The news broke earlier this morning that Ray Bradbury had died in Los Angeles, aged 91.
Bradbury, as you surely know, was the author of “The Martian Chronicles”, “Fahrenheit 451”, “The Illustrated Man” and dozens of other science-fantasy works which blended ambitious, puckish futurism with a very human melancholy. Stephen King has cited “Dandelion Wine” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes” as key influences on his developing mind, and there’s certainly a kinship between the two authors that goes deeper than a fondness for the unreal.
I discovered Bradbury as a very young child — I couldn’t have been more than six or seven when I first discovered the tattered Bantam paperbacks of “R is for Rocket” and “S is for Space” in my school library. I liked the vivid covers and the relatively short length of the stories; Bantam’s design was very similar to those of the “Twilight Zone” anthologies, and I think that’s why I picked them up in the first place.
I still remember the feeling of my brain wrapping itself around the notion of the time elevators passing one another in “A Sound of Thunder”, and the sadness at the core of “The Fog Horn”, a monster story that’s ultimately about how terribly lonely it must feel to be the last of one’s kind.
“The Fog Horn” found its way to the screen as “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms”, sort of. The movies never really got Bradbury, though Truffaut’s “Fahrenheit 451” comes close. (Strangely, Disney’s “The Watcher in the Woods” got his tone of gentle mystery just right, despite not being a Bradbury adaptation at all.)
As I find myself saying far too often these days, the death of an old man is not exactly a tragedy, but it always hurts to lose someone who literally influenced your dreams. Thanks for everything, Mr. Bradbury; I’ll be looking to you for tonight’s bedtime story.