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.
- Scarina--the authoress and editrix of this site. I like scary movies and have dedicated my free time to cataloging horror--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes there are books too.
There's film criticism, literary criticism, and humor here. I can be highbrow but there's lots of pop culture too. And feminism.
I fervently love "Twin Peaks" and wish it were a real place so I could move there. I can't list my favorite scary movies because they change depending on my mood, the season, and how much coffee I've had.
I'm an artist looking for ways to blend creepy with cute. I try to channel my childhood nightmares, my love of horror, and my experiences with sleepy paralysis.
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