Wednesday, August 22, 2018


Today is Ray Bradbury's birthday.  I’ve written about this extraordinary writer—this extraordinary man—many times over the years and, as a birthday tribute, here's a tapestry of selected passages from previous posts.  


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. 

Happy birthday, Ray.  I still treasure your friendship and always will.


  1. Dandelion Wine is one of my favorite books.

    1. It's so beautiful and magical and...well, so BRADBURY. I adore it.

  2. What is often forgotten about Bradbury, and often not mentioned, is that he was one of the people responsible for Sci-Fi becoming more accepted.

    If I remember correctly, in the 50s, he was one if the first science fiction writers to get science fiction published in non science fiction magazines.

    Without that step, who knows what popular science fiction works wouldn't have been risked. Who knows how many sci-fi fans would never have been.

    Also, he wrote stories for E.C. Comics, and the intro for Superman #400.

    He was also one of the O.G.s of nerd cultures. Waaaaaaaaaaay before it was anything even close to cool.

    I always loved that there were at least two Bradbury's when it came to authorship.

    1. The the nostalgic optimistic dreaming of better worlds that were and would be
    2. The grizzled cynic with a nightmare vision of how terrible mankind would sink and or suffer by their own ignorance.

    Also, he brought a certain banality to science fiction. I don't mean that in a bad way. He actually thought about what the common man would be like in fantastic situations.

    It was pretty important. The worlds seemed more plausible. And there for more wondrous or terrifying by the contrast.

    science fiction:
    -Asimov gave it its brain
    -Bradbury its heart
    -PKD its soul


    1. You're absolutely right about that, Jack. Ray B brought a respectability to science fiction that it simply didn't have before he entered the field.

      I don't think it was a "grizzled cynic" that wrote those "nightmare visions." I think they were cautionary tales crafted by the optimistic dreamer in hopes of changing people's hearts and minds.

      Brain, heart and soul. I like that! I can see a new science fiction version of THE WIZARD OF OZ with Asimov as the scarecrow, Bradbury as the Tin Man and PKD as the Lion!

    2. Well, bringing Sci-Fi back to the mainstream. If I remember correctly Jules Verne and H.G. Wells sold well back in the day.

      The 20th century just sort of derailed it.... for some reason.

      And, Bradbury bringing it into the public consciousness is even more impressive than you may realize.

      They did a study a few years ago, where they wrote two stories that were almost identical... except one had science fiction elements, and the other did not.

      They then presented it to people who didn't read genre fiction, and in large numbers they didn't read the sci-fi one as deeply.

      Getting a large audience to accept nerd stuff as legitimate for even a second is a herculean effort. Bradbury being one of the first to cross that line really says something about him.

      Now, perhaps I see a cynic because I am one. Perhaps you don't because you are an optimist. Maybe he was bipolar and swung to the extremes. Maybe he just wanted to maximize revenue so he sung to both.

      However, no nightmare visions" He has a story where a guy slits his family's throats ear to ear, because he wanted some quite and to see them smile, and then continued to live with them.

      He had a story (adapted by E.C. Comics) where kids killed another kid by pushing him on a live wire, for stealing a young girl's doll.

      That seems a tad nightmare to me. Of course I don't have kids. Maybe that is just what they do.

      Two more disconnected thoughts about Bradbury...

      1. The story I always think of first when I think of Bradbury is "Zero Hour." I discovered it forst as a teenager, and it has always stood out to me.

      2. After you wrote this, I pulled out my copy of Bradbury's greatest 1000 stories (or whatever the tile is), I wish you had written this earlier. Bradbury OWNS the lazy summer afternoon. Try and write about him around June next year.
      WAit, wait, wait...

      This Wizard of Oz with Sci-fi writers, PKD and having courage seems... odd.

      Interesting fact, Bradbury once said that when he med PKD, he didn't seem like he liked being alive. Sad thing is... I don't know how wrong he was. Especially since, given the timeline Bradbury gave, I think it was about the time his wife (well one of them) moved across the country with his son... and didn't tell him whrere.

      But, to be fair, Dick said about Bradbury... that he is the one that brought a literary quality to science fiction.

      I will say, getting married THAT many times, that takes some serious courage.

      Finally, enjoy:


    3. Bradbury once said something about his early years being about...and I'm paraphrasing...exorcising his nightmares and then, as he got older, moving from the dark attic of his imagination out into the sunlight of the front lawn.

      Yes, he could do the Dark as well as anyone but his overwhelming qualites were a huge heart and the most magnificent sense of wonder. His esays really bring this out.

      And he met PKD? I didn't know that.

    4. That's nothing. Harlan Ellison published PKD... and said he was charming and likable.

      However, if you notice, I said there were two sides to Bradbury.

      I once heard that if you scratch the surface if a cynic you find someone who wants to believe more than anyone.

      I have always observed that if you scratched the surface of an optimist, you find someone who won't acknowledge a war of doubts.

      Maybe Bradbury was just both sides of that combined into one. Making him the most rare creature of all... a well rounded and fully realized human being.

      That paraphrasing did make me think though. You often hear stories of guys like Boris Karloff and Bela LEgosi doing things for kids charities (KArloff dressed like Santa for a children's hospital) and being teh nicest people off screen,

      You hear similar stories of those known for playing bad guys and monsters. I have always theorized that playing the villain allows them to exercise the negativity away. You know, work through it for a paycheck

      One thought on Bradbury, as talented as he was. as great of a writer. As much as I can ALWAYS appreciate that. When ever he dug into that "magic of childhood" stuff, I always lose interest.

      It isn't just him, it is also with other things. It is why I am not a fan of Goonies. Which was by Steven Spielberg... who I guess is his cinematic equivalent.

      QUICKLY, get Spielberg on a (new) adaption of Martian chronicles and a Bradbury anthology. Stat!


    5. Spielberg and Bradbury seem a great, natural match, Jack.

      We all have dichotomies in our souls, that's what makes us human and interesting. Someone coined a phrase about John Lennon once, calling him a "cynical idealist" and I think that's true o a lot of us. Just because our world view fully embraces the light doesn't mean we're not intimately familiar with the dark, if you know what I mean.

      I get your problem with the "magic of childhood." For me, it depends on what aspects of my childhood I look at. Some of it really was magic; some of it was...well, let's just say far less than that.

    6. I did a quick search, and apparently Spielberg WAS a noted fan of Bradbury, calling him his muse.

      He does do more producing than directing these days. Perhaps it is time to resurrect Ray Bradbury Theater, for streaming, with you know who in charge.

      I know better than to comment on John Lennon and the type of cr... things that often came out of his mouth when he wasn't singing. It will only end poorly.

      Still, no dichotomy here. Just cold, darkness and bizarre anger. My circulatory system is just a lump of coal pushing ice water through my veins.

      As for the "magic of childhood," all I'll say is I don't think it is a incidence that in the 80s and90s when guys like Spielberg were pushing that idea, Stephen King became the best selling author.

      I liked to delve into childhood, but not in so pleasant a way.

      It was a natural balancing act.


    7. Spielberg's always done lots of producing on the side. He's still got a thriving directing career.