by Larry Brody
Just about everyone on the web has reported on the death of s-f author Ray Bradbury today. Obits, retrospectives, contemplative determinations of his place in literature abound.
And rightly so.
I’m weighing in because even though TVWriter™ isn’t a science fiction site, I began my career as a science fiction writer (well, after the poetry – because I got 2 cents a line for poetry but a gigantic 2 cents a word for science fiction). And I wouldn’t have been any kind of writer, or possibly even alive, if Bradbury hadn’t written The Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine, and Something Wicked This Way Comes.
My mopey, oppressed, mostly miserable self read all three of these works while I was in my early teens. The poetry of them kept me from attempting even one of the hundreds of forms of suicide I would come up with when contemplating what I thought of as the hell of struggling through high school and into adult life.
That’s right, the poetry. Not the stories. Not the concepts. Not the ideals. Not the philosophy. The simple fact that some guy the same age as my Ignorant Oppressor Parents knew and felt words so well that he could sing them right into my soul is what made me decide life could be wonderful, and that I wanted to sing about that wonder to others.
Ray Bradbury convinced me to become a writer.
When I was 16, I stopped reading Bradbury. Too simplistic. Too much in love with the past. Complex me was way too busy running headlong into the future by then.
I did meet him once, though, in the mid or late ’70s, which is approximately the time of the picture above. He was practiced at the meeting fans thing but not particularly involved in it. Maybe it was me. Maybe it was the person who introduced us, a young woman whose name I don’t remember who owned a science fiction and fantasy bookstore in Santa Monica.
What I do remember is that said Bookstore Owner had a way of exposing her cleavage without ever seeming to try, and that her cleavage revealed a wonderful tattoo above one breast. And that she smiled at me as I fixed my eyes on it (the tattoo, I think, although it could’ve been the breast), and said, “You’re as freaky as the rest of us, Lar,” with so much approval that I knew any sins I had or ever would have were forever absolved.
Now that I revisit the scene, I realize that Bradbury too was caught up in the Bookstore Owner’s sainted cleavage, which probably was why he couldn’t even think about putting much oomph into the the desultory handshake that marked our intro.
Over the years, I’ve discovered that many of my writer friends knew Bradbury to one degree or another. I was surprised to learn that most of them, while praising the man and his work in public, considered him “stuffy, “pompous,” or “irrelevant” when we discussed him privately. Which upset me since I didn’t want him to be any of those things. I wanted him to be nothing less than Huge, a Behemoth Striding the Earth, because, after all, hadn’t he saved me?
My advice to those of you who want to know more about who/what this legendary figure was, is wait till Harlan Ellison weighs in. Harlan and I were close once, very close. In fact, he’s the one who brought me into that Santa Monica bookstore. And as far as I’m concerned, his assessments of other human beings are, almost always, spot on.
Meanwhile, FWIW, to me Bradbury was more than merely Ray Bradbury. He was Fucking Ray Fucking Bradbury.
And that’s a lot to say.