Feature Writer Karen Crowder – Ray Bradbury: How He Influenced My Life and Writing

Ray Bradbury, a fantastic science fiction, short story, and fantasy writer, died at 91 in early June of this year. He wrote for over sixty years and his writing always gripped my attention. This time of year always makes me think of him, as his stories tended to have some Halloween-type themes.

The first time I read one of his books was after summer school in 1967, when I got “Medicine for Melancholy” from the Perkins Library. I was captured by his descriptive prose; hours flew by as I escaped into worlds of fantasy, suspense, or science fiction.

I especially liked his sensitivity towards the problems of children and adolescents. In one story, the plot centers on a girl stuck who misses her home on Earth, and the other students at her school mercilessly bully her for her love of sunshine. They do not understand why she dislikes the constant rain on Venus.

I would also read his short story collections, like “Illustrated Man,” “Machineries of Joy,” and “The October Country” with Robert Donley’s brilliant narration. When I was at Lion’s World in Arkansas, the librarian allowed me to keep an aging Braille copy of “The Day It Rained Forever.” The librarian told me it was falling apart, unaware of the gift she had bestowed upon me. My favorite stories from that anthology are “The Scent of Sarsaparilla,” about a man’s homemade time machine, bringing him to summer days of his youth. “Dark They Were and Golden-eyed” are about new colonists on Mars and how the planet changes their lives. “Here There Be Tygers” concerns space travelers’ arrival on a pleasant Earth-like planet.

When doing research for my term paper for college on his life and writing, I did not realize he worried about our increasing reliance on technology as he spent his childhood in a small town in Illinois. The presence of this theme occurred in the books “Dandelion Wine,” “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” and “Farewell Summer.” “Dandelion Wine” is about carefree life in a small mid-western town during summer in the 1920s. “Something Wicked This Way Comes” is about an autumn carnival before Halloween. The carnival is no longer fun, especially when a ride and game mysteriously malfunction.

In 1988, right before Halloween, I had my first date with Marshall at a friend’s house. He brought a taped version of Bradbury 13, a series of dramatized stories that aired on public radio in the mid 80’s. “The Ravine” was a scary story about young women going to the movies. When one woman starts walking across a bridge to her home, she thinks there are the footsteps behind her, and she can’t decide if they’re real or part of her imagination. You can feel the suspense as she crosses the bridge at night to her home.

The last book I read in 2008 was his biography as told by him. His encouragement for writers was to write every day and work on something you may publish each week. These words motivated me to revise and submit writing to Consumer Vision that summer–beginning a new chapter in my life. I have this author to thank for his inspiration and the countless escapes into wonderful worlds on and off this Earth. He has left our world richer for his wonderful writing.

Sources: Various book titles and dates were sourced from Wikipedia.

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