enough wizard on my own now—but that would take more space than you would have tolerance for in an introduction. I know you are eager to get through this and start re-reading the book you love.
But I will give you one example: The Martian Chronicles was the first book to make me understand that words themselves, and in themselves, had power. The genre of science fiction vaunts itself as the literature of ideas, which seems a bit much. It’s more to the point that it’s the literature of engineering, originally springing forth from the minds of proto-geeks fascinated with the technical potential of the future. These men (and occasional women) used words as fine-tooled machines to work those ideas into print, practically rather than poetically.
There’s nothing wrong with this. I largely stand in this tradition myself. What it does mean, however, is that much of science fiction prose reads flat. Great colorful playful ideas, packaged in a big cardboard box.
Ray Bradbury’s words are not a cardboard container for his ideas. His words have weight and rhythm and pace and form; they are a scaffold of filigree for his ideas to weave themselves in and around, taking form through them. Bradbury’s people did not exist for the sake of exposition or simply to have things happen to them: He sketched them in what they said (or didn’t say), and how they said them or not. Words gave rise to character, economically but fully revealing a spaceman disgusted with his people, two strangers from different times meeting on a road, a man who learns he’s okay being alone, a father teaching his children about who the Martians truly are.
The Martian Chronicles was the first science fiction book to make me feel a character’s righteous rage (not to mention the concept of ironically literal death, both in the same chapter) and the first science fiction book to make me feel loss and loneliness in my gut, doing it without featuring a single human, save as a shadow on a wall. And more than the first science fiction that did all these things: the first fiction, too.
The Martian Chronicles, in short, showed me what words can truly do. It showed me magic.
And now you might understand how, at age twelve, I was amazed beyond words that this wizard was coming to town, and would be somewhere I could meet him and see him, in the flesh, for myself. Because I was geek enough to be well-known to all the librarians, who were hosting this wizard’s appearance, I managed to wheedle my way into being in the group that would welcome him to the library and would get him ready to meet his public in our library’s common room, which we grandly but not wholly inaccurately labeled a “forum.” I would meet this wizard of all wizards, I would spend time with him, and perhaps I might even get him to show me some of his secrets. It was an excellent plan.
Which didn’t work. Ray Bradbury’s magic is strong, but the black magic of the 210 Freeway at rush hour is stronger—Bradbury arrived only minutes before he was set to speak. Nevertheless, the librarians, knowing how excited I was to meet him, pushed me forward and introduced me to him, and gave me a prime opportunity to talk magic with the wizard.
At which point my tongue, previously full of questions, fell out of my head, and all I could do was squeak about how much I liked his books. As I recall, the wizard tousled my hair, said something I don’t remember except that it was kind, signed the copy of The Martian Chronicles I had in my hand, and then went up to our forum to do another kind of magic, which was to entertain a room full of admirers for an hour.
I would say that I never got another chance to have the wizard show me his magic, but that’s not quite true. I never have met Ray Bradbury again in person. His magic, however, is there in his work. When you read it, if you pay attention, the wizard shows you all his magic and power. If you’re smart, you see how it works. If you have some talent, you might be able to pull off a trick or two. Will you become a wizard? Well, that depends on many things, some of which will not be under your control. But you won’t be able to say that this particular wizard has not been generous with his magic.
What I have never gotten another chance to do, however, is to thank the wizard, for what he’s showed me and taught me and how he’s inspired me to use my own magic. This seems as good a time and place as any. So thank you, Mr. Bradbury, for all of it.
And now, like the rest of you, I’m off to read The Martian Chronicles another time. I suspect this wizard has more magic to show me here. I want to see it.
It is sad to see such a talented man leave this rotten world. I’m sure he’ll be rewarded somehow for all the good he did in this world.
He wrote an anthology of space adventures/science fiction tales of which I wish I could remember the name. That was my first exposure to him. It was excellent reading and spurred my imagination to become an engineer..
I also read the Martian Chronicles which I quite enjoyed. The tv mini-series on it followed the book quite closely, too, and wasn’t a hack job at all on his writing, which tends to happen to books.
