Regardless if you read him or not, Mr. Bradbury affected any and all of us who have read a single fantasy or science fiction novel in the last seven decades. The man is responsible for classics that will live on forever. Dandelion Wine. The Illustrated Man. Fahrenheit 451. And so many short stories I won’t even try to share my favorites. For many writers currently working, those classics were seeds that, once read, buried deep into burgeoning talent and grew into inspiration that has rippled through the genre’s history—and will continue to do so for a very long time.
Now that a few days have passed and I’m able to fully comprehend the loss without the initial grief of a reader lamenting the passing of one of his literary heroes, I want to say a few words.
When I met him at Comic Con years ago, I was struck by how humble and well spoken he was. He was surrounded by adoring fans but it was apparent it never went to his head like some writers. I called him Mr. Bradbury despite being introduced as Ray. He seemed to take great humor in my using his last name, especially when I said it repeatedly. In my mind, he deserved the formal respect. Especially given how he has influenced my own writing.
Today, artist Todd Lockwood forwarded on a Ray Bradbury quote from DAW Books editor Betsy Wollheim. I think it speaks eloquently about Mr. Bradbury and the craft of writing in general and where ideas come from:
“Any owner of cats will know of what I speak. Cats come at dawn to sit on your bed. They may not nip your nose or inhale your breath or make a sound. They simply sit there and stare at you until you open one eyelid and spy them there about to drop dead for need of feeding. So it is with ideas. They come silently in the hour of trying to wake up and remember my name. The notions and fancies sit on the edge of my wits, whisper in my ears and then, if I don’t rouse, give more than cats give: a good knock in the head, which gets me out and down to my typewriter before the ideas flee or die or both. In any event, I make the ideas come to me. I do not go to them. I provoke their patience by pretending disregard. This infuriates the latent creature until it is almost raving to be born and once born, nourished.” — Ray Bradbury
Mr. Bradbury, you had such a way with words. Such a creative analogy but what gives it power is its truth. Like most of your writing, it contains more truth than many can handle. And even now, it makes me lament your loss all the more. The advice you gave in that quote should at least be considered by every writer—and used by many of them. I would know. I’m one of them.
I’ve seen a number of people post about this legend’s passing. I have one thing to say:
Mr. Bradbury, your books will burn bright for centuries to come.
“It was a pleasure to burn.”