The name Ray Bradbury has always hovered around me, one way or the other: I think my father was a fan of his and I’m fairly certain that one of his short stories featured in OMNI magazine, a periodical I had avidly collected and voraciously read ever since its inception (sadly, they’ve all long gone now). In school, there were always a few hardcore science-fiction fans who would mention his name alongside others such as Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and others of similar stature. I made a note to get hold of some of his books, to see why they were rhapsodising and eulogising him – I never did.
While others will talk about the influence his writing had on them, I’ll concentrate on my first encounter with something connected to Bradbury: the TV adaptation of his ‘The Martian Chronicles’, starring Rock Hudson. Admittedly, it was aired over 30 years ago now, and my memory of it is somewhat hazy, but I do remember how strange and desolate it all was. This was science-fiction that forsook the customary gleaming glass-and-steel alien metropolises and hovercars of conventional futuristic renderings, replacing them with a disturbing sense that, whilst we may indeed not be alone in the universe, whatever life is out there, even if it’s close to home, may be inimical to humanity. It was a made for TV production, so necessarily budgets were somewhat constrained (unlike those that would be afforded to ST:TNG, for instance): nevertheless, it made good use of the eerie, spartan desert landscapes to portray the desolation and isolation that was Mars. Granted, I was only 17 when I saw it, and found it compelling: Bradbury himself considered it “just boring”.
Whatever he thought of it, a giant in the field has finally gone sailing down the celestial River of Stars, supping on Dandelion Wine. Slowly, but surely, the lights of the greats are blinking out here on the mortal plane, to live forever as blazing suns in the heavens, ready to continue influencing further generations of writers. RIP Ray.