I was 10 years old when I found a battered old book with a wonderfully strange and colourful cover in a Salvation Army jumble sale. That book was The Illustrated Man and I devoured it with all the avid wonder and awe of any curious child. It’s fair to say that Ray Bradbury was a great influence on me and while reading his pages, my imagination leapt to new heights, helping me develop a lifelong love of horror, fantasy and science fiction. I like to think the author also helped me to understand the world and what it means to be human.
Since that day at the jumble sale, I’ve been dipping into Mr Bradbury’s tales and relishing every one. Along with groundbreaking sci-fi (The Sound of Thunder, The Martian Chronicles) and truly unsettling dark fantasy (Something Wicked This Way Comes), Bradbury also wrote many sharp observations of humanity. One of my all-time favourite stories, ‘The Great Wide World Over There’ was about a woman who becomes jealous of her neighbour across the street because their sons are away (at war, if I remember rightly) and her neighbour receives more letters than she does. She begins to write to people far and wide in an attempt to compete and proudly makes her way to the mailbox each morning to coincide with her neighbour’s mail collection. It’s a wryly funny, but also heartbreakingly lonely tale, and perfectly captures Bradbury’s genius. He’ll be sorely missed but his stories will live on, having influenced many great writers from Stephen King to Neil Gaiman.
Today may feel like a day that will rain forever but Ray Bradbury will always be in our hearts.
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