RIP, Ray Bradbury.
The likely candidates for the book you’re trying to name are either “R Is For Rocket” or “S Is For Space”.
Great tribute! Thank you for sharing that. Ray Bradbury was a great inspiration and will be missed. Fortunately, we still have his writing to illuminate us.
When i read the news of his passing, i thought ” another master writer gone”.
Thank you, sir. That was wonderful.
Rest In Peace you Grandest of all Grand Masters.
I met you many many years ago, just as Mr. Scalzi did, in person, but before that person to person meeting, I met you in a more intimate way…
My little town did not have a large lending library, or even a large Science Fiction and Fantasy section within it. Yet, within its rows of books, I discovered your name, and your works. The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, R is for Rocket, Fahrenheit 451, and on, and on. You sir, and your works introduced me to a genre of literature and to a whole new way of thinking and viewing the world around me. It was because of you that I started to write and won a number of regional essay competitions. It was because of you that I managed to write 2 novels and 10 stories, one of which actually got published. It was because of you that I still harbor the dream of some day becoming a published author….
But more importantly than that, it is because of you that I discovered Science Fiction, I discovered what was possible, I started to dream. Yes, at one time, I dreamed I could even become an Astronaut, and even though that dream did not become a reality, I still dream of a future of us all, that includes Space, I still dream of a positive tomorrow that is full of exploration and good things, and things out there.
Thank you Mr. Bradbury for opening my eyes to what can be.
Sad news indeed.
I suspect the last of the pulp era writers left to us is Fred Pohl.
Fahrenheit 451 scared me and it still scares me each time I read it. But it makes me think unlike so many other books out there. Dandelion Wine is my favorite Bradbury work and while not science fiction there are aspects in it that can be found in other of his works. he will be greatly missed.
Thank you for reposting this excellent introduction to The Martian Chronicles. The world is a smaller, less magical place for the passing of Mr. Bradbury.
The Illustrated Man and Fahrenheit 451 are the two that jump immediately to mind. Farhrenheit 451 was horror like I’d never read it before. It was not fantasy horror, but real gut twisting horror. People are the monster. I could be the monster. The Illustrated Man (which I always remember as The Illuminated Man for some strange reason) blew my mind. All of those possible worlds that I could try to make.
Rest In Peace, Ray Bradbury. You changed my world in good ways.
Always and forever, Dandelion Wine, a book I first read at precisely the right age and have just reread, still at precisely the right age.
S Is for Space; The October Country; A Medicine for Melancholy
“There Will Come Soft Rains” and somewhere a giant monster mournfully bellows at a lighthouse from the fog.
Sometimes, I just wish there was a LIKE button for your posts. This is one of those times. I had a similar 6th grade teacher– and she will stand out in my life for all time. As far as the Wizarding world, my mother introduced me to science fiction once upon a time….and we’ve never looked back since. In my humble opinion, science fiction is poetry in a different form. Yes, more mechanical, but poetry none the less because it forces the imagination into new realms, painting not only visuals in the mind, but emotions in the heart, bringing possibility to reality and light to dreams.
Hail to the bringers of magic– a lantern is lit in the halls of eternity as each one passes quietly from this world to the next.
Thank you for sharing… and now I’m off to the dustiest section of my library to reminisce and dig out a few Bradbury’s from the depths.
Thanks for this; I didn’t cry when I read the LA Times obituary, but I did tear up at this. Bradbury was truly one of the greats, and I think it’s time for a memorial re-read.
What a wonderful tribute. Thank you.
You cannot detract from the authors working today, but Ray Bradbury was like a Titan amongst mortals. Fans can be certain that his legacy will not die with him.
@ John: “… it is a book that is full of awakening. Which means, simply, that when you read it, you can feel parts of your brain clicking on, becoming sensitized to the fact that something is happening here, in this book, with these words, even if you can’t actually communicate to anyone outside of your own head just what that something is. ”
This. Oh my, so much this.
