“Mars is unbearably far away today.”
- on hearing of Ray Bradbury’s death
Ray Bradbury passed into eternity on June 5. He was 91 years old,
one of the most accomplished writers of all time, and continued to
write every day of his life, finding a constant joy in putting his
imagination into words for others to enjoy. If envy were one of my
otherwise numerous character flaws, I would envy him writing every
day into his 90s far more than his well-deserved success.
I have no “close encounter” stories to share about Bradbury. I met
and spoke to him once at a convention. It wasn’t a long chat. I
told him how much I loved his work, probably mentioned a few of my
favorite Bradbury stories, and he graciously thanked me as if he’d
not heard the same from hundreds of thousands of readers who loved
him and his words.
I discovered Bradbury in the small library of Sts. Philip and James
elementary school, which I attended from grades 1-8. I had already
read all the Isaac Asimov books, fiction and non-fiction, and The
Martian Chronicles called to me. I read other science-fiction as
well, but no other authors ever excited me as Asimov and Bradbury
did. I soon learned Bradbury didn’t always write science fiction.
Whatever he wrote that I could get my hands on, I read.
Some years later, on one of my countless visits to Kay’s Books in
downtown Cleveland, I scored used copies of The Autumn People and
Tomorrow Midnight. These were paperback reprints of the Bradbury
stories adapted by EC Comics in the 1950s. Seeing stories by one
of my favorite authors in my favorite storytelling medium was like
Christmas in summer.
Sometimes we make connections in our brains without realizing that
we’ve done so until they explode into our conscious thought with a
sound of thunder. I love the work of many writers, but only two of
them taught me the nobility of being a writer. One of those is my
longtime friend Harlan Ellison, whose Dangerous Visions anthologies
got me through my first winter in New York City. The other is Ray
Bradbury. When times get tough, as they do for a writer of my age
in the comics field, I think of Harlan and Ray and the honor they
have brought to being a writer. I’ve left the Catholic Church far
behind, but I always think of them as the patron saints of writers.
It’s been too long since I’ve read my Bradbury on a steady basis.
Like much of my personal library, those books are in deep storage.
But I’ll find them soon...and read them with joy...and once again
experience a Christmas in summer.
Thank you, Mr. Bradbury. Thank you.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2012 Tony Isabella