Ray Bradbury has died. How is that possible? Here was a man so filled with joy, with passion, with a towering hope most of all, that it seemed he would would out-dance death and live forever.
I’ve been struggling to find words that would encapsulate my feelings about this astonishing writer, this astonishing human being; but I’ve written about Bradbury many times here at Creation Point and, rather than try to rephrase the same truths, I’ve decided to create a tapestry out of selected passages from previous posts. (A post I’d love for you to read in its entirety is this one, detailing my correspondence with Ray B, back in the 80’s.)
As I've made clear many times, there are few people on the face of the planet who have influenced and, more important, inspired me as much as the great Ray Bradbury. Reading a classic Bradbury short story or essay on creativity, immersing myself in his novels (especially Dandelion Wine, one of the most glorious and magical books ever written), is an experience that strips away the layers of what I call the CNN Reality—the voices of Doom and Naysaying Cynicism that seek to tell us that we're small and helpless, ordinary and afraid—and opens our hearts and minds to a deeper, truer, more joyful reality: one where life is sacred, creativity is an expression of pure delight and the universe is viewed with eyes of innocence and wonder. Bradbury's words set fire to my soul decades ago and they still do the same today.
People call Bradbury a science-fiction writer, a fantasist, but I don’t think either label applies. He’s a preacher, a rhapsodist, an interfaith—no, interdimensional—minister. I’ve rarely encountered anyone who more eloquently encapsulates the sheer sacred joy of life. When I read a Bradbury story, I not only want to race to the computer and create literary wonders of my own—the greatest gift a fellow writer can give you—I want to race out the door and up the street with my arms wide, embracing the entire universe.
Reading Bradbury—opening your mind and heart to that unique voice, that amazing spirit—it’s as if the author himself arrives at your house. The door bursts opens, nearly flying off its hinges, and Ray races into the room, enveloping you in a bear hug—nearly cracking your ribs—spinning you around in circles as he bellows with laughter and perhaps sheds a tear or two, touched, as he is, by this reunion. He’s a one-man Imagination pantheon, an explosion of gods and goddesses, each one with a unique story to tell. You get him to sit down for a minute or two, have a sip of wine, but he’s soon up on his feet, dragging you to the window, pointing to the clouds, the moon, the stars...the whole wide universe. You watch in wonder and delight as Bradbury reaches out, wraps his arms around God, yanks him down to earth and kisses Him full on the mouth.
When Ray’s done, when he’s given his last oratory, spun his last tale, he crushes you in another bear-hug then races out the door, leaving you utterly exhausted, inspired—and grateful to be alive.
Here’s a passage from Bradbury’s essay “Predicting the Past, Remembering the Future” that, for me, boils the man down to his cosmic essence:
My own belief is that the universe exists as a miracle and that we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?
We are that audience.
We are here to see and touch, describe and move. Our job, then, is to occupy ourselves with paying back the gift.
Read Bradbury. Listen to Bradbury. Unfold your soul and let his words wash over you. If you're a budding writer, he'll fill you with burning passion for your chosen field. If you're an old hand like me, he'll make you feel like a newborn, just beginning on the most miraculous path God ever created. And if you're not a writer, I suspect he'll touch and move you in surprising ways that will echo on through your heart—and through your life.
I’ll add one final thought to those I’ve reposted above: The writers that matter most to us become our dearest friends and companions. I’ve traveled the universes with my friend Ray for the majority of my life.
I will miss him dearly.
I will miss him dearly.
©copyright 2012 J.M. DeMatteis
hey J. M quite of a sad day. RIP Bradbury.ReplyDelete
Yes, Daniel, incredibly sad. I really did think that, on the strength of his joy for living alone, the man would make to at least a hundred (and, yes, possibly forever). How blessed we are, though, to have his words to touch, astound and inspire us not just now but for generations to come.Delete
I thought he would last enough for his mind to be transposed to a computer so he would live forever. But, given the fact that he was so worried with the evil that technology can bring us, he might be much happier now chatting happily in the upper level with Asimov, Zelazny, Tolkien, C. S Lewis, Clarke and his heroes Poe, Mary Shelley, Stevenson and others.ReplyDelete
Beautifully said, Daniel. I love the image of Bradbury and those other greats gathering together, perhaps plotting out a group masterpiece.Delete
I haven't read as much Bradbury as I feel I should have. Thanks for making such an eloquent and impassioned case. I'm buying Dandelion Wine right....now.ReplyDelete
Hope you enjoy it, Simon. I'd also recommend a massive collection called, simply enough, THE STORIES OF RAY BRADBURY. It brings together many, if not most, of his greatest short stories and it's the kind of book you can get lost in for a very long time.Delete
Very nice. I feel the same way about Ray and his writings. The word wonder is always the first word I associate with him.ReplyDelete
You're right, Tom: wonder is the word. Bradbury had the ability to look at the world around us as if he was seeing it for the first time...and we saw it that way along with him, drinking in the magic and miracles hidden just beneath the skin of the world.ReplyDelete
I hope that Ray B is experiencing a new kind of wonder as his soul sails across the universe. If only he could write about his journey and send the manuscript back to us.
