My little Ray Bradbury story
Like most readers, I am saddened to hear of the passing of Ray Bradbury. Not for him--he lived a good life, a great life, and leaves behind a body of work that will be read for decades to come. Maybe for always. It's so hard to know, sitting in this time, what people will read in others. I'm betting no one expected Wilkie Collins to be all but forgotten, for instance.
In my girlhood, I read nothing but science fiction. A little fantasy, but almost exclusively science fiction. Among the authors whose works I gorged myself upon was Bradbury, in fact, I think he was THE author whose books I never missed. I read everything of his I could get my hands on, everything on our library's shelves. It was something of an obsession.
I had another obsession: The Firesign Theatre. The FT was a beacon of my adolescence. I learned SO MUCH from them, and 40 years later I'm still discovering jokes among the deeply layered textures of their work. I had Nick Danger memorized to the point that I could act it out with other fans, radio play style, down to the sound effects. (I did this more than once. Oh, Mei, you're such a tool!)
When I was 17 or so, our local library was lucky enough to snag Mr Bradbury for a reading. I think he knew a guy who knew a guy at the library, who knows; I grew up in the LA area, anything's possible. It was quite a reading, and afterwards he gave autographs.
When it came my turn, for some reason--and I still don't know why--I blurted out, "Have you ever heard of the Firesign Theatre?"
Mr Bradbury looked at me in astonishment for a moment and answered, "Funny you should ask. David Ossman [one of the four members] is an old friend of mine. We go WAY back, like to the '50s way back." He signed my sketchbook and took up the entire page with a self-portrait, his signature, and the inscription in giant letters "DAVE OSSMAN'S FRIEND!!"
I wish I could say I knew where that sketchbook is. I really wish I could say that I have David Ossman's autograph with "RAY BRADBURY'S FRIEND!!" on it. But I can't.
FT's Peter Bergman died in April of this year, the first member of the group to leave us. Peter died of leukemia at age 72. Mr Bradbury died at age 91, after a full life. They both died too soon. I never thought Mr Bradbury would die, did you, really? I mean, deep down. He was like a literary constant, an axiom.
Both men deeply influenced my life, not just as a writer but as a person. For that, I thank them.