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Ray Douglas Bradbury. The name always makes me smile. I still remember the day I first heard about Ray Bradbury. I was about 15 years old, and was talking with my High School Librarian, at Thomas Downey High School in Modesto California, and had mentioned to her that I like Science Fiction and was thinking of reading Bradbury’s stuff.

“Oh, you don’t want to read Bradbury, he’s very anti-social.” she whispered.

Anti-social? How do you mean?”

“Well, when he writes, he says he pulls down the shades in his study and pretends there’s a raging storm outside. He just sits in there like a hermit and writes for days, he doesn’t have a driver’s license, he’s anti-machine, he hates computers and in his book ‘The Martian Chronicles‘ he basically says we are just going to ruin Mars by filling it with automobiles, billboards and hamburger stands.”

Now, this woman was associated with a learning establishment, and by extension I viewed her as an educator, and bless her misguided attempt to dissuade me from filling my grey matter with anti-social ideas, because I was a young man with perverse sensibility, and I did think it likely if we ever colonized Mars we would do exactly those thing. Those words she had spoken guaranteed that I would read Bradbury. Looking back on that moment I think that if she had described him in any other way, I would not have been as interested.  I read The Martian Chronicles and like so many others, I fell in love.

Bradbury is one of the Sci-Fi Greats because of his humanism, in fact out of all the great writers, I think he is the most human, even more-so than Heinlein.

Born in 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois, he will probably be best known for his novel

Fahrenheit 451‘ which is a wonderful book, but not the one I feel really shines. He was a very successful writer, writing in many genres and fields, including screenwriting and play writing.

While I do not feel there is a single bad Ray Bradbury book in existence, I feel the premise of ‘Fahrenheit 451’  was negatively oriented, being driven by what Bradbury didn’t like about the world, instead of on what he did like, but even so, before the end of the novel he  takes a more positive direction and there is a new dawn of his humanist spirit when you meet the “people books”.

If you want an intro to his short stories, anything from “I sing the Body Electric” will do nicely, “The Electric Grandmother” was a very nice and endearing piece from that collection, which I believe was also made into a TV movie.  If you like the macabre, his short story “The Veldt” from the same collection will hypnotize you.

If you are like me, and want a full dose right away, I highly suggest first reading The Martian Chronicles, immediately followed up by Dandelion Wine. When you have finished reading, you will come away from the experience not feeling that you read a book, but that you shared an experience of the man who wrote this book to you, the boy that he was and still is, and that you will have a new friend that you will be proud to call your friend.

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