Very nice piece. It is so rare for me to be genuinely moved by the loss of a person I never so much as spoke to, but when I read about Mr. Bradbury's death Wednesday, I was surprised to realize I had tears streaming down my cheeks. It truly feels as if I've lost a member of my family.ReplyDelete
I had a very similar reaction, Waylon. The loss felt profoundly personal: yet another testament to the power of Ray Bradbury's work...and life. The good news is we wouldn't have had that reaction if his words and ideas weren't woven, deeply, into our souls; which means we'll be carrying them with us for a very long time to come.Delete
That's the truth! Trying to find some silver lining, I can be glad that all my talk of him the past few days has at least inspired a few people I know to seek out some of his work. He would appreciate that anyway, I think. Exposing more people to his work is always a good think, but I wish it hadn't taken his leaving us to get them interested.Delete
One way I've hooked people on Bradbury, Waylon, is by exposing them to the NPR radio series BRADBURY 13. If you've never heard it, you owe it to yourself to seek it out. (It's available as a download from TwilightZoneRadio.com -- among other places.) Some amazing audio adaptations of classic Bradbury stories like "Kaleidoscope" and "Dark They Were And Golden-Eyed." I've been listening to them for years and they remain some of my favorite radio dramas ever. If you're a Bradbury fan, I think you'll love the series.Delete
That sounds great! I've never heard of it, but my girlfriend is an NPR nut, so she can hook me up with it. Thanks for the recommendation!Delete
You're very welcome. Let me know what you think of the series.Delete
I've only had a chance to listen to one so far, but I quite enjoyed it. :) Thanks again for the heads-up!Delete
A pleasure, Waylon!Delete
Not having read as much as I should have of Mr. Bradbury (something I'd like to remedy at some point), even I am in awe with profound respect to what he has left to the world. Not left behind but left to the world, for his presence and works will always be with the world. Like Asimov, HG Wells, and Burroughs, Conan Doyle ... Mr. Bradbury will never truly leave us. He may have shed the mortal coil, but his soul, presence, works and influence will alway be among us. RIP R.B.ReplyDelete
Well said, A. Jaye.Delete
If you're looking to read more Bradbury, I suggest DANDELION WINE (for my money one of the greatest novels ever) and the incredible collection called THE STORIES OF RAY BRADBURY. They'll excite your imagination and fill your soul to the brim.
Noted, JM. Thanks.ReplyDelete
On a side note, read your Thor Annual. A real nice return to Marvel for me. Great art that suited the grandiose cosmic tale you weaved. I like 'Oblivion' and 'Rachel' is someone/thing I expect to see again. Galactus and the Silver Surfer have long been favourites of mine as has Thor. Though the cover promoted a fight between the two (my only pet peeve about the issue; I don't like when editors falsely promote something on the cover that never happens inside the issue--not your fault at all), I'm glad this time around they didn't fight--well played. When you think about the character/nature of Thor and S.S., they should be allies and even friends by now and not have to resort to a displays of 'who can beat who' type of fight, and that's the feeling I got here. Glad I picked the Annual up!
Very glad you enjoyed it, A. Jaye. I had a great time playing in the Cosmic Corner of the Marvel Universe and I hope I get a chance to do it again.Delete
Me, too. If you, I'll be there reading it. Oh, and if Thor comes to Canada for, say, a throw down with Wendigo or team up with Snowbird, let me know if you need any 'Canadianisms' to draw on and I'll help out in any way I can. : )ReplyDelete
Okay—you're now my official Canada Consultant!Delete
It's a deal! Bring it on!ReplyDelete
You know, it's funny, for all the times I read his tales my strongest memory is of listening to recordings of the adaptions of his work done for sci-fi radio programs. It seems almost fitting doesn't it, you know nostalgia meeting the future and all.ReplyDelete
But wow, he wasn't my favorite author or author of science fiction (both those slot go to PKD) but he was a stand by. I always knew a Bradbury story would be enjoyable, and any, I mean any discussion of the genre comes to him in some way. And he was the last great of science fiction too. The Gods of the genre are sadly now all gone. I did honestly enjoy is work, what sci-fi fan didn't? The world is sadder place without him,and upon hearing of his death last week I realized that just knowing he was still out there made those tales of a glorious future, a future that could be different than now for good or ill seem more plausible. As I see it, after the early days in the 20's, 30's, and 40's First came Asimov who gave it it's brain, but he was dry, so then came Bradbury who gave science fiction it's heart. (there is one more link in that thought and I will say it if requested, but not before)
The sad thing is, even though he wrote maybe every genre under the sun he will not be recognized by a large percentage of the world for the great writer he was. Because his primary subject were Science Fiction and Horror, far too many will cast him aside as sub-standard fare. And that is truly unfair, and if i may, what very likely should be a topic for this blog.
