One of my all time favorite pieces of pop culture trivia is that back in 1930's Los Angeles there were 2 boys named Ray who hung out together at the movies. One of their favorite movies was King Kong. The one boy dreamed of designing creatures like Kong, and the dinosaurs he battled on Skull Island. The other boy dreamed of writing stories that would take people other places, just like the movies did. In a happy Hollywood ending, both boys got their wishes. One, Ray Harryhausen became the film world's greatest master of stop motion animation. The other was Ray Bradbury.
Several times their dreams crossed on screen as Mr Harryhausen made visible Mr Bradbury's written visions, most famously when Harryhausen animated the lovesick dinosaur of one of Bradburys best known stories: "The Fog Horn".
Mr Bradburys stories took to all sorts of times and places. Some were set in a nostalgic past, often a past in which a sweet innocence is corrupted by darkness and evil, as in Something Wicked This Way Comes. Or he could take us to a dark future that didn't seem to be that far from our own, as he did with Fahrenheit 451. Or through a whole series of stories he could take us to a Mars no other person had ever dreamed of.
In Mr Bradbury's stories the effect of events upon the humans in the stories is always at the forefront. Of all the sci-fi writers I have read, he is the one who most often moves to tears, perhaps because you can so easily see yourself in the position of his finely drawn characters. One of my favorite stories is about a boy/man who is always 12. He settles in a place for awhile, finds some childless couple to take him in, then moves on again when the other moms start noticing that he never changes or grows. When you read the story its hard to say whom you feel worse for, the little boy or the foster parents who have loved him and now must watch him leave.
In "All summer in a Day" a story I just finished re-reading, children growing up on a planet where it always rains react cruelly to a new arrival from Earth who tells them of a seemingly insane world of sunshine and clear skies. I hadn't read it in a long time, and had forgotten how deeply I hurt for the little girl who missed so terribly something we take for granted. Yet I sympathise also with the other children, who act in ignorance of a world they do not know.
Many of his stories, like these two, are told from the point of view of a child, for he never lost the ability to to tell a story from a child's perspective, filtered through an adults wistful nostalgia.
What runs through his work more than anything else is a great love of words....both the readers' love of consuming words and the writers' love of crafting with them.
He was also better served in the visual medium than some other writers. His own Ray Bradbury scifi series, the TV miniseries of The Martian Chronicles, the film version of Something Wicked this Way Comes all capture something of his vision; and another great artist, Francois Truffaut made an amazing film of Fahrenheit 451.
In that film there is a devastating image of classic books dissolving in flames. To a lover of books it is gut wrenching. But there is another image at the end of the film--when the hero encounters a village of people who have each taken the task of memorizing a great book, because books cant be destroyed when they are in peoples minds and hearts. There is this blending murmur of many voices, each reciting the stories they have given their lives to. Happily when I think of Ray Bradbury, It is not the flames I think of, but the river of words.