Ray Bradbury RIP

I meant to get to this yesterday – to eulogize a writer who, every bit as much as e.e. cummings and (mea culpa) James Michener, first inspired me to want to be a writer.  Instead, I will let Orson Scott Card do it for me – stealing much of what I would have wanted to say.

I only add that there are two camps when it comes to appraising Bradbury’s work: One camp holds that Bradbury is first and foremoest a sci-fi writer. The other claims that sci-fi settings were only the background for his truly human and uniquely inventive dramas. (cf. “The Veldt” esp.)

Put me squarely in the latter camp. Unlike, say, Asimov or Clarke, Bradbury was not so interested in how technology could change humanity. Rather, more akin to Tolkien and Homer, he was interested in what remained the same about humanity – whether in Middle Earth or on the Trojan plains or the virtual reality of the African veldt.

Perhaps best put it this way: Bradbury was a sci-fi writer to exactly the same extent that Twain was a Southern writer. Both used their setting effectively, but transcending it, neither could ever be defined by it. 

I don’t know how time will judge Bradbury, but for my money, I’ll bet you he’ll be read well into the future…




  1. Well said, JOB.

  2. I absolutely loved Ray Bradbury as a child and need to reread and re-purchase his books (I think the only one we have sitting around is The Martian Chronicles). I can’t add to anything you’ve posted except to say that “The Small Assassin” still freaks me out. (Perhaps best read as a companion piece to Alphonse.

    • I’ve read so many obitsm, tributes and eulogies to him – and most if not all of them start out “Bradbury was a favorite writer of mine growing up” etc. Even my bit is a variation on that. I read him in high school – all I could get my hands on. Why did I stop reading him, though?

      Why did we all?


  3. He was great. A humanist in the best sense and the perfect writer for high school kids and everyone else. The photo is a repetition moment for most of us. Thanks JOB.

  4. And please don’t apologize for liking Michener (or anyone else). He’s probably better than anyone else on the NYT bestseller list these days. Good popular writing is still good writing in my world where the color of the sky is green.

    • Sure, I know. And I’ll still defend Chesapeake as a nearly great novel. But it took me much longer than I should have to realize he mostly writes the same novel with a different historical background.

      The aforementioned Chesapeake and his travelogue “Iberia” are the two outstanding excpetions. To the mat for those.

      And you’re right, he is probably better than a lot of the claptrap out there now – and not a bad way to cut one’s teenaged teeth on storytelling.


  5. More here:

  6. Imelda/Sophia says

    Thank you for this, JOB. I’be been waiting for someone to articulate Why Bradbury Mattered in words I couldn’t quite find.

  7. Jonathan Potter says

    I love the story of how he wrote Fahrenheit 451 on a coin-operated typewriter in the library basement. If I were a more of a fan, I’d write an homage to Mr. Bradbury in the form of a sci-fi story involving a coin-operated typewriter.

  8. Never a huge Bradbury fan myself (perhaps I’ll give him another try now), but yes to all that about Michener. Chesapeake, yes, and also Hawaii, The Source … I think he’s at his best when he’s not merely changing the names of historical figures, or at least doing so in ways that don’t steal from history. Tales of the South Pacific, for example. The Drifters, too, which is an excellent novel about the countercultural sixties.

  9. Another Michener fan in the bunch? Hah!

    Actually, I’d take issue with you about the Drifters. You could tell it was written by someone out of touch with actual counterculture: to wit – a small but telling error. He referred to characters listening to Blind Faith’s “next album.” Of course, Blind Faith only had ONE album.

    Don’t ask me why I remembered that these many years later (i.e. 25 years ago I read it) but it still irritates me.

    The others, though, were great as you say. Forgot about Hawaii – the preacher’s wife gorging herself sick on bananas; the Source too, although didn’t like the framing story as much. The Hoopoe character, I seem to remember best. Also, I don’t know why, but Space hit me in a way the others didn’t. Perhaps because there was no framing device.

    Yeah, there were worse ways to spend one’s leisure hours…


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