Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ray Bradbury (1920-2012)

By way of a tribute to the late Ray Bradbury, I can describe his effect on me as a reader. I remember exactly where and when I was when I encountered his collection The Illustrated Man (1951). I was 11-years-old, living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for a few months with my family. It was summer: warm, humid, and tropical. The first story I read was "The Veldt" in which young children experience the wilds of the African veldt. It was unforgettable, as were several of the other stories in the collection. It was some of the first science fiction I had ever read.

His story titles were breathtaking: "The Million-Year Picnic," "-- And the Moon be Still as Bright," and "There Will Come Soft Rains."

Within a few years I had read The Martian Chronicles (1950), The October Country (1955), Dandelion Wine (1957), and Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) . Curiously only the last one is actually a novel, the others are collections, or in the case of The Martian Chronicles and Dandelion Wine, what are pejoratively called fix-up novels, made up of previously published stories that may or may not have been originally intended to fit together. The kinder term is story-suite and Bradbury created two of the best examples of the form. The Martian Chronicles was produced at a time when very few science fiction novels were being published in book form, the flip-side of today's publishing marketplace where the magazines are few and books (and ebooks) proliferate.

These books solidified Bradbury's place in my pantheon of great genre authors. In the 1960s, before the New Wave, there was no mystery who the major science fiction authors were: Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, and Heinlein. Of these four men, Bradbury had the most range, across fantasy, science fiction and horror, and across a wider emotional register. His prose had the most poetry.

I've read a few of his books since then. Not too many. His work belongs to a certain time and place for me.

Links in honor of Bradbury's passing:
Locus Online has a collection of Bradbury links in its Blinks section.
Locus Roundtable has a good discussion of Bradbury's work and influence.
LA Review of Books: The Bradbury Era by F. X. Feeney
LA Review of Books: Fairy Tales about the Modern World by Jonathan R. Eller, Neil Gaiman, Robin Anne Reid and William F. Touponce
LA Review of Books: Nightmarish Glimpses of Our Inner Selves by Brian Attebery, John Clute, Rob Latham and Gary K. Wolfe


  1. LARB is doing lots of science fiction. How cool is that?

  2. LARB really has been doing a fine job. Long, thoughtful articles about some of the best new science fiction and fantasy books. I suppose I'll have to devote a blog post about it.