I don’t like days like today, days when I turn on the computer and learn that one of the icons of science fiction has died. Science Fiction losing Ray Bradbury is like football losing Bart Starr, or baseball losing Stan Musial. It’s like Hollywood losing Clint Eastwood, or rock and roll losing Paul McCartney. He was that big.
These things happen to us all, and you can’t helped but be touched. I wasn’t as huge a Bradbury fan as others. My affection for him is different than that. I read his stories in my Language Arts book as an elementary student back in Waukesha, WI. At that age, I had assumed anyone published in a textbook must be dead. I thought Bradbury was a contemporary of Mark Twain. When I heard the man was still alive, I thought it was cool, and I wanted to meet him. I never did.
I did read his book Zen in the Art of Writing, and while I didn’t have any epiphanies about craft from this book, I found it to be one of the most inspirational books about writing I have ever read. It got me over a difficult time in my writing career, and when I finished it, I wrote him a letter and told him how much it impacted me on a fundamental level. I wish he had answered the letter.
I did read some Bradbury from time to time, though. His work had a distinctive elegance that can’t be duplicated, though I’m sure many have tried. When the literary fiction crowd claims a speculative fiction writer as one of their own, you know the talent is both wide and deep, and Bradbury’s was among the widest and deepest talents speculative fiction has ever produced.
We lost an icon today, but he did the work during his lifetime to ensure he will not be forgotten. I wish I could have had the privilege of meeting him.