I read a lot of his short stories when I was starting out as a writer and I envied him his prolificity, and the expansive market that was available to him. Here was a writer who made a living out of his short stories when he was in his twenties. He’d write a short story on Monday, polish it throughout the week, and submit it on Saturday. Sunday was ideas day, a day for getting something right in his mind for another first draft the following morning. I love that his work is full of purple prose. I love that he is sentimental, nostalgic, emotional. I love that his SF is unconcerned with technology and equations and mind-bending scientific theory. It’s as simple and poetic and wondrous as this:
The rocket lay on the launching field, blowing out pink clouds of fire and oven heat. The rocket stood in the cold winter morning, making summer with every breath of its mighty exhausts. The rocket made climates and summer lay for a brief moment upon the land…*
But he also wrote very effective horror stories too: The Jar, Skeleton and The Crowd I found particularly disturbing. I wrote to Ray Bradbury when I was a teenager. Cheekily (or obnoxiously… take your pick), I included a couple of my short stories. One of them, Chalk Marks in a Rain Storm, was something of an homage to The Picasso Summer. He wrote back with some wonderful advice, and sent me a signed photograph. He also said that he especially liked Chalk Marks in a Rain Storm. I remember floating around for a while after that, and I put some extra hours in that week on whatever I was working on. He’s a great role model for new short story writers, and his work is timeless. He also, for me, wins hands down the best title for an SF novel, with Fahrenheit 451. The book itself, of course, is none too shabby.
My favourite RB story? Like most fans, I have so many that it would be painful to choose but one. If pressed, though, I’ll go for The Fog Horn (I’ll change my mind tomorrow).
So happy birthday, sir, 91 today!
*From The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
Listened to: Changing Skies, by Jeff Greinke
Read: The Coffin, by Ray Bradbury