Thank you, Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury is dead. He was 91.

If you’ve ever written a word of science fiction or fantasy, you owe Bradbury a debt. My first encounter with his work, like most people, was Fahrenheit 451 in school. The book was good, and I understand why it was taught in high school, but it was far from his best work. I moved on to the Martian Chronicles, to Dandelion Wine and The Illustrated Man.

And then I found his greatest novel: Something Wicked This Way Comes.

How could you NOT pick up a book with that title? I mean, seriously. I’m not going to rehash the book–I couldn’t do it justice if I tried–but I’ll just say that it is incredible, and you should read it if you haven’t. It’s everything a novel should be, and nothing it shouldn’t.

At best, Bradbury wrote soft sci-fi. He told you there were rockets, but not how they were built. We had Asimov for that. What you got instead with Bradbury was somehow better, purer. Bradbury gave you a feeling. He reminded you of how it was to be a little boy, with the whole wide world open and magical before you. He made you remember, and the memories he painted in your brain were better than your actual memories of childhood.

You’d read Bradbury and think, “Was this really the way it was?” and your heart would tell you, “Of course it was!” while your brain would tell you “If it wasn’t, it should have been.”

And then there were the chills the man could instill. You’d go along thinking that here was a kindly old man painting the world with these beautiful word pictures, and then his mask would slip–and something grim would peek out at you. Timed perfectly, it could make your skin crawl with gooseflesh.

Ray Bradbury was a gift to the world. One of our great literary lights has finally been dimmed, and this entire plane of existence is sadder and cheaper for it.

There’s so much I can’t forget. That tattooed (Illustrated, even) man, that Marvelous Ice Cream Suit. And of course, like so many others, I know that Mars is Heaven.

Thank you, Ray Bradbury. Rest in peace.

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