Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Remembering Ray

I only met Ray Bradbury once, but that's the kind of memory that sticks with a guy, especially a guy who writes and speculates about people doing crazy, not quite scientifically possible things and trying to make the world a better place.

I only met Ray Bradbury once, but once was, well, not exactly enough because honestly, could a fellow sci-fi writer ever have enough of a fount of inspiration like Ol' Mr. Bradbury? If it wasn't enough, it was certainly more than sufficient to fill the coffers of motivation for a young writer (yes, I was young at the time, in my twenties).

The line was long, and the "guards" kept us moving in a hurry, but in spite of that, somehow, Ray and I managed to have a moment about Mr. Electrico. I won't go into that in detail now, but if you want to see it, I posted about that meeting here.

That moment still inspires me. That moment still stands vividly in the visual memories stored in my brain, right down to the colored beads Ray wore as if Dragon*Con were another instance of Mardi Gras. That moment lingers as I recall the wrinkled, wry smile of an old man remembering one of his own inspirations and sharing it with a stranger who merely had the good fortune to bring it up.

Ray Bradbury died June 5, 2012, and I only met him once. Well, I only met him once in person, but I feel like I met him over and over and over again in the words he spoke to me. (And yes, it felt like it was just to me on so many occasions.) I felt like I met him when the settlers on Mars faced the same fears and foibles as they had when they had made the earth all but a desolate hole to live on. I felt like I met him when the people of Small Town, USA sold their souls to a wicked man who came this way. I felt like I knew him when Craig Bennett Stiles failed to step into the future from his Toynbee Convector.

No, I didn't just feel like I met him. I really think I did.

Why? Because all of Ray's hopes for the future and all of his respect and condemnation of the human animal was there with every word. All of his dreams of people becoming better creatures and all of his fears that we might not ever change for the better. And in learning and knowing and understanding those things, I met Ray Bradbury every time I cracked open a hardcover or mass market paperback he had written.

A few weeks ago, Bradbury stepped into the future that Craig Bennett Stiles never could, and even though I only met him once, I miss him. I miss all those words that will never be written, all that hope that will never be expressed, all that fear that will never be put to page to warn us. I miss him already.

When he was young, Mr. Electrico challenged Ray Bradbury to "Live forever," and in some way, he has accomplished that, not just through his words he leaves behind, but through the many writers and scientists and dreamers of the future he has influenced.

If I could, I would tell Ray that in many ways, he was my own Mr. Electrico, that he challenged me to do the same, but I can't because he died this month.

And I only met him once.

And once may not have been all I wanted, but it may be all I needed. And it was certainly far more than I deserved.

Thank you, Ray Bradbury. I look forward to seeing you again in the world where dreams make reality the kind of place we can all look forward to visiting, where nothing wicked can come this way again, and where we can watch the future unfold in all its grace, without fear.