'Live Forever!' Remembering Sci-Fi-/Fantasy Legend Ray Bradbury
Acclaimed, Pulitzer-honored science fiction/fantasy author Ray Bradbury has died at the age of 91 in Los Angeles, following one of the most fruitful creative writing careers of the 20th century. The man behind such genre classics as Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes leaves behind a stunning legacy spanning works adapted for television, film, and the stage.
It's difficult to quantify the impact that Bradbury had on the worlds of science fiction, literature, and the numerous film and television adaptations that sprang from his seven decades of writing, not to mention the generations of sci-fi and fantasy lovers weaned on his tales. The man had an asteroid and a moon crater named in his honor, for goodness sake, had dozens of his stories adapted for stage, film, and television, and never went to college. For a child growing up with Bradbury's stories, the world was filled much more with wonder. For an adult, his tales prompted deeper introspection.
It Came From Outer Space:
Icarus Montgolfier Wright:
Something Wicked This Way Comes:
Bradbury on his Fahrenheit 451:
Folks will have their own cherished Bradbury moments, but I'll leave you with one of my favorite of his real life stories. Writing in 2001, Bradbury shared the childhood incident that inspired him to become a writer in the first place: A chance meeting with a carnival magician named Mr. Electrico in 1932 following the death of Bradbury's uncle.
Mr. Electrico was a fantastic creator of marvels. He sat in his electric chair every night and was electrocuted in front of all the people, young and old, of Waukegan, Illinois. When the electricity surged through his body he raised a sword and knighted all the kids sitting in the front row below his platform. I had been to see Mr. Electrico the night before. When he reached me, he pointed his sword at my head and touched my brow. The electricity rushed down the sword, inside my skull, made my hair stand up and sparks fly out of my ears. He then shouted at me, "Live forever!"
I thought that was a wonderful idea, but how did you do it?
The next day, being driven home by my father, fresh from the funeral, I looked down at those carnival tents and thought to myself, "The answer is there. He said 'Live forever,' and I must go find out how to do that." I told my father to stop the car. He didn't want to, but I insisted. He stopped the car and let me out, furious with me for not returning home to partake in the wake being held for my uncle. With the car gone, and my father in a rage, I ran down the hill. What was I doing? I was running away from death, running toward life.
When I reached the carnival grounds, by God, sitting there, almost as if he were waiting for me, was Mr. Electrico. I grew, suddenly, very shy. I couldn't possibly ask, How do you live forever? But luckily I had a magic trick in my pocket. I pulled it out, held it toward Mr. Electrico and asked him if he'd show me how to do the trick. He showed me how and then looked into my face and said, "Would you like to see some of those peculiar people in that tent over there?"
I said, "Yes."
He took me over to the sideshow tent and hit it with his cane and shouted, "Clean up your language!" at whoever was inside. Then, he pulled up the tent flap and took me in to meet the Illustrated Man, the Fat Lady, the Skeleton Man, the acrobats, and all the strange people in the sideshows.
He then walked me down by the shore and we sat on a sand dune. He talked about his small philosophies and let me talk about my large ones. At a certain point he finally leaned forward and said, "You know, we've met before."
I replied, "No, sir, I've never met you before."
He said, "Yes, you were my best friend in the great war in France in 1918 and you were wounded and died in my arms at the battle of the Ardennes Forrest. But now, here today, I see his soul shining out of your eyes. Here you are, with a new face, a new name, but the soul shining from your face is the soul of my dear dead friend. Welcome back to the world."
Why did he say that? I don't know. Was there something in my eagerness, my passion for life, my being ready for some sort of new activity? I don't know the answer to that. All I know is that he said, "Live forever" and gave me a future and in doing so, gave me a past many years before, when his friend died in France.
Leaving the carnival grounds that day I stood by the carousel and watched the horses go round and round to the music of "Beautiful Ohio." Standing there, the tears poured down my face, for I felt that something strange and wonderful had happened to me because of my encounter with Mr. Electrico.
I went home and the next day traveled to Arizona with my folks. When we arrived there a few days later I began to write, full-time. I have written every single day of my life since that day 69 years ago.
I have long since lost track of Mr. Electrico, but I wish that he existed somewhere in the world so that I could run to him, embrace him, and thank him for changing my life and helping me become a writer.
Live forever, indeed! Read the full entry here and leave your own Bradbury celebrations below.