Whenever I heard people talk about Ray Bradbury after that my first thought was always: “But you don’t know him like I do…” I eventually would have to admit to myself that I didn’t know him either, except through those interviews and his stories. But I suspect that was a pretty good introduction to the man.
When I was around nine or ten, just after I’d read The Hobbit but before I’d started in on The Lord of the Rings, somehow or other I came across an old beaten up paperback collection of some of Ray Bradbury’s short stories. There was no going back after that.
I can’t recall which collection it was; I ended up with a lot of them. S is for Space. R is for Rocket. The Illustrated Man and Other Stories. Any time I passed a used bookstore I popped in to see what Ray Bradbury collections they might have, and I’d thumb through to see whether it had any stories by him that I hadn’t read yet.
What struck me about his stories were how weird they were. Weird as in Weird Tales weird. Weird as in uncanny, unsettling. Weird in the best way. I still remember reading his “Golden Apples of the Sun.” His story “The Dragon” is still amongst my all-time favorite short stories.
I felt a personal connection to him thanks to the old TVOntario show Prisoners of Gravity (what my brother called “that weird space show”—weird in a bad way, he meant). Growing up not really knowing anyone else who was into the same geeky sci-fi stuff that I was (and knowing plenty of people who were actively hostile to my interest in such things), PoG was my lifeline to the bigger world of all things SF. It let me know that there were people like me out there, somewhere, and one of them was Ray Bradbury.
PoG spent a lot of time interviewing Bradbury for their various themed episodes, but they also did a two episode feature interview with him. He talked about his childhood, his writing, his extraordinary claim to remember every moment of his life (including his circumcision!) He was like a kindly grandfather figure, but one who was into all the same cool stuff that I was.
The obituary from the Associated Press highlighted that even into his 90s Bradbury was in the basement of his home in the Cheviot Hills district of Los Angeles, every day, writing. He turned out new novels, plays, screenplays and a volume of poetry.
I hope I can say the same when I’m that age.
I never met the man, but I’ll miss him.
Thanks for the stories, Mr. Bradbury.