Jason Sturgis is a freelance writer and an avid Sci-Fi and comic book fan. Ray Bradbury is his favorite writer.
by Jason Strangis
I thought Ray Bradbury was going live forever. I really did!
So imagine my surprise when I heard that one of the all-time greats of the literary field died on June 5, 2012, at a mere 91 years of age. Well, if the incomparable Ray Bradbury wasn’t going to live forever, I thought he would at least make it to 100.
Alas, no person can escape death, not even the legends.
It’s been more than a year now since Bradbury’s passing and I still can’t believe it.
But I shouldn’t be too sad. None of us in the literary community should be. After all, Bradbury lived a long, rich, full, and incredibly rewarding life with no regrets. He always believed that he never worked a day in his life because he did what he loved most.
“Stuff your eyes with wonder,” Bradbury once stated in one of his novels. “See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream…”
The legacy Bradbury leaves behind is nearly unmatched among the great writers of all time. Immortality is reserved for a select few in their chosen field. In the literary world there’s Shakespeare, Shelley, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Poe among others. Include to that list Ray Bradbury.
Fortunately, we still have Bradbury’s sensational short stories and classic novels such as The Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and perhaps his most acclaimed masterpiece, Fahrenheit 451.
A cautionary tale where books are outlawed and burned in a futuristic totalitarian state, Fahrenheit 451 is perhaps Bradbury’s most personal and strongly felt novel. Self-educated in libraries (for he did not go to college), Bradbury wanted to make sure his beloved books would be safe from censorship and perhaps even worse – banning.
“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture,” Bradbury once said. “Just get people to stop reading them.”
I can’t help but wonder what Bradbury must have thought about the uprising of video games and reality TV. Of course I know the answer. Forever the rebel and anti-conformist, Bradbury would rage against anything (even the Kindle) that takes the place of good old-fashioned, beautiful books.
Perhaps he saw a change coming and tried to warn us all. In “Fahrenheit 451” – first published in 1953 – huge wall-screen television sets are in every house, much like the big-screen Hi-Def sets of today. Since books are no longer read, TV passes as the main form of entertainment. No one seems to talk about anything of depth or importance, paralleling the often shallow and superficial world we live in today.
Bradbury always favored feelings and emotions over logic. It’s what made him such a superb writer.
“If we listened to our intellect we’d never have a love affair,” he once said. “We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business because we’d be cynical: ‘It’s gonna go wrong. Or, ‘she’s going to hurt me.’ Or, ‘I’ve had a couple bad love affairs so therefore…’ Well, that’s nonsense.”
Or to quote from another romantic, the fictional English literature professor John Keating in the touching movie Dead Poets Society: “Poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”
Bradbury, romantic writer that he was, always made you feel something deep in your heart and soul when you absorbed his wonderful words. This was especially true in the wistfully nostalgic Dandelion Wine, or in many of his brilliant short stories such as “A Story of Love,” “Pillar of Fire,” and my personal favorite, “The Pedestrian.”
Many have mistaken Bradbury as strictly a splendid science fiction and fantasy author, but that would be doing him a great disservice. In truth, he could delve into any genre but often favored the imaginative world of fantastic fiction.
His stories have a unique lyrical, poetic, sentimental touch that you know is unmistakably a Ray Bradbury story.
I first picked up The Martian Chronicles in high school and from then on I was hooked. Quite simply, I had to read anything and everything from this master of fantastic fiction.
Many years later I finally got the chance to meet Bradbury when he was a main speaker at the 2004 San Diego Comic-Con, the biggest pop-culture event in the United States. The speech Bradbury gave to thousands of his most devoted fans – including myself – was something I’ll never forget.
(I later wrote an article on this life-altering experience and gave it to Bradbury the next year; amazingly he contacted me soon afterward and thanked me personally for my story. I still haven’t quite come down from Cloud Nine yet).
During his speech Bradbury told a spellbinding story of when he was a kid and his love of carnivals and seeing a performer named Mr. Electrico, who sparked life into the young Bradbury at the time by boldly proclaiming him to “LIVE FOREVER!”
Which is why, I suppose, I really felt Ray Bradbury wouldn’t, couldn’t ever die.
But even though he sadly and somewhat shockingly passed away in 2012, his remarkable stories of suspense and space and sentiment will always be with us. As long as we still have books.
So in a way, Ray Bradbury truly is immortal.