Ray Bradbury Has Died

by Henry on June 6, 2012

Locusmag notice here. His earlier work was better than his later, and his short stories were better than his novels – some of them (especially the ones where over-ripe sentimental Americana turns into horror) are unforgettable. I’ve always had a specific weakness for the handful of stories he set in Ireland (where he lived for a bit, while working on a John Huston film), even though they’re far from his best. His piece, “The Anthem Sprinters,” about Irish cinema-goers’ mad rush for the exits after the film had finished, so as to avoid having to stand for the obligatory rendition of the National Anthem, captures something that America could learn from (I was reminded of it last week during the Chris Hayes disrespectin’ Memorial Day nonsense-kerfuffle). But his Mars stories and one-offs like “The Small Assassin” and “There Will Come Soft Rains” are what I think he’ll be remembered for.

{ 35 comments }

1

Andreas Moser 06.06.12 at 3:18 pm

I should finally read “Fahrenheit 451″.

2

LFC 06.06.12 at 3:25 pm

I’ve read very little sci-fi, but as a kid I read a bit of Bradbury. I remember specifically liking “There Will Come Soft Rains” a lot.

3

Daniel Weiskopf 06.06.12 at 3:31 pm

‘The October Country’ is cover to cover brilliant, and the 1980 ‘Stories’ collection sustains an amazingly high level of quality. Those plus ‘Something Wicked’ are enough to cement his seat in the pantheon. In other media I loved the ‘Bradbury 13′ radio plays as a kid. Spent a lot of time driving around the Illinois countryside at night listening to those; ‘The Wind’ and ‘Dark They Were And Golden Eyed’ were brilliantly creepy. Thanks for that, Ray.

Bradbury, Jack Finney, Harlan Ellison, arguably Fritz Leiber*–the midwest produced some great fantasists.

*The ‘arguably’ is about whether he’s really a midwestern writer; he’s from Chicago, but probably his best novel, ‘Our Lady of Darkness’ was written after his move to San Francisco.

4

The Modesto Kid 06.06.12 at 3:36 pm

5

Russell Arben Fox 06.06.12 at 3:40 pm

Andreas: yes, you should. So should everyone. (RIP, Ray.)

6

Barry Freed 06.06.12 at 3:45 pm

Thanks Modesto Kid, I hadn’t heard about the Borges preface, that’s great.

RIP Ray Bradbury, you wrote some really great stuff and you were fondly loved and will be greatly missed.

7

Neville Morley 06.06.12 at 4:12 pm

Agree on the short stories, and Something Wicked This Way Comes is deeply, wonderfully scary and thought-provoking.

8

bob mcmanus 06.06.12 at 4:17 pm

Bradbury, Jack Finney, Harlan Ellison, arguably Fritz Leiber*—the midwest produced some great fantasists.

The Los Angeles/Hollywood crowd of SF writers, which also included Leigh Brackett, Kuttner and Moore probably deserved a non-fiction book.

9

QB 06.06.12 at 4:36 pm

I was a typically avid sci fi fan as an adolescent, until I read his “Dandelion Wine”. It was there on the same shelf in the library as the E. E. Doc Smiths and the Heinleins, after all. It had the effect of pulling me out of my sci fi rut and into the broader world of humane literature, for which I am grateful. RIP, Ray.

10

mijnheer 06.06.12 at 4:43 pm

The kind of fan tribute I’d like to get…
http://www.wired.com/underwire/2010/08/rachel-bloom-ray-bradbury/

11

Daniel Weiskopf 06.06.12 at 5:00 pm

8: Oh, yeah. Throw in Silverberg, Spinrad, Sturgeon, Niven, Matheson, and Bloch. Heck of a scene.

12

MPAVictoria 06.06.12 at 5:04 pm

“The kind of fan tribute I’d like to get…
http://www.wired.com/underwire/2010/08/rachel-bloom-ray-bradbury/

I was just going to post that!

13

ogmb 06.06.12 at 5:30 pm

Imagine how much better this world could be if all those who got suckered into reading Ayn Rand at age 14 had read Ray Bradbury instead…

14

christian_h 06.06.12 at 5:36 pm

RIP Ray Bradbury.

15

bigcitylib 06.06.12 at 7:05 pm

Watching that vid might have been what triggered the heart attack.

16

Doug 06.06.12 at 7:11 pm

Late Bradbury can be every bit as great as early Bradbury, just wiser and more humane. Granted, there’s not a collection as brilliant as The Illustrated Man (but has anyone else leapt that particular bar?), but there are achingly good stories in One More for the Road and We’ll Always Have Paris. Nearly 40 years into his career, The Toynbee Convector would be late-period for anybody else, but it’s not much past Bradbury’s midpoint, and it’s a knockout. Read, for example, “The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair” without crying. Really. Just try.

17

MikeH 06.06.12 at 7:36 pm

Glad you mentioned the Irish stories. The Cold Wind and the Warm was always one of my favorite Bradbury stories.

18

Alan 06.06.12 at 9:58 pm

I read “Dandelion Wine” about 45 years ago, and ever since, every time I buy a new pair of sneakers, I think about Bradbury. The powerful way he captured the imaginative vigor that a kid can get from getting a new pair of shoes at the beginning of summer has never left me. Thanks for that Mr. Bradbury.

