In what is fast proving to be a bad year for beloved, revered authors who have shaped the minds of entire generations, Ray Bradbury died yesterday, aged 91, at his home in Los Angeles. His massively influential body of work included such seminal touchstones of the fantastic as The Illustrated Man, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes and, of course, Fahrenheit 451. No word yet on whether his passing was a deliberate move on Bradbury’s part to spite the publisher who last year forced his hand on the digitisation of his work that he had for so long resisted. He was an ornery sort, so I wouldn’t put it past him (if I may once again quote the great man: ‘to hell with you and to hell with the internet’).
Bradbury’s grandson, Danny Kopetian, released the following touching statement to io9:
If I had to make any statement, it would be how much I love and miss him, and I look forward to hearing everyone’s memories about him. He influenced so many artists, writers, teachers, scientists, and it’s always really touching and comforting to hear their stories. Your stories. His legacy lives on in his monumental body of books, film, television and theater, but more importantly, in the minds and hearts of anyone who read him, because to read him was to know him. He was the biggest kid I know. If you’re looking for any single passage to remember him by, I just picked up my copy of The Illustrated Man, my favorite of his books. The introduction is entitled “Dancing, So As Not to Be Dead,” and there are some great lines about death. My favorite: “My tunes and numbers are here. They have filled my years, the years when I refused to die. And in order to do that I wrote, I wrote, I wrote, at noon or 3:00 A.M. So as not to be dead.”
In that spirit, then, we’d like to encourage you to leave your own memories of Bradbury and his work, either as comments below or on Twitter.
My own gateway was the oft-reprinted short story “A Sound of Thunder”, as I’m sure it was for many. I was drawn in, naturally, as a pre-teen boy, by the promise of dinosaurs – which it certainly delivered – but in the years since, its proto-butterfly effect determinism has been a source of persistent fascination: the path not taken, and all that. Plus, it was the direct inspiration for one of the all-time great Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” segments, which – though it certainly takes some liberties with the original, involving toasters, doughnut rain and lizard tongues – is nevertheless a more fitting tribute to Bradbury’s pop-philosophical spirit than the Ben Kingsley-starring film adaptation, which you probably didn’t even know existed until now. Let’s all just pretend we’ve gone back in time, accidentally trod on an insect and now live in a future where it doesn’t. It’s what Bradbury would have wanted.