Today I've been reading a multitude of thoughts and memories about the great and recently passed Ray Bradbury. So many great writers and film makers sharing how the gifts of this man's colossal imagination helped to shape their futures. Of course, he created futures and fantasies on the page, yet the power of this singular voice spoke like an oracle to the minds of those whose creative gardens we enjoy today.
Of my own influences, Bradbury resonates louder than that famous foghorn.
I discovered Bradbury relatively late. "There Will Come Soft Rains" was the first story of his I read; it was in my high school sophomore literature book. I found that apocalyptic masterpiece beautiful and eloquent and absolutely chilling. It's a ghost story, it's a work about absence and death and promises our damnation if we don't remember it.
Since elementary school, I had always been a strong writer. My teachers often read what I wrote aloud. I loved words and making stuff up, but it wasn't until late in high school that my mind turned seriously to writing. In the spring of my senior year, I read Fahrenheit 451 and picked up Ray Bradbury's 100 Greatest Stories.
Oh my God, these stories!
I was overwhelmed by the thousands of windows he opened within my imagination. It was like spirits nobody has ever seen spoke to him! I felt like I had been given a ticket to everywhere I thought I would never go. His wondrous stories touched a deep loneliness, a sadness within me, and made it lighter. He made me better. One summer night after reading "Jack in the Box," I stood under the clear night sky, exhilirated, gazing up at the stars, and that infinite cluster of light was the closest representation of how I felt, a reflection of Bradbury's genius and my excitement about wanting to write stories too. The galactic possibilities!
Probably more than any writer who influenced me creatively, Mr. Bradbury was the voice of hope and joy and perseverance in the face of disappointment, of insatiable curiosity and excitement! Although I never met him personally, I was awarded an Honorable Mention in one of his Waukegan Library writing contests and received a certificate with his signature.
If not for Ray Bradbury, I might have given up. He shared his wonder and immortal childhood.
He made me better.