When I was in 7th or 8th grade our literature textbook had one science fiction story. I always had the feeling it was an obligatory gesture by the publisher. I envisioned a fat guy in a suit, sitting in a smokey NYC office, “better throw one of those science fiction stories in there, the kids are crazy for that stuff. Just make sure it’s not too weird. I hate that stuff.” And thus I first read “There Will Come Soft Rains”, which no doubt freaked out as many kids as it delighted. I was in on the delight side. I had already devoured Martian Chronicles and was ready for more.
Even as a kid with absolutely no taste for the finer points in literature, I could tell there was something different about Bradbury. It wasn’t just the breadth of his imagination, there was a humanity there that was missing from everything else I read. Ray wasn’t concerned whether the strapping barbarian defeated the dark wizard, nor if space ship pilot extrapolated the proper orbit for the strange new planet; he saw the value in characters that lived and breathed, had faults and foibles, and how they as human beings faced extraordinary things. In other words, he was not just a writer, he was a master of his craft.
I have not read Bradbury for quite a while but I will correct that this weekend. And once again I will be in the hands of a man who lived to write. R.I.P. Ray, you were truly one of a kind.