Eternal light grant him, Father, through Christ our Lord. He gave a lot of people a lot of joy and I mourn his passing.
I will pray for the repose of his soul. I just read “The Machineries of Joy” last night.
Back in 1977, Ray Bradbury was coming to give a talk at Fresno State. My English teacher suggested that we invite him to my high school, so I sent him a telegram. I didn’t know any better, and this was an era before email and faxes.
Bradbury was so impressed with getting a telegram – like right out of the movies – that he invited us to meet him back stage before the talk. It was a moment of pure charisma for me – a moment exactly like the moment when I was confirmed and for one split second I could tell that the bishop was focused on me. He was enthusiastic and charming and very interested in us 17 year olds.
His talk was about dinosaurs and King Tut and others things that he was enthusiastic about.
I was not that much of a Ray Bradbury fan; Robert Heinlein was my guy. But shaking Ray Bradbury’s hand was a great moment for me because he was such an authentically decent man.
I love “The Martian Chronicles”. The language is beautiful.
“The Martian Chronicles” was my first introduction to Bradbury back when I was a high school student; it was unlike any sort of Science Fiction I had read before, and it led me to much of his other stuff. When I got into college, I began to feel that Bradbury was (as I commented to a friend of mine) sentiment without content, and gradually stopped reading his stories. Then a few years ago, edging into middle age, I picked up “The Martian Chronicles” and read it again, and thought, “WHOA! The Magic is still there!” It had, of course, never left–I was the one who had changed. It gradually came to me that (not to be misunderstood here) the “Sentiment” (so called) IS the content–that what had grabbed me at first was Bradbury’s ability to write of the fantastic in terms of normal human emotional reactions to the wonders, and the suggestion that one didn’t have to go into space or to other worlds to find those wonders, that Wonder might in fact just be our intended natural environment, and that one had to be re-sensitized to it through tales of otherworldly wonders.
There’s not an oversupply of science fiction out there that does that; I sometimes wonder if a lot of the genre is an attempt to escape from what I have called “normal human emotional reactions” in favor of a golly-gee whiz-bang geekboy fascination with super-slick cool-tech or outrageously weird paradigm-shattering aliens that doesn’t require much emotional investment or even the ability to perceive wonder, but only the impatience to wait until the tech is invented or the aliens discovered,and THEN everything’ ll be cool! But Bradbury could describe the chance meeting of a dead Martian and a currently-living human in a Martian desert one strange night, or the solitary, automatic rumble of a futuristic house slowly falling into decay after its humans are long gone to introduce to an emotionally shallow boy deep pools of poignancy and possibilities of human thought and feeling that are notably absent is most stories of sleek, fire-spouting spaceships, chromium robots, Hieronymus Bosch aliens and all the challenged and shattered moral paradigms that too many science fiction writers are able to squeeze into a whole series of books.
And the man taught me the value of good, solid concrete description, itself a worthy achievement. If Bradbury’s books and stories have never had any real success as movies, it is largely because they are actual BOOKS, requiring a private transaction between writer and reader, and are no more capable of being made into films than a symphony can be turned into a novel.
Speaking as one who loves both the poignant wonder and the fire-spouting spaceship…
Wonder might in fact just be our intended natural environment
This. Ever so much, this. I am blessed in that as I grow older, I am developing even more of a sense of wonder for the world around me. Teleporting particles, giant squid, bizarre exoplanets – what a wonder is Creation!
And (without tooting our own anthropocentric horn too much about it) what a wonder the human mind is to be able to SEE this!
The human brain is so extravagantly overdeveloped for the purposes of mere physical survival that it is almost hilariously over-the-top, like a fusion-powered psionically-operated titanium transdimensional coffee-maker: just too much overdesign busywork for its supposed purpose.
Further, the human brain exists in a universe that is immense to the point of practical (if not strictly literal) infinity. And the weird thing from a purely naturalistic (read: “conceptually deficient”) point of view is not only that much of the universe is comprehensible to the human mind, and not only that so much of it is not, but that we KNOW it’s not and that, if we are honest, are aware of our limitations and can rejoice in what is unknown, unknowable and unpredictable, and yet which, for all this, stubbornly persists in existing! That gap between what we know and what we can’t know and yet still is, is the synapse from which Wonder springs: the mind’s perception of a reality bigger (or other) than the mind that is perceiving it.
