Like many others I read with great sadness of the passing, at age 91, of author Ray Bradbury. I never met or corresponded with Mr. Bradbury, but I feel I knew him. And I feel he knew me as well, the same way he knew every other human being who had the privilege of reading and loving his work. Because, in my opinion, Ray Bradbury's business was not really science fiction, fantasy, mystery, horror, nor any other genre in which he chose to write over his long career. It was the human heart, and all the things a human heart could experience during the life of its custodian: love, fear, wonder, pain, wistfulness, sorrow, joy, melancholy, and so forth. No doubt Ray conjured for us a multitude of extraordinary settings: the magically macabre carnival of Something Wicked This Way Comes was my personal favorite. But I remain convinced that Ray Bradbury's real interest was in people, no matter how alien the milieu in which they found themselves. People in all their beauty, all their madness, all their passions. Just people.
Innumerable tributes to Ray Bradbury can be found online or in print today, far more eloquent and comprehensive than anything I'm able to muster. Yet, taken together, these tributes are far greater than the sum of their parts. On websites and internet communities of all political persuasions, I am seeing comment after comment in praise of Ray Bradbury. How he touched a particular commenter's life. How deeply he will be missed. How, through his marvelous work, he will live forever, just as Mr. Electrico promised he would all those years ago. The remarks are virtually interchangeable, and in such a deeply divided time as ours I am comforted, even encouraged, by this uniformity of feeling. If so many people of so many backgrounds can be moved by the work of this one man, what else might we find to agree on?
A good deal has been written about how Ray Bradbury's death occurred under the Transit of Venus. A coincidence, maybe, but I prefer to think that somewhere in the vast luminous clockwork of Time and Space a bell chimed or a gear shifted, and suddenly all the stars and planets and grandly rotating galaxies knew, even if we human beings didn't, that it was time for Ray Bradbury to leave his mortal shell and journey elsewhere. The 2012 Transit of Venus was just the Universe's way of signaling it was ready to pick him up. And on the night of June 5, 2012, he obliged.
Back in 2002 Ray Bradbury published a collection of short stories entitled One More for the Road. The book contains an afterword entitled "Metaphors, The Breakfast of Champions," which I found every bit as delightful as the stories preceding it. Most of the piece focuses on the creative process, but towards the end Ray talks about the need he feels to try to protect other writers. To help them guard against the tragic fates that befell so many authors he had treasured, revered, cared about, in his life. He writes of how he has been compelled to build machines to go back in time and tell those lost suffering authors he loved them. His stories, he tells us, are those machines.
Well, I have no story here, just a too-short essay. But it's the machine I've built for Ray Bradbury. It's the machine I owe him for inspiring me all these years, and I think it will serve its purpose adequately. The engine is humming. The multicolored lights on the console are blinking. The dials and technical readings tell me it is safe to flip the switch. So I will do it now. "Ray Bradbury, I love you."