Ray Bradbury’s 100th birthday is August 22, and he has always been a huge inspiration to me.
I borrowed my older brother’s copies of Bradbury’s books the first time and couldn’t stop reading his short fiction. I loved his passionate characters who believed so deeply in something they were willing to fight for it.
I read R is for Rocket, S is for Space, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Illustrated Man, even later, The Toynbee Convector. I loved the way he wrote—the prose just sings with joy! And I love the monologues of characters on the brink of getting what they need! I have taught The Martian Chronicles as a perfect short story collection—connected, multi-character, and those stories have affected my stories.
I got the amazing chance to meet him when I was 21, (I think I was 21), when he came to Lubbock, Texas. He spoke at length about his garage doors he designed for the Smithsonian exhibit, and about writing the screenplay for Moby Dick, the movie. He also talked a little about Mars. Afterwards, I stood in line to get my book signed, The Martian Chronicles, and to meet him. Just as I got to the front of the line, as I was about to say something to him, a woman butted up in front with a stack of opened Bradbury books, about ten of them, slapped the stack of books on the table like a tower, said to him that this “wouldn’t take long” ( she might have been part of the team responsible for the event. I don’t know) and urged him to sign them quickly. But then she grabbed her daughter and gave her a camera and pulled Ray to the side, as he was trying to sign the books, for a photo with her, swiveled him around in the chair like a puppet, threw an arm around him and smiled big.
When he had finished signing, finally, and she had gone, he looked at me and I guess somehow we connected, and he decided to make up for her rudeness by spending extra long with me. I mean there was a line behind me, but for a moment, we were conspirators in the slog she made him go through before he could talk to me.
Me: I read all of your work. It’s amazing. It inspired me to be a writer. I write stories too. I am a writer because of you.
Ray: Are you sending your stories out?
Me: (stuttering, faltering) Well…I
Ray: I wrote a story every week. I started on Monday and ended on Saturday and mailed it off. Now all of them weren’t that good. But I had a better chance of making a sale if I kept writing anyway. If you are writing 52 stories a year, a few of them have to be pretty good, right? I had a better chance with 52 of them in circulation than I did with one or two.
He looked me in the eye, “Send your stories out.”
I feel like I got a blessing from Ray Bradbury that day. A challenge. The gauntlet thrown!
I’ve never written a story a week! Lol. But I would like to push myself more.
I felt like he encouraged me to believe in myself, anyway, no matter how good or bad I thought a story was.
This little interview with him below is wonderful! I hope you enjoy his spirit and his love of life! I felt this was something about Ray I resonated with. That love. I miss his writing. He died at 91 years of age.
Happy Birthday, Ray! Thank you for your stories, your love of life, and for those precious, life-changing few extra minutes with me.