Happy 100th Birthday, Ray Bradbury!

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.

Yukon Fantasy/Science Fiction Writer Profiles: Marcelle Dubé

Marcelle DubéThe Yukon is home to more than just one science fiction/fantasy writer. In fact, there’s quite a few, so I’d like to profile them. These will be based on my experiences with them, not just interviews, though I’ve linked and excerpted sections of an interview Marcelle did with Joanna Lilley in What’s Up Yukon.

I first met Marcelle during the first Yukon Writer’s Conference in 2002. She was instrumental in bringing up Canadian sci-fi guru, Robert Sawyer, and for co-organizing a writer’s conference here that would do any university proud. We had six major writers, across genres, editors and agents, each giving multiple seminars. It was a three day event, complete with contests, one-on-one sessions with editors and agents, and food. I remember how shocked I was that this major operation was run by two people. Marcelle was stuffing bags full of free On Spec magazines, pens and pads of paper, in the Westmark when I ran into her for the first time. She didn’t seem like she was running amok–so I had no idea that she didn’t have a staff of twenty with her somewhere in the hotel.

We became friends, writing colleagues. She was part of the growing science fiction/fantasy community here in Whitehorse. And she wanted to provide writers here with the same advantages that writers down south would have. Not to mention, i think, that she wanted to bring up some people that she wanted to meet too!

Marcelle describes her work in this interview with Joanna Lilley:

I always like a plucky heroine who finds herself in a situation and needs her brains and her courage to get herself out.

Her stories often have well-conceived, elaborate cultures. I remember one of my favorite stories of hers, “Jhyoti“, that concerned how women prepared the dead for burial. Vividly detailed, well written, the story ended up in Challenging Destiny. Richard Horton, of Locus, recalls her story and two others (out of 14) in his end of the year review of Challenging Destiny:

From #25 I really enjoyed a rather traditional story — but very well done — by Marcelle Dubé: “Jhyoti”. The heroine is a low-caste woman trying to make it in the Academy. Doing some research, she finds evidence of terrible abuse and murder of a low-caste woman by a higher-caste person — can she risk her career, and disappoint her patrons, by investigating this? There are no surprises here, but it was quite satisfying.

Marcelle also got her work published in Julie Czerneda’s anthology of Polar Science called Polaris. She is just starting to sell, like me, and she has an excellent critical eye for story. I value her critique on my work. She attended World Fantasy with me and Claire Eamer (another writer you will get to meet on this blog soon) and made several more contacts. I suspect we’ll be hearing a lot more from Marcelle in short stories to come. She has attended a Master Class workshop in the short story from Dean Wesley Smith on the Oregon Coast, and will be attending another this year.

But Marcelle is not satisfied with just growing her own career. She wants to help all of us. This generosity of spirit has made her invaluable to the writing community. Since 2002, she has helped host two other conferences, that I can think of, and one coming up in 2009. She and Barb Dunlop invite writers, editors and agents that span every genre–romance, literary, mystery, science fiction–so that everyone gets helped up here. Because of these conferences I have met more science fiction writers than I ever did in Texas (cause none of them came to Lubbock, Texas ) and all the writer’s conferences were done by AWP or MLA or SWPCA and had hundreds or thousands of attendees, which meant that authors, agents and editors were swarmed by people, who had much higher clearance than some refugee from Texas Tech. (I met Ray Bradbury in Lubbock–which is another story.)

Because of Marcelle and Barb–and the moneys granted to them by the Advanced Artist Awards and other Yukon agencies for the growth of the Arts–I was able to meet, dine with, and learn from Robert Sawyer, Matt Hughes, Candas Jane Dorsey, Terrence Green, and editor, Diane Walton of On Spec–as well as authors, agents and editors in othe genres. Yes, in the Yukon. Taking classes from Terrence Green moved my story “Lemmings in the Third Year” to publishable quality and his suggestions on places to send it helped it get published quickly in Tesseracts Nine.

See, we are never alone as writers. We are always beholden on the community around us to lift us up, connect us, encourage us, critique us, kick our asses. I’m glad Marcelle is up here; she’s a great colleague and friend and I hope to see more of her unique vision in all the fantasy and science fiction magazines. I also hope, for the Yukon’s sake, she and Barb continue to organize these conferences which bring the world of Publishing to the Yukon.

See you all in April for the 2009 Yukon Writer’s Conference!