In Memorium–Ray Bradbury


I was on Buzzfeed when I found out that Ray Bradbury died. It seemed like a fitting way to learn about the death of man who wrote so presciently about the future of the media.
I first read The Martian Chronicles in the summer between sixth and seventh grade. It was assigned as summer reading to students going on to the middle school honors program. They gave us books to read and we had to keep a journal and answer questions about the reading. “How patronizing,” I thought, as if I would do anything but read over the summer. I rode my bike to the library almost every day and participated in the youth reading program until an embarrassingly old age–I’m talking teens here. I am eternally grateful that The Martian Chronicles was assigned because I don’t know if I would have picked up Bradbury’s works otherwise. I remember I finished the book ridiculously quickly for someone with a three-month deadline. I loved how he made the conflict between humans and martians reminiscent of the conquest of the native Americans. I loved how he built such a complete world. I read every single book of his that my library had and then I started requesting more through the intra-library loan.
Within months of that summer reading assignment, I saw the craziest animated movie about the origins of Halloween. The Halloween Tree was based on a book by Ray Bradbury. The score is haunting and the story is unusually dark for a children’s cartoon.

By the time I was in high school, every time I had a chance to choose a reading assignment, I would read Bradbury and write about Bradbury. I graduated in June of 2001. Wikipedia was only invented in January of 2001. When I wrote a paper then, I would reference Contemporary Literary Criticism, then look for the works referenced there. Lots of time spent looking through lots of books and lots of photocopying. I bet things are different now but I think Mr. Bradbury would have appreciated the process, especially considering the skeptical attitude he had towards the internet.
What I learned, was that he was a man of contradictions. He gave voice to an alien race but his writings lacked a perspective from people of color and women. I always felt their absence in his writing and, as a woman, it pained me. I wanted to be a part of the group in The Halloween Tree and it hurt that I wasn’t. He wrote about how we consume media but expressed ambivalence about its newer forms. In 2011, he allowed Fahrenheit 451 to be available in e-reader form, under the condition that it can be digitally downloaded by any library patron. This is the only book where that’s possible in the Simon and Schuster catalog.
“This is a horror blog, Scarina, what’s your point?” is what you’re probably thinking.
One, I think the lines between sci-fi and horror are permeable.
Two, genre-fiction and film is still looked down upon today. I dare you to read Bradbury and dismiss him as genre. Genre doesn’t have to be seperate from “elevated” work and “elevated” work isn’t always better.
And, finally, Bradbury influenced the horror world. I’m not sure if he would be happy about that, but he did. He influenced me. The Sci-Fi channel used to rerun The Ray Bradbury Theater, a television series that adapted his stories. It definitely had an E.C. Comics feel. If you’ve read Something Wicked This Way Comes then you understand horror. If you’ve read Fahrenheit 451 then you understand horror. If you’ve read “All of Summer in a Day” then you understand horror.
I didn’t always agree with what he wrote. I think he fetishized the suburbs, what he found to be a refuge I found to be stifling. I disagree with his politics. But I don’t turn away from what Mr. Bradbury wrote, I celebrate it. He took the title of one of his short stories, “I Sing the Body Electric,” from a poem by Walt Whitman. I sing Ray Bradbury. Sing Ray Bradbury when you eat a perfect apple or see a dandelion. Sing Ray Bradbury when you see Mars in the night sky. Sing Ray Bradbury when we finally get to Mars. Sing Ray Bradbury every Halloween. Sing Ray Bradbury when you open a book–not an e-reader–and it has that perfect old book smell. Sing Ray Bradbury on summer evenings. Sing Ray Bradbury when you consume media and think of him when you create. I think he liked creation more than consumption.
Mr. Bradbury selected a burial plot before his death and his headstone will read, “Author of Fahrenheit 451.” That feels right.

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About scarina

I like scary movies a little too much. I thought I'd share my obsession with you.
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8 Responses to In Memorium–Ray Bradbury

  1. Crypticpsych says:

    This is one of the best pieces I’ve seen on Ray Bradbury’s passing. It’s personal and explores his influence, his genius, and his flaws. Myself, I believe my first experience with him was when I read Fahrenheit 451 (as you said, that epitaph feels right) which is one of my favorite books to this day (and which I really should read again at some point). A friend of mine was pointing out Bradbury’s influence earlier today as dictated in that book, specifically talking about wall-TVs leading to LCD TVs we currently have and the Bluetooth headset equated to Montag’s earpiece. The interesting thing that occurred to me after reading your piece, though, was that some of those things weren’t “good” for society in that book. The wall-screen TV was emblematic and symptomatic of the death of books in that society, for instance. I do agree that he’s one of the most influential modern writers there ever has been and ever will be…and I will miss him terribly, flaws and all…but your piece also allowed me to see his work in a different light than I had been…and for that I am grateful to you. (By the way, besides that, the other Bradbury piece that sticks out at least in my mind is one a lot of people don’t talk about…the short story “The Pedestrian”. Anyone who doesn’t think he had an influence on horror as well needs to look at the story as well…it’s not the most subtle thing in the world, but it does have some deeply chilling overtones.)

