I’ve been going back and forth all morning over whether or not I wanted to write something about Ray Bradbury. He’s not the first writer I’ve loved to pass away and the news this morning felt more like a melancholy whisper than a shocking punch to the gut. But it’s made me sad in this profound sort of way that happens when you realize something magical is now gone from the world.
I never did meet him, and I’m honestly pretty sure I would have failed at talking if I had, but I was lucky enough to see him twice in person. The first was that time in 2009 when I saw him speak at UCLA. He had things to say about his life, his career, his current theater projects, but mostly what I took away from that afternoon was the advice to Do What You Love.
The second time I saw him was actually that same year, several months later, at Comic Con. As I was wandering the floor, lost in awe amid the comics and storm troopers, I momentarily stopped paying attention to where it was exactly that I was walking. I’m sure I was distracted by something shiny. Until I realized that I was about to walk into a man in a wheelchair. Moments later I realized that man was Ray Bradbury. So literally, I almost stepped on him. I stared dumbfounded for a few moments and then, dismayed by the growing, gawking crowd, I sheepishly slunk away.
Bradbury is just one of many authors I loved as a kid. C.S.Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, Maurice Sendak, Lewis Caroll, they were all my introductions to the fantastic and frightening. They all open worlds, introduced ideas, and are each responsible for my continued love of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. But it was Bradbury’s writing that made me want to be more than just a reader, just a fan. His stories cracked something open in my brain. I don’t think I can fairly give any one person credit (or blame, whichever) for making me want to write. I don’t honestly even remember when I first decided I wanted to be a writer. But Ray Bradbury did more than just make me want to write, something in his work made me believe that I could. His stories not only took me places, they made me want to explore those places on my own. I wanted to leave the tantalizing glimpses he offered and ramble off on my own adventures. He also taught me that fiction can be so much more than just a story, you can touch humanity through these words.
After Bradbury I moved on to more science fiction with Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, Dick, a ton of others. So he wasn’t necessarily my first in the fantastic and he certainly isn’t my last. He’s my middle. And his stories are my enduring loves that I return to again and again and again.
I don’t really know what more to say other than I’m sad to hear he’s gone. He gave so much. Stories, ideas, memories, laughter, inspiration, and a pure joy for life. I’m sure many are missing him.
Goodbye, Ray Bradbury. And Thank You.
His obituary in the Los Angeles Times.