Ray Bradbury is not just a great science fiction writer. He is a great writer, period. And he is a man of some-kind-of faith:
The 89-year-old science fiction author watches Fox News Channel by day, Turner Classic Movies by night. He spends the rest of his time summoning “the monsters and angels” of his imagination for his enchanting tales.
Bradbury’s imagination has yielded classic books such as “Fahrenheit 451,” “The Martian Chronicles” and 600 short stories that predicted everything from the emergence of ATMs to live broadcasts of fugitive car chases.
Bradbury, who turns 90 this month, says he will sometimes open one of his books late at night and cry out thanks to God.
“I sit there and cry because I haven’t done any of this,” he told Sam Weller, his biographer and friend. “It’s a God-given thing, and I’m so grateful, so, so grateful. The best description of my career as a writer is, ‘At play in the fields of the Lord.’ ”
Bradbury’s stories are filled with references to God and faith, but he’s rarely talked at length about his religious beliefs, until now.
He describes himself as a “delicatessen religionist.” He’s inspired by Eastern and Western religions.
The center of his faith, though, is love. Everything — the reason he decided to write his first short story at 12; his 56-year marriage to his muse and late wife, Maggie; his friendships with everyone from Walt Disney to Alfred Hitchcock — is based on love.
Bradbury is in love with love.
Once, when he saw Walt Disney, architect of the Magic Kingdom, Christmas shopping in Los Angeles, Bradbury approached him and said: “Mr. Disney, my name is Ray Bradbury and I love you.”
Bradbury’s favorite book in the Bible is the Gospel of John, which is filled with references to love.
“At the center of religion is love,” Bradbury says from his home, which is painted dandelion yellow in honor of his favorite book, “Dandelion Wine.”
“I love you and I forgive you. I am like you and you are like me. I love all people. I love the world. I love creating. … Everything in our life should be based on love.”
Bradbury’s voice booms with enthusiasm over the phone. He now uses a wheelchair. His hearing has deteriorated. But he talks like an excitable kid with an old man’s voice. (Each Christmas, Bradbury asked his wife to give him toys in place of any other gifts.)
Weller, author of “Listen to The Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews,” says Bradbury ends many conversations with “God bless.” Weller’s book devotes an entire chapter to Bradbury’s faith.
“I once asked him if he prayed, and he said, ‘Joy is the grace we say to God,’ ” Weller says.
Bradbury was raised as a Baptist in Waukegan, Illinois, by his father, a utility lineman, and his mother, a housewife. Both were infrequent churchgoers.
His family moved to Los Angeles during the Great Depression to look for work. When he turned 14, Bradbury began visiting Catholic churches, synagogues and charismatic churches on his own to figure out his faith.
Bradbury has been called a Unitarian, but he rejects that term. He dislikes labels of any kind.
“I’m a Zen Buddhist if I would describe myself,” he says. “I don’t think about what I do. I do it. That’s Buddhism. I jump off the cliff and build my wings on the way down.”
But. . .but. . .Ray. . . Zen Buddhists don’t really believe in God. And love is surely the kind of attachment that Buddhists believe we must detach ourselves from. I know Thomas Merton formulated a kind of Christian Zen. Your worldview sounds (and from your writings has always sounded) specifically Christian. The story goes on to say how often you write about Jesus. Keep going in that direction. (Let’s pray for him, as well as for Anne Rice.)