Ray Bradbury: The Man Who Illustrated Our Imaginations

This week at the Book Expo America, I had a lunch meeting with my publicity team from Kensington Books to go over all the plans for Death Warmed Over.  I got to the restaurant a little early, took a seat at the table, checked my email on the phone.  Just as my friends walked through the door, I got a message forwarded from my brother-in-law Tim:

Ray Bradbury, Master of Science Fiction, Dies at 91

Ray Bradbury…very few other writers have ever influenced me as much as he did. When I was in high school I went through book after book of his stories—The Golden Apples of the Sun, R Is for Rocket, S Is for Space, The October Country, Dandelion Wine, and then of course The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles.  Idea after idea after idea, from pulp science fiction to creepy dark fantasy, to nostalgia.

Even  now, I can’t convey how much those stories touched me, “The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl,” “I Sing the Body Electric,” “The Veldt,” and two of the greatest science fiction short stories ever written, “The Foghorn” and “A Sound of Thunder.”  And Fahrenheit 451—an astonishing classic written in little more than *a week* on a pay-typewriter at UCLA, where Bradbury plunked a dime an hour into the machine and wrote furiously.  And Something Wicked This Way Comes…the definitive dark fantasy novel, as far as I’m concerned.  That creepy carnival coming to town…just in the past few months I’ve put major Bradbury-homage fantastic carnivals in both Clockwork Angels: The Novel, Dan Shamble #3 Hair Raising, and the original Dan Shamble short story “Stakeout at the Vampire Circus.”

I read all those stories—every one, book after book—in high school, and they inspired me so much. I wrote my own stories, dozens of them, submitted them to magazines, got rejected, wrote more, submitted more, eventually got a few published. And then I found in my public library’s new books-on-tape section, a collection of Ray Bradbury short stories read by the author himself.  I checked it out immediately and played them in my car cassette deck for weeks, listening to Ray Bradbury read his stories to me. It was amazing, and even after many years I realized how much those stories had made an impact, and that many of my own stories were taken from those great works.

I only had the chance to meet Ray Bradbury once. A friend introduced me to him, and I pumped his hand, and said “Thank you so much! I’ve stolen some of my best ideas from you.”  He let out his jovial laugh (he had a wonderful laugh) and said he would forego his share of the royalties.

What a tremendous writer, and the science fiction world, as well as the whole literary world, will sorely miss him.