As so many of you know, as so many of us have read and listened and been saddened by over the past week, Ray Bradbury died last week. We’ll miss him, I think, not just for his writing but for himself, for his joy and his commitment and his humor. It’s hard when a person we admire, a person we respect and somehow love without ever knowing in person, dies. We don’t have a way to mourn, a funeral to go to, a grave to visit. So we wanted to do what we would do at a good old Irish wake. We wanted to tell our stories about Ray, and here are some of them.
We’d be delighted if you might share your stories with us, if we could all raise a glass of our favorite spirit in his memory, if we could feel, for just a moment, as if he was standing up there (maybe on Mars?) watching us and enjoying the stories with us. First, we’d like to share with you a very short piece of Bradbury memorabilia, a video put online by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He’s on a stage with Arthur C. Clarke, Carl Sagan and Bruce Murray at Caltech, just days before the Mariner9 reached Mars.
I had an odd childhood – my parents were divorced (and this was before it was commonplace) and I was the oldest, a voracious reader of almost anything and in some ways a very solitary teenager. My mom’s best friend, Lily, had two sons, one a little older than me, the other much more handsome and my age. But the younger and handsome son wasn’t a reader; the older one was. And one summer we became friends. He was addicted to books and often lent me his – he read science fiction. That was the summer I read Heinlein and Clarke and Asimov and Le Guin and … well, pretty much anything there was to read. My mom worked all day, I watched my brother and sister, and I read. And then I discovered Ray Bradbury and I was transported. I loved the writing, the way the stories might actually be true, at least they felt true to me. Bradbury is one of the few science fiction writers I still read – not that I don’t still love scifi, but that I don’t know anyone – like I knew that boy that summer – to tell me who to read. So I re-read Bradbury because, for whatever reason, his books stuck with me, traveled with me, beckoned to me – maybe it’s just the way he wrote a sentence.
This, from Dandelion Wine is one of my favorites. I wish I’d written it.
Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.
Lisa sent this:
I still remember the way I felt reading Farenheit 451. I was a teenager in love with books and the idea of that world, a world where books were forbidden, invoked a visceral sense of horror and anguish in me that stuck long after I’d finished reading. That was the power of Ray Bradbury. He didn’t just transport you with his words, he transformed you.
He never stopped encouraging other writers along the path, and his wonderful collection of essays Zen in the Art of Writing has a permanent place on my nightstand. When I get stuck or frustrated, I flip it open to a random page and I always find just the thing to keep me going.
One of my favorite Bradbury quotes hangs on the board above my desk:
We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.
Ray Bradbury knew exactly how to do that.
Raymond sent his favorite Bradbury quotes:
Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.
You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.
You fail only if you stop writing.