Oh, man. Ray Bradbury has died. I haven’t read any of his work in a long time, but when I was in middle school and high school, I devoured The Illustrated Man, Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and dozens of his standalone short stories. My favorite of his stories is “Sound of Thunder,” a downright creepy time travel tale that gave us the term “butterfly effect.” (I just reread it and it still gives me chills. How many sixty-year-old stories hold up that well?) But there are many other excellent stories–“The Veldt” and “There Will Come Soft Rains” (warning: I still have a There-Will-Come-Soft-Rains-based nightmare from time to time) and “All Summer in a Day” and many others.
There are lots of remembrances on the Web right now: Slate reprints an appreciation of his work, the Huffington Post presents five of his predictions that turned out to be true, and io9 has this awesome quote from his grandson:
If you’re looking for any single passage to remember him by, I just picked up my copy of The Illustrated Man, my favorite of his books. The introduction is entitled “Dancing, So As Not to Be Dead,” and there are some great lines about death. My favorite:
“My tunes and numbers are here. They have filled my years, the years when I refused to die. And in order to do that I wrote, I wrote, I wrote, at noon or 3:00 A.M.
So as not to be dead.”
I’m an actor, something he was always been really proud of, and told me once, after getting cast in a play. “You’re living out my life! You’re doing everything I wanted to do but couldn’t!” He was such a driving force in my life, but what always fascinated me were his impact on others. How his stories lifted people up and saved them from lonely summers. Who among us was never buried deep in a Bradbury story, lost in his meticulously yet effortlessly crafted metaphor?
But if you only have time to read one thing about his death, my recommendation is to skip all the obituaries and go straight to “Sound of Thunder.”