There was a time when Giants walked among us…and their names were Asimov and Clarke and Heinlein…and Bradbury. And we tend to think of the first three of these as a troika, a team of superheroes. But Ray Bradbury stood somehow apart in magnificent splendor. Now let the honors pour forth, for something wondrous came our way and we shan’t see its like again.
Thanks for sharing that John. Like Mr Bradbury’s writing it was a joy to read.
I’m reminded of a line that has stuck with me from “Chronicles”. As the reluctant immigrant wife looks up to see Earth being destroyed she turns to her husbands and says “Looks like its the start of the slow season smart guy”. His leaving us marks the start of a slow season.
My mother first met Mr. Bradbury at the UCLA Library, where she was working her way through college. They became friends and, when my mother became a teacher for LAUSD, she would make sure to invite him to visit her school. Quite often he was able to make the trip and work his magic on the children. She also made sure to reach out to him as a speaker for the many conferences she hosted for English teachers. Their relationship continued for about 50 years.
Because of their relationship, each year we received one of Mr. Bradbury’s famous Christmas cards, and I have many signed copies of his books tucked away. We also received invitations to his plays when they were staged locally. Towards the end of my mother’s life, ill-health on both of their parts dimmed the relationship. Any connection with Mr. Bradbury ended with her passing in 2006. But my memories of him remain vibrant and I will always have his books.
I will always remember him as a (very distant) family friend and as one of the more powerful influences on my literary tastes. Simply: a wonderful, hugely enthusiastic, bigger-than-life, man. One of those who shows us mortals how life can be–and should be–done.
I joined my 14year-old in reading Fahrenheit 451 this school year and was just blown away. His stories cannot be forgotten. We are so close to living the reality that had Mildred attached to her own video walls and has us chewing only small bits of information so that we never get the whole story.
His best quote is “I don’t try to describe the future. I try to prevent it.” He saw reality TV 30 years before it infected us.
We should be paying closer attention to what Mr. Bradbury and his contemporaries were trying to tell us.
Thanks for posting this. I read “Something Wicked This Way Comes” in high school and was left unsettled for quite awhile. In a good way.
When I was 10 I discovered science fiction. Asimov introduced me to robots, Clarke introduced me to the ocean and Ray Bradbury introduced me to Mars. So much of what you wrote mirrors my own experience when he came to my town to speak. At that age, everything about books and authors was pure magic to me. I was the only child in the room but I’d read everything he’d written and I was spellbound the entire evening, Thank you for sharing and bringing back such a wonderful memory.
The man had huge heart and huge compassion. Love his stories.
@John…… Your story reminded me of Mr. Pace in 8th grade. He kept a set of ridiculously old textbooks in his class for the sole purpose of reading “There Will Come Soft Rains” with his students. Years later when I became a teacher myself I had the opportunity to be colleagues with Mr. Pace. He became one of my dearest friends and mentors. At the moment, I am sitting in my classroom, the walls bare as I pack for the summer, and realising that I haven’t read a Bradbury book in several years. I give books by various authors to specific students as your teacher did. I am ashamed to say that I have only ever given a few copies of “The Martian Chronicles” away. I will change this.
I unfortunately never got to meet the man, and I think that will always bother me. My first experience with Bradbury was when I was about 10 or 11 years old. I was sick from school with a high fever and my granny put in The Illustrated Man audio book into her tape player for me while I drifted in and out of sleep.
The amazing stories combined with my fever as I drifted in and out of sleep to create some sort of surreal dream. I immediately hunted down everything else I could find by the man and was never disappointed. Rest in peace.
I met RB in passing at the 86 WorldCon. It was on the vendor floor, not during an official appearance, so he would have been entirely within his rights (and to maintain his sanity) to make it as short and minimal an encounter as possible. Instead he was warm and friendly and happy and everything you hope someone you admire will be when you get a chance to meet them. Thank you for everything, Mr Bradbury.
What a wonderful tribute to one of my personal author-heroes.
