I was jealous of my wife a couple of years ago.
Our son’s sophomore English class read Ray Bradbury’s cautionary novel Fahrenheit 451 and she found the time to read along.
My writing deadlines and regimen of prioritizing news and nonfiction books blocked me from making it a family affair. But Aug. 22 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Bradbury (who died in 2012), so I’ve been doing the best I can to prepare to pay tribute to the author whose haunting short story, “There Will Come Soft Rains,” remains one of my most vivid junior high school memories.
(The GIRLS in my class also deserve credit for seeing to it that science fiction and fantasy were my most vivid junior high school memories. *Sigh*)
As the centennial approaches, I’ve been speed-reading Bradbury biographical material. I waxed nostalgic to learn of his childhood encounters with Johnson Smith Co. novelty catalogs, and felt tremendously relieved to discover that he, too, thought NBC’s 1980 miniseries of The Martian Chronicles was “just boring.”
I’m reacquainting myself with the anthology The Illustrated Man. (Oh, how that intriguing tattoo-enhanced cover called out to me from the paperback rack at the local library nearly 50 years ago!)
I’m scheduling time to watch Something Wicked This Way Comes (starring Jason Robards), the Emmy Award-winning animated movie The Halloween Tree and the “I Sing the Body Electric” episode of the original The Twilight Zone.
Starting with “Mars Is Heaven,” I’m working my way through the 65 episodes of the 1985-1992 The Ray Bradbury Theater TV series. (Oh, that intoxicatingly cluttered, imagination-invigorating office in the opening sequence!)
Bradbury was a man ahead of his time, and not just because he envisioned technological marvels such as banking ATMs, ear buds, Bluetooth headsets and artificial intelligence. He believed in “paying it forward” before it was a “thing.”
He was never bashful about crediting inspirations, such as H.G. Wells, Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs. He also made time to encourage young writers. (At least one of my Facebook friends reveres Bradbury as an invaluable mentor.)
As early as 1994, Bradbury was sounding alarm bells about then-nascent “political correctness.” He had such a love affair with the English language, it would be disrespectful to PUT WORDS in his mouth about any specific current personalities, causes or hot-button topics; but I can’t imagine he would have approved of the sledgehammer approach of modern “cancel culture.”
What all can Bradbury fans (and potential fans) do to mark the milestone birthday?
Certainly, the various fan pages on social media can point you to books (in numerous genres), memorabilia and events.
Bradbury disciplined himself to write something every single day. It was good advice not just for professional writers but for ordinary folks as well. Write “thank you” cards and “I heard you’re under the weather” cards. Write recipes. Write brainstormed ideas that just might come to fruition someday. Write recollections of family anecdotes. Again, pay it forward.
To the extent that COVID-19 allows, utilize and support your local public library. Libraries have had few better friends than Ray “Libraries raised me” Bradbury.
Civic projects abound, but a library is a priceless starting point for finding the things that really matter to you.
“Burning passions, not burning books.” Bradbury could doubtless say it better, but I’m sure he would approve of the sentiment.
— Satirical columnist Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page Tyree’s Tyrades. He is syndicated by Cagle Cartoons. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.