Sunday, 10 June 2012

Ray Bradbury: A Legend is Gone

When I read that Ray Bradbury had died in California, my first thought was that I'd had no idea he was still alive. This was partly due to the fact that in my mind, all the the truly legendary writers have already passed on. He was 91.

I've read just two of Bradbury's works: Farenheit 451 (of course) and more recently, Zen in the Art of Writing. Farenheit is the kind of science fiction I love - great stories featuring heroic characters who are idealistic to the bone, with strong sociological themes that make them all the more compelling. These stories tend to be chilling: the dystopias they present are all too possible, even probable. Many are projections of conditions and trends that already exist in society. As Bradbury himself has said, "I don't try to describe the future. I try to prevent it."

When I read Zen in the Art of Writing a few years ago I discovered that many of Bradbury's famous quotations on the craft were lifted from that book. There's a reason these quotations have become common coin: they contain a wealth of wisdom condensed from the author's experience:

"Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories." (Hear that, people? Put down the danged iPhone, go outside and look at the stars!)

"I know you've heard it a thousand times before. But it's true - hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don't love something, then don't do it."  (Writers, there are no short-cuts. Grease up those elbows and get to work!)

"Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can't try to do things. You simply must do things." (Hope y'all are listening. Save the thinking for the editing phase.)

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you." (Reality is a bitch. I often wonder how many of us would be locked up in jails or psychiatric facilities if we didn't have our creative outlets.)

Ray Bradbury lived his words; we can do worse than to live by them. The literary community has lost a great author, an invaluable contributor to that filigree that stretches back into the dim past from the books, films and songs of today, through the oral traditions to the stories imagined in dark caves. His bibliography - the novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, teleplays, children's literature and non-fiction - is staggering, and the works are as popular today as they were in the 50s. The author lives on through them.

Liane Spicer