I didn’t start with Bradbury’s science fiction. I started with Dandelion Wine, after reading an excerpt at school. I was nine or ten at the time, and I remember being amazed at how he used language. Douglas, the main character, got a new pair or pristine white sneakers that even sounded magical–Cream-Sponge Para Litefoot Shoes. I haven’t read that book in thirteen years, but some of the scenes are still so fresh in my mind. Douglas seeing a rusting car, nature taking it back. The creepiness of the Tarot Witch in the Penny Arcade. Dandelion Wine was something mystical and strange from the world of fiction, like Narnia’s Turkish Delight.
I didn’t read him for a long time after that. When I did, I moved onto his short fiction. “There Will Come Soft Rains” made me cry. The Martian Chronicles was one of the few science fiction titles I liked (when I was young, sci fi was a hard sell). Fahrenheit 451 was one of the first dystopias I read. Every few years I’d pick up one of his books, and so certain books remind me of a certain age. Something Wicked This Way Comes reminds me of being fourteen.
I saw Ray Bradbury speak at Comic Con 2009. He was a rambling old grandfather, full of delightful stories, going off on tangents, full of wisdom and hyperbole. I just wanted to sit curled up next to a fireplace in a cosy room, listening to more of his tales. He showed a brief video of his speech after Man landed on the Moon, which had happened 40 years go. He’d seen so much. When he spoke about writing and stories, it was with a deep fondness and affection. He said he wanted to be buried on Mars.
I wanted to go up to him after the panel and say hello and thank you, but he was surrounded and I was too shy. I wish I had.
Thank you for the stories, Ray Bradbury.