Yesterday, Ray Bradbury died. I had spent the morning remaking one of my old short stories, and later saw the news on Neil Gaiman's blog feed. As soon as I saw Bradbury's name in the header, I knew what had happened. I sat there numb for a few moments, before seeing what other sites had to say. Their memories were all fond, coming from various eras and locations, but all full of reverence.
My earliest Bradbury memory was reading Fahrenheit 451 in high school, which I had taken out by special request from our classic lit mini-library because the main library didn't have it. I didn't, and still don't, share Bradbury's distaste for new technologies and the way they eroded reading, something Bradbury would later claim was the main narrative thrust of the novel. I can't see this as the main focus over the book-burning and censorship analogy, but the distaste for technological entertainment is still there.
I was disturbed anyway, by the idea of the loss of so many books, the active destruction and even that only the "great" books would survive, since there were only so many to memorize them. Some always wish for a world in which only the greatest art is always produced, but in truth, we need the bad and the mediocre to help define greatness, not to mention value is often not connected to quality.
Since that day, I read more and more Bradbury, needing no encouragement. There was never any shortage of novels and short story collections at the library and used bookstores. I loved them. I loved his tremendous imagination, his breadth of genre, his eternally distinct voice, the prose that was so evocative--with a few simple words you could feel something exactly, and it seemed to tap-dance across the page.
The Martian Chronicles is my favourite of his works, its creativity and emotional engagement outshining the fact that it's from a bygone era of solar system interpretation. The Mars of Bradbury's imagination never existed, but we like to visit it.
A voice in the back of my head reminds me that this reverence may seem odd, when Ray Bradbury's work is also steeped in boyish Americana, and a nostalgia for a time that may never have existed, or only existed in a child's mind. I have never been male or American, and I'm not a reactionary, but somehow I still "got it", even if he never intended me to.
From reading his non-fiction, I also get the impression that Bradbury was one of those men who saw women as serene beings, "complete" onto themselves and concerned only with the practical business of daily life, while men were creatures of dreaming and imagination, deprecatingly viewed as not "whole" when compared to women, but nonetheless responsible for every fantastical desire. It's a view I can never totally forgive Bradbury for, but my interest in him remains.
If anyone has ever wondered why I post so sporadically, it's because I want to be a fiction writer, and am currently trying to bring several short stories and novels up to par so that I can start. Ray Bradbury was one of my literary inspirations, and I wish that I could have had the chance to meet him. He was not everything I wanted to be, but he was many of those things, with his skillful writing, his extreme earnestness, and love of dinosaurs and the written word.