It’s the first week of June, but it feels more like autumn. The wind hushes through the trees, and they bow and rustle, whispering secrets if you have the language to understand them. I walk home along the road with the cemetary at the bottom, and all I can think is: how appropriate.
Ray Bradbury died today, and Hallowe’en was always his season. Its early arrival is an omen that could have come straight out of the pages of one of his books.
He was a young adult writer well before that phrase become commodified. He wrote for people on the cusp; kids becoming adults, adults on the threshold of old age, at the point where they can become kids again. Temporal borderlands. Emotional frontiers. He wrote science fiction where the science didn’t matter, horror where the scares were secondary. His work looked backwards to an imaginary past, and forwards to a future where the most awful part was the forgetting of all that we had learned.
I discovered him in a second-hand bookshop in Woodford, Essex, a place of which I hope he would have approved. I remember it as a place of many rooms, a labyrinth, a time sink, the place where, after a couple of bags of Wine and American Hard Gums and that week’s 2000AD, all my pocket money vanished like fog in dry air. I haunted that shop, a wide-eyed, scrawny phantom, a little lonely, a little lost, a little empty, and his stories filled me. I gulped them down like dandelion wine, thirsty for something I didn’t yet have the words to express.
He, along with Kurt Vonnegut, Andre Norton, Michael Moorcock and others are partially to blame for the writer and the man that I have become. Because of them, I know to look out for the strangeness and magic in the changes of the seasons, for the humour in the worst and blackest of moments, for the bright spot in sorrow. Is it right and correct that Ray should pass the day after the Transit Of Venus, the moment when his rain-world did its best to blot out the sun? I think so. I like to see him with hand outstretched, a magnifying glass held high, projecting the image of it onto his palm. The fire and the rain, caught together in a shining instant. A world in his hand.
Ray Bradbury was 91. If you haven’t read him, I recommend finding something of his in your local second-hand bookshop. Try Farenheit 451. Or Something Wicked This Way Comes. Or The Martian Chronicles. Or The Machineries Of Joy. Or The Golden Apples Of The Sun. Or The Toynbee Convector. Or…