Ray Bradbury, one of the most well-known science fiction writers in the world —
Hold on a minute. I’ve seen a lot of articles the last 24 hours about the death of Ray Bradbury. And all of them begin the same way. The way that I started to write this small tribute. Which is to start it out by calling him a science fiction writer. In this label conscious world, it seems impossible to escape categorization by critics, booksellers, publishers, obiturary writers, and readers. Everyone has to put a tag on an artist, even one as great as Bradbury.
Bradbury in all his writing, as one writer in the Washington Post put it, “explored loneliness and the troubled human heart and our deep-seated fear of otherness.” Isn’t this the subject matter of great literary artists? Why limit Bradbury with a label. When people thing of science fiction writers they think of space ships, alien beings, far off worlds in space, and there’s a kind of geekiness, and let’s say it, nerdiness assocaitated with the term. Bradbury was honored by a special Pulitzer Prize for lifetime achievement. Let’s call him what he was. A Writer. A Great Writer.
His book “Zen and the Art of Writing,” is a classic combo autobiography and help for struggling writers trying to learn their craft. It’s very evident in that book particularly how much Bradbury loved his life, his past, his childhood and everything he had live through. His existence was the well spring from which he drew inspiration.
His viewpoint led him to some less than hopeful predictions about the future, some of which have come to pass. He hated ebooks and only conceded to having his works in that format when it was no longer possible to get a publishing contract without it. He saw the loneliness created by television, with observations on how cemetery-like some neighborhoods were becoming, dark homes with only the blue, flickering light of TV in the windows. How much greater is this loneliness now with video games, computers, cell phones, Ipads, etc, locking us into a virtual reality, and locking us out of the real world?
Just as I think it’s wrong to try and pigeonhole a writer like Ray Bradbury into a neat little genre tag, I think it’s probably also wrong to say that he’s dead. Far from it. His thoughts, his ideas, his stories and characters are a permanent part of our culture and they’ll be around a long time. Long live Ray Bradbury, writer.