R.I.P. Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury is dead. I knew him. I revered him for what he brought to his readers…and writing…and the world. If you ever heard him speak about writing and life and the human experience you know exactly what I mean. If not, you really missed something. Ray Bradbury was able to entrance you with his words; enthrall you with his optimism and positivity; win your heart and mind with his sense of wonder and his belief in the beauty and power of imagination. He was a shining light in this world and I deeply mourn his passing.

Like all young devotees of science fiction, fantasy and comics, I had read much of Ray’s work in high school…seen his stories brought to life on The Twilight Zone. It was cool. I was a fan. I appreciated the beauty and simple sense-stirring of his short fiction, the chilling magic of Something Wicked This Way Comes and the thought-provoking power, tragedy and hopefulness of Fahrenheit 451. But after I heard him speak at UCSB’s Campbell Hall in 1972, I truly and unashamedly loved the man. I left the venue full, inspired, transformed. Earth-shattered. Life-affirmed. Promise incarnate.

The next day, I started writing in earnest and living in color. I committed myself to the belief that there was nothing more important in this world than imagination. Nothing more sacred than dreaming. Nothing more fulfilling than living every day as if it were an adventure. I have strayed from the path since then, of course, but I have always returned. With every Bradbury book signing and every appearance and every new story or novel, I renewed myself.

I remember Ray’s command “Find the metaphor!” to get myself on track when blocked. I often return to a favorite story when my creative optimism is challenged. And I will always carry the experience of meeting him, talking with him, laughing with him in my heart.

I’m going to read “There Will Come Soft Rains” and “The Small Assassin” and “Fever Dream” tonight and meditate on the gift of Ray Bradbury. You out there, do yourself a soul-soaring mitzvah and read your favorite Bradbury story…or any Bradbury story…and remember.

Here’s to you, Ray. We’ll not see your like again.