Wishing you nothing, but goodwill and hipness from here top the stars,
P.S. In what may have been either serendipitous or coincidence in scheduling the Chiller network showed the Twilight Zone episode "The Girl I Married," a story that seemed like it could have been written by Bradbury, but instead was authored by some comic writer who was slumming.
Based on the incredible coverage of his death, I think it's safe to say that many people now recognize Ray B as a true literary giant. Sure, there are folks out there who will always look and see "outer space" and "monsters" and just dismiss the work, but, happily, we live in an age where Bradbury has been accepted on a broad scale and his work embraced in a way that transcends genre.Delete
Absolutely right that Ray gave the genre its heart. And its soul. And genuine poetry. And in doing that, he (here's that phrase gain) transcended genre and created a NEW genre: Pure Bradbury.
Nice to know that old TZ episode is still being shown, Jack. Believe me: I wasn't slumming. Selling my very first TV script to an incarnation of the TWILIGHT ZONE was one of the great thrills of my life. (And, yes, I know you were kidding with the slumming remark!)
In the end, as anry as I may be for those people who don't see the greatness of Bradbury (or any other of those ilk) really, after all is said and done, I just feel sorry for them for closing themselves off to such pleasures. But I always thought PKD gave the genre it's soul, but that could just be a difference th two of see in the phrasing of soul and the distinction between it and the medaphorical heart. But hey Bradybury gave it a lot, and came before Dick, and I (and I would assume Dick) would never want to tak anything away from him.Delete
Wishing you nothing, but goodwill and hipness from here top the stars,
P.S. I left some thoughts on under two other posts, typically I don't mind doing the old mix and match... but in this case I thought it best to keep it on topic.
Speaking of Bradbury on radio: Are you familiar with the publc radio series, done back in the 80's, called BRADBURY 13? I've heard many audio adaptations of Ray B's work, but this stuff is so good it's off-the-charts. If you haven't heard it, you owe it to yourself to check it out.Delete
One place you can download the series is twilightzoneradio.com. Enjoy!
I see what you mean about PKD and soul, Jack. Maybe I'd say Dick gave SF its Cosmic Consciousness. But why quibble when we're talking about two of the most amazing writers of the past century, right?Delete
Hey I'm with you on not quibbling, great is great, and those two were great. But, I must admit, I thinka discussion of meaning behind the metaphorical giving of soul could be fun. I'm... intrigued.Delete
And I will check out those radio recordings, but to be fair those 50's ones were pretty reverant.
Wishing you nothing, but goodwill and hipness from here to the stars
If you loved those great 50's shows, Jack, you're going to really enjoy BRADBURY 13. Their adaptation of "Kaleidoscope" is one of my all-time favorite radio dramas. Perfection!Delete
Hey J.M, I am a member of the Brazilian Association of readers of science fiction, fantasy and fantastic literature: http://clfc.com.br/. The association publishes from time to time a free electronic fanzine called Somnium ( it used to be printed in the past now it is easier to make a pdf ). They asked me to write a few words to play a homage to Ray. I actually wrote my text and send it, and I plan to share with you whenever it is published, of course if you don't mind my Tarzan English translation :-) Anyway, would you be willing to contribute with anything to it ? It would be a honor us. We cannot pay anything though. Mostly everything is made for love for the genre. I understand if you could not be part of course, I just could not avoid asking you. Thanks a ton! ps: I told you had not liked Blood, but I am looking for it like crazy now. I think as I am older now I may enjoy it a lot! DanielReplyDelete
Feel free to use this piece in its entirety...as long as you say it originally appeared on my website (with the site address) and that the article is ©copyright 2012 J.M. DeMatteis. Sound good?Delete
YEAH! Many thanks man! You are the man!ReplyDelete
You're very welcome, Daniel!Delete