Over the last couple decades people have told me so often that Ray Bradbury had died that it took a while for it to soak in yesterday. My experience of reading Bradbury isn’t much different from most people who have been posting tributes – Sheila Finch’s really resonates. Like Aliette de Bodard, I think the first Bradbury story I read was “All Summer in a Day.” Like about a million high schoolers of my generation, I was assigned The Illustrated Man – that edition with the crimson cover and the man with his naked, embellished back to the viewer, and blue ink where the previous years’ students traced over the tattoos.
Much later I was able to see Bradbury speak, more than once. Even past his prime and in bad health, he was a charismatic speak and I thought it was a good thing he wasn’t an evil man, because I suspect if he’d told his audience to go outside and get in a spaceship for Mares or pull down a building most of them would’ve done it.* I was also present when the Science Fiction Poetry Association presented him with a Grandmaster Award (at Mystery and Imagination Bookstore in Glendale, which held a birthday party for him every year). Naturally instead of talking to him I clammed up.
But my enduring memory of Bradbury comes from a couple lifetimes ago, between high school/college and having children, when my husband and I commuted every day to LA. Many mornings when we’d drive over the 101 Freeway (often in separate cars, because that’s what LA was like), we’d pass a man crossing the Barham Bridge from the Cahuenga Pass, often carrying a something in a shopping bag. Did you realize, my husband said, that that’s Ray Bradbury? Because he doesn’t drive. So sometimes there’d be Bradbury mornings, which always tangle in my head with the Bradbury Building and Bradbury Summers, which are, I think, the kind of extended Indian Summers that become gold and amber and unearthly, like Martian’s eyes.
*There’s an anecdote that Charles Schultz heard Ray Bradbury speak and was glad he didn’t have any money in his pockets, because he would have given him all of it, unasked.