RIP, Ray Bradbury

RonF has commented twice, now, that Ray Bradbury’s passing has passed without comment here.

I have to admit I’m a little puzzled, myself. Here we celebrate, among other things, creative endeavor, including writing and speculative fiction.

If this non-commentary state of affairs continues, I’m a little worried that RonF will do himself an injury, or worse yet, fail to contain his comment within derail tags. So, this is a thread to talk a little bit about Ray Bradbury, his writing, his accomplishments, his missteps, and so on. Especially, most especially, I would like to hear people talk about how his writing affected or influenced them.

I’ll start.

Recently, someone asked me what my favorite movie was. Well, heck if I know. I have great affection for many movies. That goes quintuple for many books and stories. How could I possibly decide which is “best”? What would that even mean? Surely it would mean more about me than about the movie or book, and mainly it would mean I was shortsighted enough to think that a single example of any art form could be “best”.

But there are many books and stories I really, really like, and one of them is Bradbury’s: Usher II. You can find it in most editions of The Martian Chronicles. It riffs off of the work of another author whose work I enjoy, Edgar Allan Poe. The opening scene, with Stendahl and Bigelow going over the punch list, is hilarious. Beyond that, there are many spoilers, and so I can’t say much about it.

Suffice it to say that when Stendahl told Garrett to say, “For the love of God, Montressor!” I experienced a delight of anticipation so sublime that I fear I will never again experience its like. And the next few lines were undistilled, savage satisfaction.

Bradbury seemed always to have a childlike delight in thinking up new ideas and saying, “Oh, neat! Look what I found!” Some ideas were better than others, but he hit them out of the park often enough, and he didn’t linger on them and squeeze them to death, as seems to be so popular nowadays – he used as many words as he needed, and no more. He was not my favorite author, but he was in the van. It’s a large van, but he was in it.


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14 Responses to RIP, Ray Bradbury

  1. 1
    Simple Truth says:

    My first experience with Ray Bradbury was through a school program called Junior Great Books. His short story, “The Veldt” was in one of the editions that somehow ended up staying in our house. I reread the books often, as I did with much of our small library – I was a voracious reader and when I couldn’t get new books, I would reread the ones I had – so I ended up reading this story probably more times than most people. It always had a certain presence – the vivid description of the African veldt, the taste of the hot air in the character’s mouth, the way you got both sides’ reasoning even though at points, all of them seem like monsters.
    I later picked up Farenheit 451 in college in a lull between classes. I remember liking it for it’s message about censorship, but hating the fact that it contained another drugged-out woman who was shallow (as does the Veldt, if I remember right.) It always made it harder to connect to literature when the only one who looks like me was the ineffectual load, or the villain.

  2. 2
    Grace Annam says:

    Come to think of it, he also wrote A Sound of Thunder, which is a nice illustration of the, ahem, butterfly effect.

    I first read that one in grade school, and I always struggle with it. If they didn’t know whether changing something in the past would matter, then they wouldn’t risk something as pointless as a safari, for money, would they? Of course not.

    Then I look around at all the ways that we are changing the Earth, much of it driven economically, and I realize that the premise was probably not so bizarre after all.


  3. 3
    RonF says:

    When I was a child of 10 summers I escaped from the kids’ room and wound my way into the main stacks of the Franklin Public Library. Way in the back of the kinds of library stacks you only see in movies now I found a load of hardback and paperback science fiction. No one had cracked these books open for years. Asimov, Del Rey, Heinlein, E.E. “Doc” Smith, P. K. Dick, Sturgeon, H.G. Welles, Van Vogt and others warped my pliable brain into the mess you see on display here regularly today. All pretty hardcore stuff. But then there was Bradbury. This was not the same thing. There were far fewer pages of jargon. It was a lot more lyrical. I was born and raised in New England and his paeans to a Midwest upbringing didn’t completely match mine, but there were still connections. His writing had a far different voice. I would walk there after school – alone, what other 10-year-old kid would go to the library after school? – and I sat for hours in the reading room, 1/2 the age of the next youngest person there, ignoring the half-naked damsels that make up the imported Italian mural surrounding it, feasting on his stuff (the librarians called my mother about this kid wandering though the adult stacks, but, God bless her, she said “Let him read.”). I looked down into that creek. I was a Martian.