There are authors, and then there are AUTHORS.
And Ray Bradbury was an AUTHOR. He earned those all-caps, in every single thing he did.
When I was young (also about 12), I found it convenient that the writers that I enjoyed reading most were all on thee Science Fiction shelf, and all at the front of the alphabet, A-B-C (Asimov, Bradbury and Clarke). This made it easy find books I liked, as they were all on the same shelf (and Heinlein wasn’t too far away under H). Sad that the last of the ABC+H writers of my youth has now left us. Rest in peace.
Well, I’m not at all sure this could be either more moving or fitting. Thank you.
I’m also saddened by the passing of the Grand Master, but what prompted me to write instead was to reveal to you that we were 2-years separated classmates at Ben Lomond!
I was in 4th grade when your class did their play – was it Oklahoma? – I’m trying to remember…
We got our own chance to start our class business, to make Frustration Pencils and Christmas Ornaments to raise money for our class play – a melodrama, No, No, a Thousand Times No. We also got to go the UCLA Medical Center to poke at real human organs thanks to Mr. Johnson’s partner working there.
We never knew he was gay.
Along with Ms. Florentine, and Ms. Fox he was just a hard-working, under-paid California teacher – one of thousands of course – that really cared about his sixth graders and gave them the best education he could.
I’m sorry to say he passed away from complications due to AIDS some time ago.
Our class was so impacted by his efforts we had – of all things – a sixth grade class reunion in 2010. A lot of our class still keeps in touch over the years and miles via Facebook.
So, hello classmate!
I first discovered Bradbury when I read S is for Space and The Martian Chronicles when I was 12. To this day, “Chrysalis” and “There Will Come Soft Rains” are among my very favourite stories.
Today we bid farewell to the man who wrote tomorrow.
I was the year we did “Oliver!” I was the artful dodger!
I found out Keith was gay when I was high school and he and I became good friends after I became an adult. I attended his funeral. I miss him.
I, too, met Ray Bradbury when I was young. I, too, wrote an essay about the experience. I dare say your essay is far better written than mine. I can say, without reservation, that I am happy your encounter was not the same as mine.
I discovered Ray Bradbury as a child and loved him as only a child could, and I grew into an adult that loves him still. I have 4 teenagers, and throughout middle school and into 8th grade, one of my twins had fallen into the habit of not wanting to think for herself, not wanting to *read* (and thus was quite different from my husband and myself!), and in general was just not being herself — she was trying to be what her friends and her father (my ex) wanted her to be, and it warred with who she was, and I saw the pain and frustration, but couldn’t reach it; she wouldn’t let me.
It was Ray Bradbury that broke the cycle. She’s had many minor “epiphanies” and one major one, but the start of the turning point was Ray Bradbury and Farenheit 451. Without that, without the passion that book inspired in her, without the IDEAS it sparked, she wouldn’t be the lovely young woman she is right now. She’s comfortable in her skin and confident, and she owes a great deal of it to a book.
So thank you, Mr. Bradbury, and may you rest in peace. You gave my daughter the impetus to find her real self again and be true to who she wanted to be. I will always owe you a debt.
I think he was a little magical myself. Wizard indeed.
I worked at a bookstore a while back and I remember one of our regular customers coming up with a book that we would have never suspected she’d want. I remember asking her why that particular book.
She told us when she was little, she was friends with a girl down the street and when they had sleepovers at her friends house, her friends’ dad would come tuck them in and tell them a story. She said that he told some pretty good stories.
So, I rang her up for a hardcover copy of Dandelion Wine and when I see Ray Bradbury’s name mentioned, it’s that story I think of first. Storyteller, author, the man who told bedtime stories to his daughter and her friend and wrote good books.
I’m sad that I never got to meet Ray Bradbury in person, but I’ve read several of his works and have watched him talk on Youtube. He was a fantastic writer and it’s a shame there aren’t many like him in the world (though John, you are an exception to this.) He was very inspiring and one of his talks pretty much taught me how to become a better writer. He also helped me discover brand new books to read and inspired my love for classic Hollywood movies.
