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Pensive Person

Pensive Person
December 05
A quiet guy up here in the Midwest, waiting to be seen. Most of the time my days are filled with sarcasm, anger, and general malaise--so, this is my inexpensive form of therapy.

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JUNE 6, 2012 11:18AM

On the death of Ray Bradbury

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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.


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an avid(to say the least)sci-fi fan, and bradbury was one of my favs.....could weave a hellofa tale.....
When I was little, I went to sleep to cassette tapes of The Stories of Ray Bradbury. I will be reading The Veldt tonight to my kids in his memory. This was a wonderful piece on him. Thanks for sharing.
I will only say to those that don't like science fiction, this:

You don't like it, because you really don't know it. Science fiction is in the business of asking, "What if...?" All the technology and gadgetry is nothing more than backdrop to make it occur in the "future," or to help point out it is an issue of science in general.

The truth is, Ray Bradbury asked all kinds of social questions. Most of his stories are not so much science fiction as they are social fiction. He, like others in his time, Robert Sheckley, Harlan Ellison, Piers Anthony, Brian Aldiss, John Brunner, Clifford Simak, Arthur Clarke and a few others, such as Theodore Sturgeon were less interested in the gadgetry and much, MUCH more interested in the social implications of that technology to shape and mold culture and popular views.

That's the bulk of science fiction in a nutshell. Remember, Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar are only science fiction in a tacit, "this is happening in the distant future/past," and while they have a heavy focus on the technology -- it's really still about the quintessential issues of good/evil, justice/vengeance, truth/hypocrisy and other more morally important social issues.

Of course, you can still not like science fiction, but my wager is that such might only be the case of misperception as to what SF is really all about. Ray was a twisted son-of-a-bitch, and most people just couldn't get where he was coming from. Writing wise, I would rate Bradbury (whom I have about 12 of his books) as slightly above average as a writer in general. As a thinker, though -- very definitely forward thinking and looking in a science fictiony way.

for honesty of personal point of view
a mythical cup of dandelion wine is raised
RIP Ray and thanks for the great stories. You were a spark of interest for my young mind and I am forever grateful for your unique perspective on the universe.
My favorite was "Something Wicked This Way Comes."
He also wrote "Zen in the Art of Writing" which is both inspirational and practical. RIP Ray B.
The Martian Chronicles are incredibly romantic! "August 2002 Night Meeting", from the MC is stunningly, blindingly wonderfully romantic.

Ok. well, to each his own. I trashed Joyce's Ulysees after 15 years of trying...somebody must hate me for that.

Bradbury is one of my all time favorite writers. This is a lovely tribute.

There's a clip of him on YouTube where he discusses his association with Rod Serling and Gene Roddenberry.

The man was enigmatic!
eh, I'm indifferent to his writing, but this was a lovely tribute. I know you said you don't like the genre, but can I recommend one book? The Disappeared: A Retrieval Artist novel by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. She's really good. Probably won't change your mind about a genre you don't enjoy, but worth glancing over at the library to see if you might want to read it.
Julie, I've already gulped down a big glass of purple Kool-Aid when it comes to you and your words of wisdom--so, for sure, I will check that book out! :)
Heck, to me Bradbury was a writer--who happened to write science fiction. He was a truly erudite and insightful man. His contribution will stay with us for generations.
I've never bothered to categorize Bradbury any more than I'd bother to categorize his equals -- Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald. He was a peerless writer whose book on the subject, "The Zen of Writing," I'd recommend to anyone practicing the craft. And for sheer enjoyment, the short story "I Sing the Body Electric."
I only saw Ray Bradbury alive one time, speaking at the Dragon*Con convention in Atlanta. And yes, he was interesting and literate and all that, but...

I'm surprised that Pensive Person didn't like him that much, because Bradbury was the science fiction writer for people who don't like science fiction. His work was soaked with small-town, ordinary people and sentimentality. Fahrenheit 451 was not so much about the book-burning Firemen as the lonely, quiet people who haunt libraries, either as patrons or librarians.

Bradbury got angry when Michael Moore created a documentary about the lies of Bush and Republicans about September 11, and entitled it "Fahrenheit 911." He believed he should have been consulted first - and according to one translation of what he said in a Swedish newspaper, he called Moore an "a-hole." He didn't say whether or not he approved of the film...but given his desire to be a sweet old guy, it's likely he didn't want to have any opinion that might besmirch his reputation.

Now, with his passing, there's no "safe" science fiction any more, something teachers don't mind in their classrooms. That means that fewer kids will experience science fiction of any kind, not even the sentimental homey-town stuff Bradbury wrote. But since so few American kids know how to read anyway, that probably won't make much difference.
I hate to admit that, other than Fahrenheit 451 years ago, I haven't read Bradbury. I think I need to at least give his stories a try.
You have to admire anyone who put his butt in a chair in front of the blank page as much as he did and came up with may instances, something great.
Nice if different eulogy. I was unfamiliar with the Love Affair story.
Much of what is termed SciFi, isn't. I have often felt that the term Speculative Fiction was more appropriate given the broadness of the field. At one time an writer could 'locate' his story in some mythical far part of the world. The world became much too well known for that to be so some time ago. The future is as good a location as any.
I have been reading and delighting in science fiction for over 75 years and much of the best of it sends the essence of strangeness into your mind like an invading virus to distort the universe like the mirrors in a fun house. Bradbury didn't do that. He reached into your soul with alien poetry and made it dance in wonder and scream in agony. His science wasn't all that good but that wasn't the point at all.
"I don't try to describe the future. I try to prevent it."
-Ray Bradbury

R.I.P., Ray-Doug.
P.P. thank you for this eulogy.
I don't know this writer but might start reading a book or rather a short story if there are any.
Thank you all for your comments.
Jan,your explanation brought my curiosity to the scene.

When it comes to Bradbury, Jan definitely said it best.
Thanks all for stopping by...
I agree with you:Jan said it best.He is a master in thought and word/expression.
Wow...interesting story! I felt like I read it via your piece.