Monday, August 30, 2010

Pure Imagination (The Marsist)

Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews
Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews
Simply put Ray Bradbury is the reason I read science fiction.  He isn't the only writer in the field I read, but  his writing best exemplifies what I love about the genre. There are technical masters like Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke - men who might be too smart for their own good. They can tell you kinds of marvelous things about technology and the way things work.  Ray has never been quite so concerned with such details, as he says in one interview he doesn't care how to build a rocket - he just wants to fly. You see even at age ninety and beyond Ray Bradbury is still in many ways a ten year old boy. He never gave up his love for toys or his sense of childlike wonder. Thus the imagination of Ray Bradbury has never been polluted with things that would otherwise limit his gift.

Throughout this book of interviews readers get a glimpse into the mind of a true legend. Sam Weller, the author of Listen to the Echoes also wrote The Bradbury Chronicles, an award-winning biography.  For fans who want to know everything that is likely a better choice - however for those readers who just want 'the good stuff' this will suffice nicely. Each interview covers a set topic ; Childhood, Hollywood, Art & Literature, Sexuality to name a few.  It isn't set up entirely chronologically, as some cover multiple decades .  As a fan I am sometimes torn when it comes to reading about a writers 'intent' or 'reason' for writing this or that.  On the one hand I am curious, but on the other some things are better left unexplained.  This is especially true in the case of sci-fi in my opinion.  These interviews balance those concerns well I think, although much of that is owed to Bradbury's own respect his readers in my view.

As one familiar with his work would expect, Ray Bradbury's influences are vast and numerous.  His love of films is as complete as his love of rockets. He recounts his life as a teenager in Hollywood like it was yesterday.  He was an obsessive fan, who was often posted outside or as near to studios as possible.  He collected autographs of actors and directors in a little book he still cherishes to this day.  Of course once his own star had risen in the world meeting celebrities became a much easier thing.  A couple of my favorite remembered recollections were his meeting David Bowie and John Steinbeck. When explaining the diversity of his influences some might be surprised to hear that he hasn't read anything in his own field of science fiction in over fifty years ; However as a rapper who admittedly hardly listens to rap music anymore this fact resonated with me.

There are some details of Ray's past which seem perhaps too fantastic to be believed.  For instance he claims to actually remember his birth. His defense to the assertion that this is untrue is that he was a ten month baby - that the extra month in the womb allowed his eyes to develop beyond the level of ordinary infants.  While I fully acknowledge that Bradbury is anything but normal, this was still too much for me.  Being the fan I am though I think it only right to allow a visionary, and one of fiction's true idea men to get away with a lie here and there. After all so many of Bradbury's lies are the best kind of lies, the ones you wish were true.

Bradbury is perhaps the best short story writer that has ever lived. This is how I first encountered his work, and likely what I will always remember about him.  However he is also an accomplished novelist, screenwriter, playwright, and sometimes poet.  He even once won an academy award for an animated short.  In addition to all this Ray is the very definition of prolific.  Throughout his iconic career he has written over 600 stories. Despite caring so little for being scientifically accurate he did write what may well be the most prophetic piece of sci-fi literature, Fahrenheit 451.  This is evidence of not only his imagination but also his practical knowledge.  When skeptics of the genre belittle the value of science fiction, I point them toward Ray Bradbury.  After reading this collection of interviews I will do the same with any pessimistic complainers ; One need only look at Ray's many loves to be reminded of the good things. Ray loves books, movies, plays, music, people, toys, and rockets ; but most of all Ray loves life.

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