When I was 11 years old, Ray Bradbury changed my life.
One Saturday morning, when I was 11, I encountered Mr. Bradbury for the first time in the science fiction section of the San Luis Obispo public library, when I pulled his short story collection The Illustrated Man off the shelf to read while I waited for my mother to get done with her grocery shopping. The first story I read was “The Veldt”, which had such a profound impact on my prepubescent brain that to this day I still think of it with awe. Even my unsophisticated 11-year-old self knew I had stumbled onto something miraculous.
From that point forward, I read every Bradbury story I could find in the public library and the school library. I traveled far and wide with S Is For Space and R Is For Rocket; drank Dandelion Wine with abandon; romped through Greentown with Jim and Will in Something Wicked This Way Comes; I wrote very very bad derivative stories inspired by The Martian Chronicles for English and Creative Writing classes in junior high and high school. Writing my own stories made me appreciate the sheer artistry and genius of the man: how precise his word choices; how well he conveyed an entire world in 20 pages or less.
That chance encounter at age 11 enriched my life in more ways that I can count. Bradbury opened the door that led me to Asimov and Clarke and Heinlein and Ellison, to Tolkien and LeGuin and Donaldson, to Poe and King and Lovecraft and McCammon, to all the masters of science fiction and fantasy and horror, and all the worlds they created.
My world would have been so much less, so diminished, so impoverished, without Ray Bradbury.
The authors of this collection of short stories feel much the same way. Twenty-six authors, each a writing great on his own; 26 stories, each after the manner of The Great Man; and 26 essays on how Ray Bradbury influenced, inspired, and awed each of these writers in turn.
And while there are too many stories to review or synopsize each one, I want to spotlight a few. Neil Gaiman’s tale of “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” is so perfect it defies description. “Children of the Bedtime Machine” by Robert McCammon brought tears to my eyes. “The Tattoo” by Bonnie Jo Campbell pays just and due homage to that other, more famous, story about ink and skin and humanity. In each of the stories, we find bits and pieces of Bradbury in mood, in tone, in setting; each story is unsettling and off-kilter by that much, by the teeniest tiniest littlest bit, by just enough to set the reader starting at the shadow by the door or the shape half-glimpsed by the corner of the eye.
This collection was published in July 2012. Sadly, the Great Man Himself passed away just weeks before its publication. ‘Tis a fitting tribute to my favorite author, and possibly the greatest author of all time. Sweet dreams, Mr. Bradbury. I’ll miss you, and cherish you, forever and ever and ever.
Thank you to Library Thing‘s Early Reviewers for the opportunity to read this book.