This is a series where I write about the people who have inspired my creative journey and become part of my creative DNA: the people who live and breathe creativity and are using their passion to make the world a more interesting place. I’ve also written about Nick Bantock, Jim Hensen, Lisa Congdon, Amanda Palmer, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Miranda July.
Who is Ray Bradbury?
A writer of short stories and novels who lived from 1920 to 2012. Known for books like Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. Called “the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream” by the New York Times.
What’s so great about him?
So much has been written about Bradbury that I think I’ll let these quotes speak for themselves:
“Throughout his life, Bradbury liked to recount the story of meeting a carnival magician, Mr. Electrico, in 1932. At the end of his performance Electrico reached out to the twelve-year-old Bradbury, touched the boy with his sword, and commanded, Live forever! Bradbury later said, I decided that was the greatest idea I had ever heard. I started writing every day. I never stopped.” Source
“Famously prolific, Bradbury wrote for several hours every day throughout his entire life, allowing him to publish more than 30 books, close to 600 short stories, and numerous poems, essays, screenplays and plays.” Source
“Though Bradbury won many honors and awards throughout his life, his favorite was perhaps being named “ideas consultant” for the United States Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair. “Can you imagine how excited I was?” he later said about the honor. “‘Cause I’m changing lives, and that’s the thing. If you can build a good museum, if you can make a good film, if you can build a good world’s fair, if you can build a good mall, you’re changing the future. You’re influencing people, so that they’ll get up in the morning and say, ‘Hey, it’s worthwhile going to work.’ That’s my function, and it should be the function of every science fiction writer around. To offer hope. To name the problem and then offer the solution. And I do, all the time.” Source
“In 2012, the NASA Curiosity rover landing site on the planet Mars was named “Bradbury Landing””. Source
“In 1971, an impact crater on Earth’s moon was named “Dandelion Crater” by the Apollo 15 astronauts, in honor of Bradbury’s novel Dandelion Wine”. Source
“On June 6, 2012, in an official public statement from the White House Press Office, President Barack Obama said:
For many Americans, the news of Ray Bradbury’s death immediately brought to mind images from his work, imprinted in our minds, often from a young age. His gift for storytelling reshaped our culture and expanded our world. But Ray also understood that our imaginations could be used as a tool for better understanding, a vehicle for change, and an expression of our most cherished values. There is no doubt that Ray will continue to inspire many more generations with his writing”. Source
How has he inspired me?
I first read Bradbury in high school, when I needed to choose a book for an English project and my teacher recommended the Martian Chronicles. I wasn’t sure if it would be something I would enjoy, but I trusted her so I gave it a shot. It was science fiction but with a greater focus on humanity than on science. Bradbury was so tender towards the Martians, and his descriptions were so magical and vivid. I started reading everything I could by him and fell in love with writing like this:
“There was a smell of Time in the air tonight. He smiled and turned the fancy in his mind. There was a thought. What did time smell like? Like dust and clocks and people. And if you wondered what Time sounded like it sounded like water running in a dark cave and voices crying and dirt dropping down upon hollow box lids, and rain. And, going further, what did Time look like? Time look like snow dropping silently into a black room or it looked like a silent film in an ancient theater, 100 billion faces falling like those New Year balloons, down and down into nothing. That was how Time smelled and looked and sounded. And tonight-Tomas shoved a hand into the wind outside the truck-tonight you could almost taste time.”
― Ray Bradbury,
Everything he writes is full of joy and life, even the dark stuff. If you read enough of his works, you might learn the secret of happiness. You’ll at least pick up a trick or two.
In Death is a Lonely Business Bradbury offers some important advice to writers. His protagonist is a struggling writer and someone tells him that he needs to “throw up in his typewriter every morning, and clean up every noon”. Bradbury wrote for hours a day since he was a young boy and his steadfast commitment to creating stories is awe-inspiring.
He also shares my affinity for libraries: “Bradbury was a strong supporter of public library systems, raising money to prevent the closure of several libraries in California facing budgetary cuts. He said “libraries raised me”, and shunned colleges and universities, comparing his own lack of funds during the Depression with poor contemporary students.” Source
What does he do that’s different than others?
While his work has been called science fiction, it usually focuses more on character and story than on any science. Throughout his life, Bradbury searchd for the joy of experience, savoured being alive, and held an incredbile optimism and hope for the future of mankind. He has a unique, exuberantly poetic writing style that’s almost stream of consciousness, almost like he can’t quite keep up with himself and his excitement:
“It was the face of spring, it was the face of summer, it was the warmness of clover breath. Pomegranate glowed in her lips, and the noon sky in her eyes. To touch her face was that always new experience of opening your window one December morning, early, and putting out your hand to the first white cool powdering of snow that had come, silently, with no announcement, in the night. And all of this, this breath-warmness and plum-tenderness was held forever in one miracle of photographic is chemistry which no clock winds could blow upon to change one hour or one second; this fine first cool white snow would never melt, but live a thousand summers.”
― Ray Bradbury,
“In my later years I have looked in the mirror each day and found a happy person staring back. Occasionally I wonder why I can be so happy. The answer is that every day of my life I’ve worked only for myself and for the joy that comes from writing and creating. The image in my mirror is not optimistic, but the result of optimal behavior.” ― Ray Bradbury
“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”― Ray Bradbury
“If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.” ― Ray Bradbury
“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.”― Ray Bradbury