A Tribute to Ray Bradbury

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Ray Bradbury has passed away at the age of 91. He will be best remembered for classics such as The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, and Something Wicked This Way Comes---all of which in their way defined science fiction, dystopias, and dark fantasy for their time period and have endured as books that easily speak to new readers as well.

Like most writer of my generation, we grew up reading Ray Bradbury, and we grew up thus learning to love the dark tinged with light. Bradbury wasn’t a foolish romantic or a sentimental writer but someone who knew bittersweet from bathos and knew that beauty walks in the night. There’s nothing in the best of his fiction that didn’t feel effortless, and nothing about it that didn’t inspire while also being serious and thoughtful. He had a great career, a great life, and he will be missed by a lot of people.

If Bradbury had only explored the darkness, we might not remember him now, or be celebrating his accomplishments with quite such sadness and respect. If he had been content to plumb the shallows, this might also be the case. But these twinned aspects of his work, in which there is a profound understanding of the mortality of humanity, and the ways in which even small events, small moments, can change us, Bradbury reached for a higher truth.

In such a vast oeuvre there are of course peaks and valleys, but what remains in the reader’s mind about even the least of Bradbury’s works is a certain generosity of spirit, that ability to be optimistic even in darkness, to say that innocence can endure in some form. We sometimes call this quality “childlike” and sometimes “a sense of wonder.” But at base it speaks to a quality of the human imagination, to believe in the best even during the worst of times. Bradbury was a writer with a deep sense of play, a deep engagement with the world, and a deep love of people. He leaves behind a body of work that we all in a sense took for granted, because it had always seemed to be there, and had always seemed right and beautiful and terrible and sublime.

-- Jeff VanderMeer

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