Thursday, June 07, 2012

Ray Bradbury - RIP

Lucky you. I'm interrupting my vacation slides to mourn the passing of space fantasy writer Ray Bradbury. He passed away yesterday morning. He was 91.

I'd been thinking about Ray Bradbury lately. I'd wondered if he knew how widely his stuff was known even by people who didn't know they'd read his stuff. I've talked to a lot of people who read a lot but who completely dismiss the science fiction genre from their libraries. But often there'd be a story about a guy who was hunting dinosaurs, stepped on a butterfly, and ruined the future. And you could see a light come on in the minds of these people who refused even to watch Star Wars. They knew this story. There was a volcano. And a T-rex. And a path. A silver path that they weren't supposed to step off of. And how did they know this story? It was in their head, but they had no idea why or where. And it kinda freaked them out! WHY DID THEY KNOW THIS STORY!?! The story was called "A Sound of Thunder". It graces a couple of reading textbooks that I and they and a whole lot of kids in our country had read around 6th grade and possibly in another grade, too. This textbook also included "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson and "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. I know I have a lot of overseas readers, but in the US these stories are rather universally known and most people don't know why they know the stories. You can read "A Sound of Thunder" here.

As of 1984 "A Sound of Thunder" was the most re-published science fiction story. It was adapted for the radio show "X Minus One" and turned into a really horrible movie. Honestly, I thought if Bradbury could survive seeing that done to one of his stories he may just be immortal.

There was a book or two that I found in the creepy part of the basement on Dad's bookshelf. They were books that he'd gotten when he was a kid. They were Ray Bradbury stories that had been published in horror comics and then collected in paperback books. I don't know how many times I read that book. If I found a modern reprint it's one I'd buy a dozen of and give to the kids of my friends.

I remember being creeped out by "The Martian Chronicles" movie when I was little and loving it when I got a bit older. The book is the best by far as it contains so many stories that were cut from the movie, but were used in radio shows or "The Ray Bradbury Theater" TV show.

In high school we had to read "Fahrenheit 451". It's such a universally known book I don't know what to say about it. It's about a world where firemen burn houses and books of all kind are banned. It, as well as The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, and Something Wicked This Way Comes are all novels that I'd happily recommend to anyone from young adult to crotchety adult.

He was also one of the last of a particular era of science fiction writers. Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, I hate to see them all go. I think I'll be populating my Netflix queue with a lot of what I'm seeing on his Wikipedia site. And I think I need a copy of "From the Dust Returned", a collection of stuff he did while working with Chas Addams (Addams Family cartoonist).

This obit wouldn't be complete without the music video "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury!".

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