(Photo: AP Photo)
Ray Bradbury, a hero of science fiction literature, passed away on June 5th, 2012.
Author of books including The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and the ever timely Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury created lush worlds that feel eerily familiar and not so far away when imbued with his deft touch. Fellow science fiction author, Neil Gaiman, wrote in a blog entry remembering Bradbury and noted that he “was not ahead of his time. He was perfectly of his time, and more than that: he created his time and left his mark on the time that followed.” Though at times criticized by hard science fiction authors for his lack of concern for scientific fact in his stories, Bradbury was able to transport the reader unlike any genre author before him, immersing them in the sands of Mars, the yellow filtered light of the country in the fall before a carnival creeps into town, and the quiet, dystopian mania of a world filled with buzzing ear inserts and wall sized televisions (which resonate all too easily with our current technology today).
Bradbury did not attend college and instead heavily educated himself in troves of books he found in libraries. He continued to support and advocate for public libraries throughout his life, and would take the time to tell any aspiring young writer about the importance of reading and writing with unfailing dedication every day.
Contemporary writers often cite Bradbury as a heavy influence, whether they read his work as a child or discovered it later in life. Junot Díaz, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, wrote about how Bradbury helped shape him as a writer in a moving piece for The New Yorker. In the article, he describes discovering the short story All Summer in a Day for the first time while hidden amongst the stacks of the library:
“In the back of the Madison Park library I read that story and cried my little eyes out. I had never been moved like that by any piece of art. I had never known what I’d been experiencing as an immigrant, never had language for it until I read that story. In a few short pages, Bradbury gave me back to myself.”
Read All Summer in a Day here and see where it takes you.
As Neil Gaiman noted in his writing about Bradbury, it was more than the vast landscapes Bradbury seemed to effortlessly weave into the literary canon, it was who the man was as a person. A friend, a teacher, and a true person of passion for his craft, he was able to hold a mirror up to the darkest parts of our society while still offering odd little glimmers of hope.
Many sources have reiterated the Bradbury quote I will end this post on, because it highlights that the creator of such fantastical settings was also very human.
“Looking back over a lifetime, you see that love was the answer to everything.” – Ray Bradbury