Ray Bradbury is 90 this Sunday. I wish him many happy returns. I would also like to thank him for north of 53 years of enjoyment and enlightenment.
Waukegan, Illinois, where he was born and grew up, is celebrating his birthday with a week of events, including trolley rides past his birthplace, boyhood home and the Carnegie library where he discovered the joy of reading. Those in Chicagoland might want to check them out.
I don’t know whether I first heard or read a Ray Bradbury story. Probably heard. The fabulous early 50s science fiction radio shows, ‘Dimension X’ and ‘X Minus 1′ dramatized many of them. (Complete runs of both shows are widely available: very highly recommended!) The later NPR (?) dramatizations aren’t nearly so good.
In his science fiction, Bradbury embodied the truth that the genre speaks in the future about the present. Certainly nothing captures the early 50s – its aspirations, its terrors, its common joys – better than the short stories collected in The Martian Chronicles.
It is a book of a unique half-decade, yet timeless. America aspired to the stars in the five years the soldiers came home, but it also turned inward, away from the community enforced by war measures.
In honor of Mr. Bradbury’s 80th, I reread The Martian Chronicles. Many of the stories I remembered verbatim after at least 30 years. But the quieter ones, especially the last about a family boat ride on a Martian canal, I had forgotten. And the writing!
There is much more to praise about Ray Bradbury: his train-writing, his fantasy writing, his devotion to reading and libraries. Let’s join the city of Waukegan in honoring Ray Bradbury, the man and the writer.