Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ray Bradbury: August 22, 1920--

Today we celebrate the birthday of one of the great writers of our time--Ray Bradbury. He has done it all, and, fortunately for us, he keeps doing it: novels, short stories, SF, fantasy, mysteries, screenplays.

Some Novels

The Martian Chronicles
The Illustrated Man
Death is a Lonely Business
Fahrenheit 451

Some Short Stories

"The Fog Horn"
"There Will Come Soft Rains"
"The Veldt"
"The Playground"
"The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit"
"All Summer in a Day"
"The Pedestrian"

What makes his writings special is not just the plot or the characters or his point-of-view; it is his language, the way he makes tracks on paper. Below is a quote from his short story "The Fog Horn" which later became a film, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. The film is a typical creature feature, a large scaly thing that destroys cities and squashes humans before it too is destroyed. The film captured nothing of the story.

"The Fog Horn" has a simple plot: every year something comes up out of the ocean depths in response to the Fog Horn. Just what it responds to is not certain; perhaps it mistakes the sound of the fog horn for the call of its mate, or perhaps it is simply responding to the loneliness in the call.

In the story, the lighthouse keeper tells the young apprentice his theory about fog horns:

"One day many years ago a man walked along and stood in the sound of the ocean on a cold sunless shore and said, 'We need a voice to call across the water, to warn ships; I'll make one. I'll make a voice like all of time and all of the fog that ever was; I'll make a voice that is like an empty bed beside you all night long, and like a empty house when you open the door, and like trees in autumn with no leaves. A sound like the birds flying south, crying, and a sound like November wind and the sea on the hard, cold shore. I'll make a sound that's so alone that no one can miss it, that whoever hears it will weep in their souls, and hearths will seem warmer, and being inside will seem better to all who hear it in the distant towns. I'll make me a sound and an apparatus and they'll call it a Fog Horn and whoever hears it will know the sadness of eternity and the briefness of life.' "

Go, read "The Fog Horn" and maybe a few others by Ray Bradbury. Take your time, read slowly. It's the best way to read him. It's time well spent.


  1. I have read some Bradbury, but it has been far too long ago, so--following your sage advice--I need to visit the library and grab a few Bradbury titles and become reacquainted with a fine storyteller's work. Thanks for reminding me of someone I had almost forgotten.

  2. R. T.,

    I have the same problem. I lose track of writers too. I haven't found the system yet which allows me to try out the new writers and, at the same time, be able to revisit old favorites.

    The short stories I listed are some of my favorites.


  3. I agree that the film is a typical creature feature. Fans of Ray Harryhausen might be interested in his stop-motion special effects in it, so here's a link to watch the movie on YouTube:

    What I like most about Ray Bradbury's stories is his style of writing. It's
    often quite poetic, evoking emotions.

  4. Cheryl,

    Thanks for the link. I'm still working with a dial-up modem, so unfortunately I can't view it. However, I agree, the special effects are interesting as as example of what could be done way back in those pre-CGI days.

    By the way, one of Bradbury's mystery novels, _A Graveyard for Lunatics_ is set in Hollywood during the 50s or perhaps early 60s, I would guess. One of the friends of the hero is Roy Holdstrom, a special effects genius who specializes in stop-action effects with dinosaurs and other critters.