    You all know the titles. I just want to say that my world, at least, was the better for his writing.

  4. 4
    Tess Eract says:

    I hadn’t/haven’t read a lot of Bradbury’s stuff, and not sure whether I will get around to it–there were a few stories in “Golden Apples of The Sun” though–the one about the foghorn, the one about the powerhouse, the one about the Mexican villager who found a way to dissuade tourists from treating him and his like photo props; and the one with the lovestruck teen whose aunt and uncle immploded on finding she had a different boyfriend every night–that was funny! But I do recall reading an interview with him in a friend’s Playboy. At one point he responded to a question about women and their future by waving it aside, saying something like ” women don’t have to make a future for themselves, women ARE the future” (don’t recall exact words)–and I about threw the mag across the room. How condescending. Making a person do an idea’s job never turns out well.

  5. 5
    Melinda Mejia says:

    I haven’t read much Ray Bradbury but have always wanted to. Finally, about a week ago, I picked out Death is a Lonely Business written in 1985 from my small Bradbury collection but couldn’t stay with it. So I chose another Bradbury book — Dandelion Wine. Wow, Bradbury writes beautifully. It is a sort of coming-of-age story with all the childhood wonders that such a story should have. It is so lyrical. The nostalgia, palpable. Here is a short description from wikipedia: “Dandelion Wine has been described as the first of Bradbury’s nostalgic ‘autobiographical fantasies,’ in which he recreates the childhood memories of his hometown, Waukegan, in the form of a lyrical work, with realistic plots and settings touched with fantasy to represent the magic and wonders of childhood. Even with the focus on the bright days of summer, Bradbury, in his typical style, briefly explores the horrific side of these events. The primary example is when Douglas’ initial joy at realizing he’s alive is dampened by the counter-revelation that he will die someday, which parallels his similar gains of knowledge and losses of companions during his summer.” I feel so lucky I picked out this book! I want to finish it and read it again. I’m thinking of teaching it in a class about coming-of-age narratives.

  6. 6
    RB says:

    Unlurking to talk about Ray Bradbury, because I passionately loved his books in high school, and I still do: Something Wicked This Way Comes is one of my all-time favourite horror stories, and he had an incredible talent for short sci-fi.

    But I remember reading – I think in an introduction to The Martian Chronicles? – his assertion that women don’t need science fiction because we can have babies, and it was like a punch to the gut. I wasn’t at the point yet where I could accept that great authors can have great flaws, and it made me so sad and angry. I still love his writing, but I could never forget that I was apparently not supposed to be reading it.

  7. 7
    Grace Annam says:

    Yes, RB, I feel your pain. Bradbury wrote some amazing stuff, but he also could be wingnutty. Two other authors who stand out in that regard for me are Robert Heinlein and Orson Scott Card


  8. 8
    Lord Cerbereth says:

    The man was born in 1920(the same year women got the right to vote in America) of course he had some older ideas about the role of women. We shouldn’t judge him from our ivory towers in the year 2012 lest our grand children look down on us in the year 2112.

    The man was a good author and he made good points “about how television destroys interest in reading literature, which leads to a perception of knowledge as being composed of factoids, partial information devoid of context.”

    Let’s remember him for that.

  9. 9
    aproustian says:

    Lord Cerbereth, we each remember someone in our own way. Please don’t tell us that we have to just ignore things that affect us deeply. Not everyone born in 1920 thought that women shouldn’t read science fiction (like all those women reading it?)–it is possible to be better than your time. I have enormous respect for Bradbury, but I’m not going to pretend he was better than he was.

  10. 10
    Lord Cerbereth says:

    My real problem is did you care about this stuff enough to write to him or approach him about it when he was alive?

    Maybe his views had changed over time like most people.

    You don’t have to remember him as better than he was , but why is it any dirt on somebody only comes up after they die and can no longer refute it?

  11. 11
    Jake Squid says:

    Alas, if people had only voiced their poor opinions of Reagan before he died, he might have changed!

    Within the same genre:
    Alas, if only people had voiced their poor opinions of Harlan Ellison he might have changed by now!

  12. 13
    RonF says:

    That bit of writing deserves a credit, but I couldn’t find one.

  13. 14
    RonF says:

    RonF recognized that this belonged in a different thread and put it there. -Grace