19

Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 06.06.12 at 10:26 pm

“Bradbury, Jack Finney, Harlan Ellison, arguably Fritz Leiber*”

Leiber’s “Our Lady of Darkness” is a very, very creepy horror story of the perils of bibliophilia.

20

Bruce McCulley 06.06.12 at 10:50 pm

Those who’ve enjoyed Bradbury’s stories might want to read his “Zen in the Art of Writing,” a collection of essays “on the joy of writing.”

21

Henry 06.06.12 at 11:44 pm

It’s a very interesting book, with lots of quasi-autobiographical elements. I re-read “Smoke Ghost” about a year ago, and was a little disappointed – the concept is wonderful, but the delivery of the argument is pretty clunky. _Our Lady of Darkness_ is a much more successful attack on the same basic idea (I wonder whether Megalopolisomancy is lurking still in some dusty secondhand bookstore, waiting for a new victim …).

22

Henry 06.06.12 at 11:51 pm

And looking at the Wikipedia page I love the fact that someone has written it so as to darkly insinuate that Thibault de Castries was a real person.

23

David 06.07.12 at 5:00 am

No mention of how reactionary he had become, culturally and politically, in the last 30 years. Oh, well. To There Will Come Soft Rains I would add The Pedestrian. I loved Something Wicked This Way Comes .

Any list of mid-west writers that does not include Philip Jose Farmer is shamefully inadequate.

24

David Irving (no relation) 06.07.12 at 7:49 am

ogmb, I read both Rand and Bradbury when I was an adolescent. The Bradbury has stayed with me, and even (or perhaps especially) then, I found Rand almost unreadable.

25

Chris Bertram 06.07.12 at 9:36 am

F451 was kind of important in my development as a young reader. A teacher who found me hiding away with a book to avoid compulsory school sports didn’t report me, but gave me a copy of the Bradbury. I must have been 12 at the time. A good choice on his part.

26

ezra abrams 06.07.12 at 12:31 pm

William Tenn
C M Kornbluth (in one of his stories, advertising companies have replaced the gov’t and when you are born, you are tattoed with a social security number that indicates your status in society)
Theodore Sturgeon (how can you not like the person responsible for Sturgeon’s rule: 99% of everything is BS [a fan asked TS why so much of sci fi writing was so bad, and TS replied, 99% of everything is bad])
J Schmitz (Witches of Karres http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_H._Schmitz)

27

bianca steele 06.07.12 at 2:19 pm

I Sing the Body Electric was one of the very few SF paperbacks I kept when I passed my uncle’s collection on to another cousin (and one of the few I bought myself).

But I caught the tail end of Lev Grossman discussing Bradbury on NPR (might have been Newshour, which they repeat on the radio later), and he raised an interesting issue about how we should read SF. Is Martian Chronicles, as he said, about how human beings repeat the same mistakes over and over, throughout history (that is when we go to space, we will likely repeat all the same mistakes we made on Earth)? Why does being set in the future make it about that (if it does, the Martians are only part parallels to Native Americans), when Deadwood isn’t (and depicts some of the same mistakes)?

28

QB 06.07.12 at 4:14 pm

Nice autobiographical note by Bradbury on his own first fascinations with sci-fi: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/06/04/120604fa_fact_bradbury

29

Patrick S. O'Donnell 06.07.12 at 8:22 pm

Bradbury frequently bicycled, as he “didn’t drive a car…[and] was often out and about in Los Angeles, browsing bookstores, his bicycle propped outside.” If only for that, I found him endearing. Readers may be surprised to learn from the obitiuary notices his thoughts and feelings about computers and the Internet, his characterization of most of what he wrote as “fantasy” rather than science fiction, his refusal to be characterized as a futurist, and so on.

30

Patrick S. O'Donnell 06.07.12 at 8:23 pm

oops: “obituary”

31

Doug Hess 06.07.12 at 10:31 pm

Netflix has Fahrenheit 451 available for instant play.

32

Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 06.07.12 at 11:22 pm

“Readers may be surprised to learn from the obitiuary notices his thoughts and feelings about computers and the Internet, his characterization of most of what he wrote as “fantasy” rather than science fiction, his refusal to be characterized as a futurist, and so on.”

Kinda interesting, as Bradbury was one of the SF writers who wrote about “big questions about humanity”, where one of the problems with Fantasy, IMHO, is that it has a harder time asking “big questions about humanity”.

I have a hard time thinking in Fantasy of an equivalent to the Martian Chronicles, or the Dispossessed, or the City and the Stars, or [insert Phil Dick novel or story here]. The better recent Fantasy (Martin, Swanwick, Abercrombie, even Wolfe) is great mostly for how it breaks Fantasy genre cliches, but taking the piss out of a ~75 year old genre of fiction isn’t exactly asking a Big Universal Question.

33

Stephen 06.08.12 at 7:37 pm

RIP, fine writer.

Very tangential comment: I think the normal form, this side of the ocean, might be “Ray Bradbury is dead.” Query if this is persisting influence from French “est mort”, and if so why this influence lost in US?

34

Wax Banks 06.08.12 at 11:41 pm

Something Wicked will last as well. It’s taught in middle schools — or it was in the mid-90′s when it horrified and enthralled me in Ms Lindquist’s class. I think I read Fahrenheit 451 the same year. God what a year.

RIP old man.

35

The Modesto Kid 06.12.12 at 2:34 am

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