Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Thank You, Mr. Bradbury, and Good Night

Quite a bit has been written in the last week regarding the passing of Ray Bradbury. I didn't know Mr. Bradbury personally, but I loved his writing. When I first heard the word "voice" applied to writing, he was one of the writers who immediately came to my mind.

I've read that he didn't think of himself as a science fiction writer; that he's stated he only wrote one science fiction book (Fahrenheit 451), and that he regarded his books such as The Martian Chronicles as fantasy. I didn't make that distinction when I was a kid raiding my brother's bookshelves or devouring the scant rack of SF/F in the library — it was all the same to me. Wondrous tales about far-off places, be they about outer space or Mars or Green Town, were all I was looking for in those days. And Mr. Bradbury's stories fit the bill in spades.

I know the "Big Three" of science fiction are generally considered to be Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert A. Heinlein. Well, I had my own "Big Four" of speculative fiction: Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, and Bradbury. Asimov wrote fascinating novels that were as dry as dust. Clarke wrote inspired stories that seemed to be only a few steps away from today's reality. Heinlein wrote amazing tales that dealt (sometimes sneakily, sometimes not) with social themes. Bradbury...Bradbury wrote evocatively of the fantastic in a way which made it at once familiar and utterly alien. And it was Bradbury who taught me to appreciate the short story.

Even the titles of his stories — and his collections of stories — are amazing. Some titles are taken from poems, some, I assume, are his own. Who could resist wanting to read The Illustrated Man, The Golden Apples of the Sun, The Machineries of Joy, or A Medicine for Melancholy?

One short story of his in particular has stayed with me all the years since I first read it as a child: Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed. This story could so easily have been turned into horror and left me shivering. Instead, I read it and was filled with a sense of wonder. Which isn't to say that he couldn't write horror. Something Wicked This Way Comes scared the bejeebus out of me in a way that only two other books — Dracula and The Shining — have ever done.

I was sad when I heard Ray Bradbury had died. However, it would've have been sadder still if the world had never heard his stories. So, thank you, Mr. Bradbury, wherever you are.

A bit of trivia for you: Did you know that Elton John's song Rocket Man was based on Ray Bradbury's short story, The Rocket Man? You can find the story in at least a couple of Bradbury's short story collections, including The Illustrated Man and the 1997 edition of The Golden Apples of the Sun.

6 comments:

Barbara Cool Lee said...

Oh, yes. Bradbury belongs with the greats of Science Fiction. He never stopped imagining, never stopped creating. I am so glad he was in this world, for we would have been so much poorer without his stories.

Genene Valleau, writing as Genie Gabriel said...

Head in the sand here, as this is the first I've heard of Ray Bradbury's passing. Love his titles! I could certainly take a few lessons from him on naming stories. Thanks, Debbie, for this tribute.

Deborah Wright said...

Hi Barb! I read somewhere that Bradbury wrote every single day, no matter what. I'm going to try to remind myself of that when I find myself making excuses about why I can't write.

Deborah Wright said...

Hi Genene! He had some of the best titles ever. They're the kind that inspire ideas even if you don't read the stories, if that makes sense?

Barbara Cool Lee said...

Deb, did you see this?

http://i.imgur.com/mgTlb.jpg

Barb

Deborah Wright said...

Barb, that is so cool!