The memorials are coming in for the great Ray Bradbury. Among them, Nick Mamatas makes a critical point, that Bradbury was pilloried by some in the SF community for not really being SF, but now they seem to be reclaiming him. I did notice a few testimonials from SF authors about Bradbury’s influence that seemed hesitant about such things, almost as if they got calls from reporters and didn’t want to say Ray was part of their club. I don’t much care for GENRE WARS, so it just seems petty to me.
Like all things books, I came to Bradbury’s work late. When I decided to become a writer, I made lists of genre classics I should read, and devoured THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES and SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. I dug a lot of his short stories, even from his later collections like DRIVING BLIND, which I bought for five bucks at the now long gone Kingston Center Mall. When I was poor, I often traded in used books for other used books, and cycled through the ILLUSTRATED MAN and I SING THE BODY ELECTRIC but never owned them.
I loved the MOBY DICK film based on his screenplay, with Ahab as a demented sorcerer. I liked the crappy movie version of SOMETHING WICKED, and got a kick out of the RAY BRADBURY THEATER, especially how he said he could look at objects in his writing room and be inspired for a story. I thought that was bad ass! Sure, the show was zero budget, over acted, and drenched in 1980s blush-for-everyone aesthetics, but the William Shatner episode, “The Playground” was a creepfest of high octane.
But Bradbury’s greatest inspiration to me was as a teacher. His ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING remains one of the best books on the craft I’ve read. It also had one of my favorite Bradbury quotes, spouted after Ray tried to abandon the things he loved so he could fit in at school. He found he couldn’t do it and came to this realization, which was on my wall, staring back at me as I toiled through my years of suckage as a new writer.
“Yell. Jump. Play. Out-run those Sons-of-Bitches. They’ll NEVER live the way you live. Go do it.”
Bradbury was one of the first figures I encountered who seemed to think it was great that you loved junk culture that others hated, that you could use it to create your own mythology, and embed the stories you care about within their iconic imagery. So, it’s no surprise that I also loved this quote:
“I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.”
Five years ago, I wrote an article on the value of formal and informal workshops for the Internet Review of Science Fiction. One section was on “Bradbury, The Apprentice”, and looked at how Robert Heinlein, Henry Kuttner, and of course, Leigh Brackett helped Bradbury become Bradbury! There’s also stuff on Hemingway, the Inklings, and others. But my favorite section concerned the young, unpublished Ray Bradbury, who needed help to focus his manic energy and become the writer he would be.