The more you think about it, the less it looks as if the primary function of the human mind is tool-making, food-getting, problem-solving or bean-counting, but Wonder, Awe and (quite frankly) Worship–that bedrock confession of a Worthiness that is beyond our abilities to understand, conceptualize, approach or predict. Without the capability of Wonder, Awe and Worship, we are both emotionally and cognitively impoverished, and creeping into megalomaniacal insanity–at best a sort of gauche adolescent boorishness incapable of seeing beyond its own Schwarzschild radius and convinced that its limited experience defines the Nature of Reality–or at worst, an aggressive rejection of and war against all that it cannot fit inside its li’l melon-head; because Awe and Wonder also contain the seeds of terror for a mind unwilling to humble itself before the Infinite.
And writers like Bradbury (and there are many others) can at least start to train our minds to begin to do this, to see and imagine Wonders as humans can deal with them, and it needs to be done. There are a lot of things humans can do, but we may be meant first to be contemplative of the Wonders, rather than just learning how to exploit them.
I do go on . . . Sorry!
Bradbury used sci-fi as a vehicle to address the issues of our reality.
“And on either side of the river was there a tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
May he rest in peace, in the city that is eternal.
Farenheit 451 still affects me to this day- it’s the main reason I’m into Catholicism instead of Scientism.
(…yes, yes, commenting software. I know.)
Commenting software indeed- for I am a software engineer. While what I create is useful, it’s about as “real” as fictional literature. At one time in my life, scientism beckoned- but it was Fahrenheit 451 that taught me that there’s more to life than just fact, and that a world without fiction, a world where even the merest allegory is banned as a lie, would be a very dark world indeed.
Also the “Fall of the House of Usher” taught me what DDT was and who Edgar A. Poe was, which led to an entirely new realm of fiction for me to read.
Is Pastor Terry Jones going to burn publications of Fahrenheit 451, as a memorial to Ray Bradbury?
Another of our great ones gone, alas. Rest in peace. Although I never had a chance to meet Ray Bradbury, he was by all accounts a very fine man. And a remarkably modest one. When Guest of Honor at a World Science Fiction Convention, his way into the con was blocked by a zealous neofan who didn’t recognize him and demanded to see a badge–which he had not yet received. Bradbury meekly walked away without pulling rank.
I first encountered the MARTIAN CHRONICLES as radio adaptations in the early 50s. The stories were an important factor getting me interested in sf, without which interest, I wouldn’t be here posting today.
I can’t believe he’s gone. I read his stories when I was younger- I never read a single one that wasn’t brilliant. There was always this wonderful sense of delight and fascination with the world- and the darker stories would break your heart. But whatever kind of story he wrote, it was always beautiful. And he seemed to be such a nice guy, as well, with a wonderfully combative attitude to the dreary horror of the modern world.
Will definitely be praying for him tonight.
I can’t drive past farm fields in Illinois or see autumn leaves skittering down the sidewalk without thinking of Ray Bradbury. As an adolescent, I read and re-read The Martian Chronicles until it fell apart in my hands. You cannot have a future without a past.
Mines in the same shape, stuffed in the lid of my memento box.
And all the other stuff he opened me up to, like little used book stores that trade. Just the smell of paperback books of a certain age stored in a room, or the Walter Miller book I found trying to find my own copy of The Illustrated Man, when I first sensed how important that smell is. May he rest in Peace.
A great man and author whose works stamped my childhood. Like everyone has said, his works are full of joy and an appreciation of life. He also understood the depths of humanity and original sin. Given their many agreements in worldview and the fact that he loved H.G. Wells’s sci-fi writings, I think G.K. Chesterton and Bradbury would have gotten along great with one another. Maybe they are now.
I think G.K. Chesterton and Bradbury would have gotten along great with one another. Maybe they are now.
That was his dream, apparently…
The first few lines of Bradbury’s poem “The R.B., G.K.C., and G.B.S. Forever Orient Express
And when I die, will this dream truly be
Entrained with Shaw and Chesterton and me?
O, glorious Lord, please make it so
That down along eternity we’ll row
Atilted headlong, nattering the way
All mouth, no sleep, and endless be our day;
The Chesterton Night Tour, the Shaw Express
A picknicking of brains in London dress…
The man was a Poet. To those who know what I mean, all I have to say is “It was a Ray Bradbury afternoon.”
And for those who don’t, here’s my tribute. In “Something Wicked This Way Comes” he described a blustery fall afternoon so well, that I, living in the tropics until I was 17, would not see one until I arrived at Princeton, NJ for college, in Sept. of ’73. Nonetheless, as I got out of the car, I looked up and down the street, and immediately thought “Yes, this is a Ray Bradbury afternoon.” Nine years after reading his prose!
Thank you, Ray, for all the beauty and the wonder. God keep you forever.
May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.
I must admit that after a co-worker informed me of Bradbury’s death, my immediate knee-jerk reaction was to wonder out loud whether his remains were to be cremated, at 451 degrees (of course).