First off, I don't like science fiction. The chatter about aliens, machines of the future, and super diseases just does not strike a chord with me. When I read H. G. Wells, George Orwell, or Isaac Asimov--I reach for a razor to begin slitting my wrists (down river, not across the tracks--need to do it the right way).
Ray Bradbury is an exception. I remember the episode of The Simpsons where someone in class mentions science fiction and Martin, the class know it all, goes through a list of science fiction authors. He leaves out Ray Bradbury, and someone mentions it to Martin.
Martin, in response, dismissively swipes his hand in the air and haughtily replies: "I am familiar with his work."
Because I am not a science fiction buff, I do not know if this kind of attitude exists in the prominent sci-fi community; however, it was on The Simpsons, which for me is right up on the top ten list as to where I can find truth about our culture.
For this self-procliamed sci-fi-aphobe, I must reflect a little on the news that Ray Bradbury passed away at the age of 91.
Granted, I don't relish everything he wrote. The Martian Chronicles, for the most part, can end up in the nearest trash can. The Illustrated Man is a little better, but that horrible 1970s movie based off of that book--truly God awful. Fahrenheit 451 was a tolerable read--but again, what is up with the awful movie? I especially love whenever in that film they would show a monorail train that was blatantly miniatureized where the viewer could see the little black shadows of people were small silhouette cut-outs.
Yet again, who cannot love his themes? Censorship, racism, children weilding the authority in a family to destructive ends, the ethics of space travel and colonization, class warfare--those big questions of good and evil--there are some truly splendid themes in those tales.
But, for me, the reason I truly appreciate Ray Bradbury above the others is he wrote one of my favorite romance short stories of all time:
"The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair"
Where a couple meets, falls in love, circumstances pull them apart and they make a pact to meet at the 150 steps featured in the famous Laruel and Hardy flick where they move the piano--a set of staircase made famous, and still exists today in California.
Yet, the couple do not meet up there again--a few near misses, but time marches on and covers the hurt love with a thin layer of scar tissue.
Years later, they have a chance meeting in France. The two are walking with their families and they recognize one another and say nothing:
"They walked on and he turned and looked back a final time. The woman with her husband and son turned at that very moment. Maybe he saw her mouth pantomime the words, So long, Ollie. Maybe he didn't. He felt his own mouth move, in silence: So long, Stan."
So long, Ray Bradbury--you were a damn fine writer.