And, for one being 22 years old with still no driver’s license, I can proudly say that I’m not the oldest one to never have learned to drive :)
I read 3 books on Christmas in 1st Grade: A Juvenile SciFi Story, The Time Machine by HG Wells and Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles”. After that the whole library (and my parents large library) was available to me. Easily one of the most important books of my life.
I thought that he would last forever: I was wrong.
Lovely tribute to a great writer. When I was growing up you could pretty much read Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke and Bradbury–oh, and Frederick Pohl and , Doc. Smith, I guess. So I read everything. Can’t do that anymore. He made an appearance on the old Groucho Marx show once and Marx asked him what kind of stories he wrote and he described “The Veldt” to him. Groucho’s famous eyebrows shot right to the top of his head–it was hysterical. Gosh, that was more than 50 years ago and I laughed for days thinking about it.
A consummate artist. Never padding, never relying on stock characters, and only giving his stories that which was needed. I have next to me “From the Dust Returned” which I plan to reread tonight.
Not only was Mr. Bradbury a wizard, he cared about so many things, in particular books. There probably isn’t a library in Southern California in which he didn’t speak. He loved to go to local libraries, talk about his books, libraries and how they can change lives, and just life in general. I also was able to meet him at one of these fun events, I think around twenty years ago. Not only was he a great speaker, he stuck around for over an hour after the presentation, just shooting the breeze, answering even more questions. He was such a nice guy in addition to being a wizard.
I love that more and more schools are using his books in their English classes. Both my teenagers have now read Fahrenheit 451. I am hoping that they enjoyed it, since they never tell me anything. I know that they both have a love for science fiction and fantasy. One is even taking a Creative Writing course next year. Maybe in some way, he influenced both of them.
This was really a beautiful piece, John.
I remember meeting him as a teenager and him telling me a quirky and slightly risqué story… I was in in high school in the East Bay around 1975… we had a science fiction club run by an instructor who discovered that Bradbury was doing a book tour at the San Francisco Gift Center. We traveled over. I did research before and learned that Bradbury had met W.C. Fields as a child. When it was my turn to meet him, I asked him about it and he said that he had walked up to Fields and introduced himself. Fields looked at him and said: “Get the fuck out of here, kid!” and Bradbury treasured that moment all of his life.
Excellent and classy, Mr. Scalzi. Thank you.
For me it wasn’t “The Martian Chronicles” and it wasn’t 6th grade and it wasn’t Mr. Johnson. It was “Fahrenheit 451,” 7th grade, and Miss Peterson, but this story rings very true. Mr. Bradbury, thank you.
I never met him personally, but I saw him speak at a bookstore in Berkeley. I remember expecting the typical dour, introverted, pessimistic type of author. I was shocked to seem him so warm and personable. His personality filled the room as he told rambled on for an hour, talking about a wide variety of things (which I can’t remember now because it was so long ago). He was so fun and interesting that I was sad when it ended.
And yes, his words were not a “cardboard container”. My friend was a big science-fiction geek who was always trying to get me to read the stuff. I thought the writing styles in science fiction felt really stale and dry. But when I read Bradbury, I realized that science fiction could have heart and soul. I look back now and can see the personality evident in his lectures was also evident in his stories.
Thank you for this, and thanks to SubPress for their permission to reprint.
I discovered Ray Bradbury courtesy of the library. But then getting a teacher who also loved him — that was good.
I was there at the library the day Bradbury came to town, too. I was so sad to hear of his passing. Rather than remembering so many of his books that I love, most of the day I’ve been thinking of that day in the library. You said it more eloquently than I could, but I absolutely agree that it was like meeting a wizard. 30 years later, I can still see him in that room, still hear his voice. And I still cherish the (now dog-earred) paperback copy of The Martian Chronicles that he signed for me.
Sad to see a great wizard go, but glad that he left so much behind to remember him by.