    By the way…I found a quote from Fahrenheit 451 this morning you might’ve noticed me spamming on twitter over about 10 tweets…it just seemed to fit. I’ll reproduce it here:
    “And when he died, I suddenly realized I wasn’t crying for him at all, but for the things he did. I cried because he would never do them again, he would never carve another piece of wood or help us raise doves and pigeons in the backyard or play the violin the way he did, or tell us jokes the way he did. He was part of us and when he died, all the actions stopped dead and there was no one to do them the way he did. He was individual. He was an important man. I’ve never gotten over his death. Often I think what wonderful carvings never came to birth because he died. How many jokes are missing from the world, and how many homing pigeons untouched by his hands? He shaped the world. He did things to the world. The world was bankrupted of ten million fine actions the night he passed on.”

    • Crypticpsych says:

      (Oh, and another point on Bradbury’s influence on horror?….Besides the Ray Bradbury Theater, i’m sure you know a fair few of his stories were famously turned into EC Comics tales in the 50s (even if William M. Gaines originally tried to do so without paying him only to say “Oh, we didn’t know how to get a hold of you” and then cut him a check when tactfully called out on it by Bradbury.))

      • scarina says:

        I actually didn’t know that. Cool fact! I’m not surprised, I know a lot of horror & sci-fi people wrote for them, like Richard Matheson.
        P.S. I will respond to your email soon, I’m just a bit swamped & still tired.

    • scarina says:

      Wow, thanks. I think Neil Gaiman’s is a little better. :P
      I think that Bradbury interpreted things like the LCD t.v.’s and Bluetooths as endemic to a society full of people disconnected from each other. I can’t remember the name of the story, but I liked the one about the garbageman whose job was to pick up the bodies and rubble after some apocalypse. I like the idea of “The Pedestrian,” I kind of wish it were true just so I could go about safely.
      Thanks for the quote, btw. I’ve been seeing it bandied about a lot.

      • Crypticpsych says:

        *goes and finds Gaiman’s piece*….yeah, maybe a little, heh :P, but yours isn’t bad either. :)
        From my quick google search, the story you’re talking about is I think “The Garbage Collector”. It sounds really interesting. I need to read more Ray Bradbury than I have.
        I have a bunch of the EC Comics archives they released a few years ago (not all of them, though…it’s one of my goals) so I know I have a few of their adaptations even if the books are one of the many I haven’t gotten around to reading yet. By way of reading Digby Diehl’s book on Tales from the Crypt, though, I did read the EC adaptation of “The October Game” which was pretty good. According to that book, the story of the Bradbury-EC relationship basically was Bradbury contacted them after Gaines adapted “The Emissary” as a story titled “What the Dog Dragged In” without crediting him. After they cleared the issues up, they became friends and adapted, including that one…*checks*…26 of his stories across their horror, shock, crime, fantasy, and scifi lines. Bradbury’s quoted in the book saying “I thought the adaptations were very good. They were very accurate. They quoted from me directly. You can’t ask for more than that”.
        PS: Oh, that’s okay,re: the email, I had a feeling you might be busy. Take your time and I hope things clear up soon. :)

      • scarina says:

        Every morning I wake up and wish I were Neil Gaiman, he makes being creative look so effortless.
        Gah! I tried finding it and nothing useful was coming up. My Google-fu failed.
        I haven’t read a lot of E.C. Comics but I’m familiar with them b/c Rue Morgue writes about them so much.
        I’s funny that he liked the adaptations since he was so conservative. What a contradictory man…
        Cool cool cool.

  2. Amiee says:

    From someone who has only read one of his books (Farenheit 451) and only this year, seeing all these in memory posts has opened my eyes to a few more of his stories I want to check out.

    • scarina says:

      Cool. I’m rereading Something Wicked this Way Comes. It’s about an evil carnival that comes to town and how two best friends deal with it.

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