How many readers of science fiction or fantasy can attribute their interest in these genres to Ray Bradbury? I am certainly among that group, and I mourn Bradbury’s passing as much for the loss of a writer so influential to my reading ecology as for the loss of new works that he might have written.
I had just read Bradbury’s essay “Take Me Home” in the June 4 & 11, 2012 issue of the New Yorker when I heard about his death on June 5th at the age of 91. As always, Bradbury’s essay was clear, concise, and poignant. The magazine was the NewYorker’s science fiction issue, and Bradbury was thinking back to his early interest in space and in science fiction writing. It is a short piece, but in it he captures the excitement of first coming across a book or story that speaks to your condition as well as moving easily and seamlessly from the personal to the universal. These are the strengths of all of Bradbury’s writing.
He was equally at home writing fantasy, science fiction, and literary fiction, and adept at both novels and short stories. In all of these genres and styles, it is the characters that continually come back to my mind. Whether they are young or old, good or bad, Bradbury’s characters are searchers for the joy in life. Sometimes they are seeking futilely and often the are looking in the wrong place, but they are usually striving for some happiness or some understanding of their place in the community and in the universe.
Bradbury clearly understood human nature in its mixture of light and dark, of good and evil. His novels and short stories often have a sense of the uncanny or eerie about them, and there is frequently a palpable feeling of loss. Characters grow up, make decisions that take them in unexpected directions, and come to realize that the offer of happiness or your supposed heart’s desire comes with a steep price. I will return again and again to Something Wicked This Way Comes, to short stories like “The Illustrated Man” and “The Fire Balloons,” and Fahrenheit 451, for the lovely prose, the memorable characters, and the sense of hope that they offer.
Check the catalog for Ray Bradbury’s writings