Archive for Ray Bradbury

Live Forever, Ray Bradbury!

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Ray Bradbury has died.

What this boiled down to, personally, is that yesterday was not a very good day for me.

Ray Bradbury has been my favorite writer for as long as I can remember. I don’t know that he was every considered a very hip writer — I’ve worked at too many jobs where I mentioned his name to coworkers and got a lot of blank stares in reply. But I know that he’s pretty solidly beloved by science fiction writers, fantasy writers, horror writers, just about every writer under the sun. I’ve loved the stuffing out of him since I was a little kid. I never got to meet him, I never exchanged mail with him, but I always thought of him as a personal friend — it always amazed me that everything he wrote felt like it had been written with me in mind. And more than likely, most of his other readers felt the same way. That’s an amazing gift.

I’ve been trying to remember what my first Ray Bradbury story was, and I’m pretty sure it was “The Homecoming,” which was the last story in a book called “Alfred Hitchcock’s Monster Museum” that I read when I was a kid. And really, “The Homecoming” is very nearly my favorite of Bradbury’s stories — it’s about a normal kid who lives in a family of monsters and his sadness that he’ll never really be part of them. It’s a lyrical story, like so many of his other stories. It’s beautiful and poetic, funny and creepy. It’s a valentine for all of us who grew up identifying with the monsters and counting down the days to Halloween. And it’s also intensely sad. The last few hundred words are about the saddest you’ll read.

My favorite of his novels is doubtlessly “Dandelion Wine,” which is absolutely one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. Its description of a Midwestern summer is so perfect that for years I’d re-read it every winter — I needed a dose of that Bradbury summer to get me through the cold months. But now is a good time to read it, too. Read it through the summer, go for walks in the woods, enjoy your ice cream and new sneakers. Ray Bradbury’s summer is something that should never end.

Ray got kinda weirdly political in the past few years, but I could never bring myself to hold it against him. He gave me “The Homecoming” and “Dandelion Wine” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes” and “The Martian Chronicles” and “There Shall Come Soft Rains” and “Kaleidoscope” and “The Halloween Tree” and “The Small Assassin” and “A Sound of Thunder” and “The Toynbee Convector” and “The Pedestrian” and “The Fog Horn” and “Zen in the Art of Writing” and “Hail and Farewell” and “Last Rites” and “The Murderer” and “The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair” and “The Anthem Runners” and “Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed” and more and more and more and more. I can forgive almost anything for someone who’s given me so much.

I haven’t been the only person to note that the chronicler of Mars died just after the transit of Venus. I can’t have been the only one to wonder that he died just before a summer like the one he wrote about in his Green Town stories. I’m certainly not the only person who’s remembering his glorious tale about how a carnival performer called Mr. Electrico inspired him by jolting him with electricity and shouting at him to “Live forever!” Because he will. I know it. You know it.

Thank you, Ray, for everything you’ve done for us. Thank you for being our friend. Thank you for living forever.

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The Sick Day Lit List

Phooey, I’m sick.

Either I got hit with a case of bad Mexican food, a short-term stomach bug, or the eldritch and cyclopean Elder God of Making Me Feel Bad.

So instead of writing up a real blog post for today, I’m just gonna rip off this list of favorite books and authors that I wrote for Facebook.

1. What author do you own the most books by?
Probably Ray Bradbury.

2. What book do you own the most copies of?
I generally avoid keeping multiple copies of books, but I do have two copies of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens — one because it’s an easily portable paperback, and one because it’s one of those nice annotated editions.

3. What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Magrat Garlick from Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld” series.

4. What book have you read more than any other?
“Dandelion Wine” by Ray Bradbury. Used to be, I’d read it every winter.

5. What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
Possibly one of the “Three Investigators” novels.

6. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
Nothing memorably bad springs to mind.

7. What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?
I got a lot of joy out of “Soon I Will Be Invincible” by Austin Grossman.

8. If you could tell everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
“Chuck Amuck” by Chuck Jones. It’s about Warner Brothers cartoons and storytelling and really weird cats and old Hollywood and it’s an extremely fun, enjoyable, and enlightening read. I especially recommend this for writers, for his advice on creating characters.

9. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
For some reason, it took me forever to read “The Stand” by Stephen King, and I eventually found it very disappointing. The most difficult and most satisfying read was “Foucault’s Pendulum” by Umberto Eco.

10. Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
You mean French lit vs. Russian lit? Neither. I really find both of the national styles very boring.

11. Shakespeare, Milton or Chaucer?

12. Austen or Eliot?
(kicks dirt, looks embarrassed) I haven’t read either.

13. What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
I haven’t read much that’s not genre fiction. Makes it hard to impress the Sexy Librarians when I’ve read very little of the Classics.

14. What is your favorite novel?
Probably “Dandelion Wine” by Ray Bradbury. Just an intensely lyrical and sensual book.

15. Play?
I don’t read a lot of plays, but the very best I’ve ever seen produced was “Terra Nova” by Ted Tally, as produced by the drama department at ENMU in Portales back in the late 1980s. The play is about the Scott-Amundsen race to the South Pole — specifically about Scott’s team, which of course died on the way back. A wonderfully sad, head-trippy play.

16. Poem?
“Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll. I’ve had it memorized since sixth grade. (However, favorite poets are Carl Sandburg and Langston Hughes)

17. Essay?
Either “The Tombs” or “Xenogenesis” by Harlan Ellison. The first is about a night Ellison spent in jail in the Tombs in NYC, and the second is about the shockingly awful things that science fiction fans will do to the authors who write for them.

18. Short Story?
That’s a tough one, ’cause I love short stories. I’d say, in fairly random order: “Pickman’s Model” by H.P. Lovecraft, “Kaleidoscope” by Ray Bradbury, “There Shall Be No Darkness” by James Blish, “Homecoming” by Bradbury, “There Shall Come Soft Rains” by Bradbury, “The Repairer of Reputations” by Robert W. Chambers, “Oh Whistle, and I’ll Come for You, My Lad” by M.R. James, “Survivor Type” by Stephen King, “Mr. Skin” by Victor Milan, “SCENE: A Room” by Craig Anthony, “Through Thy Bounty” by Lucy A. Snyder, “A Study in Emerald” by Neil Gaiman, “The Night Wire” by H.F. Arnold, “The Screwfly Solution” by Alice Sheldon.

Oh, and the following, all from Go read them all. READ THEM ALL.

And more, I guarantee. I love the heck out of short stories.

19. Non Fiction?
“The Beast Within: A History of the Werewolf” by Adam Douglas. Just the best plain overview of the werewolf in myth, legend, history, psychology, film, and literature.

20. Graphic Novel?
“The New Frontier” by Darwyn Cooke and “The Golden Age” by James Robinson and Paul Smith.

21. Science Fiction?
“City” by Clifford D. Simak, with “The Demolished Man” by Alfred Bester coming in a close second.

22. Horror?
I’m going with “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson, “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury, and “House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski.

23. Who is your favorite writer?
Ray Bradbury, no question.

24. Who is the most over-rated writer alive today?
Neal Stephenson. I enjoyed “Snow Crash,” but I’ve just thought his other books were not Teh Bomb.

25. What are you reading right now?
I’ve got a number of collections of short horror stories I’m alternating with.

26. What writers/books have been most important to you (not mentioned above)?
Alan Moore, Fritz Leiber, Warren Ellis’ incredible “Transmetropolitan” comic, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Clive Barker’s “Books of Blood,” and Christopher Moore.

Feel free to add your own selections in the comments or on your own blog.

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