The BBC just announced that, as he approached the age of 92, Ray Bradbury has left us all to it. Since starting this blog many of the people I revered as a child have died but with the passing of Ray Bradbury goes not just a man but a feeling. A sense of wonder. A feeling that right now, just millimetres beyond our senses lies a vast world of infinite imagination. A feeling that, when the hubbub of the day has died down, when the cars engines have been turned off, the last door has been slammed shut and the drunks have gone to bed, for those with just the patience to wait and be silent, something spectacular might occur.
I loved his short stories which were not about armies, companies or organisations. There were no grand themes and there were no heroes or villains. The stories were about people and their relationship with the world. They were about how we feel when something astounding happens.
It is odd that no particular story stands out in my mind but the feeling of a warm and quiet night where something strange is happening has stayed with me along with the names of the stories. “Long After Midnight”, “The Golden Apples of The Sun”, “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit”, “Dark They Were And Golden Eyed”, “The Small Assassin, “Dandelion Wine”.
Dystopianism has become the default preset for Science Fiction and the radio is already burbling on about Fahrenheit 451 but it was not always this way. In the early years of Science Fiction there was dystopianism and there was Space Opera but there were also a determined bunch of authors who refused to let the genre crystallise around them. They set their own style and stretched the meaning of Science Fiction. Michael Moorcock merged cutting edge science with fantasy amidst a host of fantastic characters, the prescient Philip K. Dick portrayed how advanced technologies would become so embedded in our lives that we would regard it as mundane as tap water and Ray Bradbury sometimes strayed so far that the stories carried little more than the feeling. But that feeling is what I shall remember him for. A feeling of quiet awe that inspired me to gaze up at the sky on warm nights and wonder which shining light might be heading my way?