Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury owned Mars. And summer, and Halloween.

He owned them. He had written about them so compellingly, so convincingly, that they belonged to him.

And his death at the age of 91 Wednesday doesn't really change that. They will belong to him as surely as the X on the map marking Treasure Island will always belong to Robert Louis Stevenson, or rude, impertinent cats will always belong to Dr. Seuss.

I was fortunate to hear him speak once, at our high school back in 1973. He was inspiring. He brought up the fact that he owns Mars, not to show off, but to show us how we too could stake out turf in the cultural zeitgeist and make it our own.

A great irony he pointed out was that, though he was best known as a science fiction writer (though he protested that wasn't so) he didn't like, didn't trust machines, He couldn't drive – our high school student body president had to pick him up at his home and drive him to our Southern California high school, then drive him back afterwards. It was a task she had no objection to. He also said he had never flown in a plane. This was in 1972, when he would have been 51.

He was always going to be a writer, that was what he was going to do and no one was going to stop him. He just kept writing, and at first, he admits, his stories weren't that good. But over time, quantity began to make up quality. He didn't expect to get it right the first time. He kept working at it.

I know you've heard it a thousand times before. But it's true – hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don't love something, then don't do it,” he has said. “I spent three days a week for 10 years educating myself in the public library, and it's better than college. People should educate themselves – you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I'd written a thousand stories.”

Not all of those stories were published, or even any good. But they made him good. And by the time he broke out, he was as pretty much as good as anyone gets.

He's best known, I suppose, for Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Martian Chronicles and The Halloween Tree, and more than 600 short stories. But my favorite work is the magical novel Dandelion Wine. It's set in the 1920s, telling the story of a boy in a small American town and the way a child experiences life – The feel of a new pair of tennis shoes, how you feel suddenly like you can run forever; the awful realization that comes when you realize your parents, who have always seemed omnipotent, can feel fear; the death of a loved one, the loss of a friend. It's just an amazing book, and though it's set in another time – the time of Bradbury's own boyhood – so much of it rings absolutely true today. It still has the power to move me, to transport me back more years than I care to think about, to when I was that age.

He was a giant.

Here are a few more quotes from Ray Bradbury, culled from the site, Brainyquote.com

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you

Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can't try to do things. You simply must do things.

Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me.After the explosion, I spent the rest of the day putting the pieces together.
I don't try to describe the future. I try to prevent it.
If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.

If you don't like what you're doing, then don't do it.

Love is the answer to everything. It's the only reason to do anything. If you don't write stories you love, you'll never make it. If you don't write stories that other people love, you'll never make it.

Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.  

My stories run up and bite me on the leg – I respond by writing down everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs off. 

Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.

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