As a voracious reader and aspiring writer, I too learned from Bradbury that words in and of themselves have power. I was a little older, a sophomore in high school, and we read a passage from “A Sound of Thunder” for an English/writing class–probably the very passage quoted in a Slate article by Bryan Curtis (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/the_middlebrow/2005/09/ray_bradbury.html). I found the ideas of the story intriguing, but science fiction stories are full of intriguing ideas, and I’d been reading them for years. What Bradbury illuminated for me was exactly how well-chosen words can magically create realities that exist in the force field set up between book and brain. I do believe it’s magic, and he was a wizard as well as (in Curtis’s words, “a pulp god”).
The Bradbury book I’ve returned to again and again over the last 45 years is “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” which has glorious language, characters who live and breathe, and a good story with something to say.
After I’d posted two links yesterday on Facebook about the hitherto immortal Ray Bradbury, my friend since I was 17 years old, whom I revered as writing mentor, and who was a joy to work with on our 4 co-authorships, several Facebook friends messaged me about this blog thread, which they found wonderful.
SonomaLass alludes to:
Rest in peace, will miss him so much!
My first encounter with Ray Bradbury was at a book signing for Quicker Than the Eye in 1996. When it came my turn to get an autographed copy of the book, I asked him as he shook my hand, “What’s your cat’s name?” Referring to his publicity photo on the back of the book. Bradbury said, “What?” the book clerk assisting him repeated my question. “Tigger!” he exclaimed … “I told my publishers not to change it until they brought him back to life.” I thanked him for the autograph and stepped aside for the next young man in line, who asked him a question about becoming a writer. Bradbury replied, “Do you write every day? You know you’re not a writer if you don’t write every day.”
I had checked out a video Farenheit 451 a few weeks back (it”s 2 days overdue now, oops). I finally watched it last night. I wasn’t in the mood for melodrama for a while, but after watching it, and seeing the ending, it turned out to be way more upbeat than I had thought.
The people in the movie had big flat screen tv’s!
Strange that nobody has noticed the simultaneity of the Venus transit and the passing of the author of the Martian Chronicles.
Lovely, lovely remembrance. Thanks, John. I too loved Ray Bradbury’s incomparably beautiful prose style. I started by reading the ABC’s of science fiction, Asimov, Bradbury, and Clarke. And it was Bradbury who taught me to love a beautiful prose style. Dandelion Wine, Electric Grandmothers, and Martian Chronicles… Aaaaah! Ooooooh! Sigh.
But, small bone pick-age here: OCCASIONAL woman writing SF? [Stern look, crossed arms, raised eyebrow, tapping toe, and not in a nice, dancey kind of way] Indeed, Mr. Scalzi?
Thank you, John.
I just grabbed our copy of Medicine for Melancholy off the RIP display at my library. Going to take it home and reread “Fever Dream,” which, as I recall, scared the living daylights out of me at age twelve or thirteen.
The world is a little sadder today, but as long as the master’s works are around, twelve and thirteen-year-olds (and anyone else) will discover true magic through his words.
I talked with a group of teens, and was surprised than none had heard of him. That said, I never thought he was at the top echelon of SF writers. He was just better known outside of the genre than most.
My dad brought home a copy of The Illustrated Man when I was 10 or 11. He told me that Ray Bradbury was one of his favorite authors. I finished the book in a day or two–it was amazing. I remember the feeling of things clicking in my head as well.
That was when I realized what writing could really do; and what Sci-Fi was really about. I like the other “greats” from that era, but there was something personal and approachable about the way Mr. Bradbury wrote.
Reading Ray’s stories as a pre-teen made me shiver and fall in love all summer long. I cannot see a lighthouse without remembering Fog Horn. And, because Ray wants it like that, I’ll only own his books in real, Egypt-smelling print.
Thank you for saying what I couldn’t say myself.
I just had to say I enjoyed this article and I had Mr. Keith Johnson at good ol’ Ben Lomond Elementary,
Nice article. I was also a student of Keith Johnson at Ben Lomond Elementary and he was amazing.