Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ray Bradbury, 1920 - 2012

Ray Bradbury died Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at the age of 91. I have read one article that says he died in the morning, and another that says he died that night. What I want to know is, did he die before, during, or after the transit of Venus? I want it to be "during," because it seems important that the transit and his death least from my sense of fitness in a literary sense.

Somewhere around 1964, on a rainy July afternoon at Camp Riva-Lake, I discovered a tattered copy of The Martian Chronicles in a little library of paperbacks in one of the cabins. The cover and some of the pages were missing, and those that were still glued together were quite yellow with age. But I was hooked immediately, and from that day on I was a fan of Ray Bradbury.

I first attended the Santa Barbara Writers Conference in 1995 because he was the keynote speaker. I figured a writing conference that had Ray Bradbury for a keynoter had to be just the place for me. And it was, and he was an awesome speaker, talking of a boyhood love for comics, enduring the sneers of other kids when he cut Buck Rogers cartoons out of the newspaper to keep in a scrapbook, how he became a writer, how years later he was asked to write the introduction to an anthology of Buck Rogers comics. He asked us to reflect on the metaphors of our lives and to write about them.

I have three of his books that he autographed for me at the conference over the years. He wrote my name when he signed the copy of The Martian Chronicles. I bet an autographed copy of The Martian Chronicles would go for plenty today on Ebay. Tough! It's mine forever!

I last saw him speak at SBWC in 2008. He had had a stroke and was in a wheelchair, and his speech was a little slow and halting. But that brilliant mind was still there, spinning stories day after day.

I leave for the 2012 conference tomorrow. I know we will be talking about him there -- and raising a glass to him (I seem to recall he always had one of those in his hand!). Thank you, Ray, for sharing your soaring imagination with us, and urging us to soar with you.

And on the day you died, the world was looking up at the skies and beholding the wonder of Venus passing in front of the sun. We were focused just where you wanted us to be. Perfect!