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July 18, 2012

Celebrating Ray Bradbury at San Diego Comic-Con With SHADOW SHOW

Posted by carol

A panel originally planned to be a  conversation about  SHADOW SHOW:All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury  --- featuring new stories from Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, David Morrell,  Joe Hill,  Alice Hoffman, Audrey Niffenegger and others --- instead  became a celebration of Ray Bradbury’s life.

The panel included Margaret Atwood, Joe Hill, Sam Weller (Bradbury’s biographer) and horror author, Mort Castle, all of who were part of this book either as editors or writers. It’s a book that Bradbury was very excited about. He wrote the introduction, loved the cover and loved the stories. Months ago though he was ill. he fully planned to tour to promote the book --- and as late as April 11th he knew the Comic-Con panel was happening and he planned to be there. For the pieces in the anthology author did not try to channel Ray, but instead all wrote in their own voices reflected by Bradbury’s influences.

When asked how they discovered Bradbury, Margaret Atwood recalled reading DONOVAN’S BRAIN and THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES as a teenager. Joe Hill remembered reading the comics TALES FROM THE CRYPT, TALES OF WAR and THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, pulled from his father, Stephen King’s collection and then he went on to discover the books. Sam Weller said THE VELDT was read to him by his mom when he was in utero and he read THE ILLUSTRATED MAN when he was 11.

Bradbury was touted as a “gateway author.” Someone who readers started reading when they were in their teens and then kept on reading. He never listened to words like “you have to find your target audience.” He wrote for people who “read, think, feel.” That was what mattered.

He always felt that he belonged to the eons and  looking at the audience it was clear he meant so much to so many generations of readers.

He was a man whose motto was “Do what you love and love what you do and all else will fall into place.” And he lived life that way. Weller said, “He was a defiant creator who ascribed to the ideas that you jump off the cliff and figure what you are doing on the way down.”

When asked what they learned from Ray, Atwood said, “Have you lived the life you wanted?.” Hill said, “Move quick, dance, do not plod. The major sentence is the one that encompasses two pages of work by being written tight.” Weller said, “Bradbury felt that writers must have a sense of trust of your subconscious so the story writes itself. He was a very fast writer.”

Bradbury wrote genre fiction based on what he learned from the literary masters.  He read TENDER IS THE NIGHT by Ernest Hemingway every year and it was a book that he loved.  But no one told Ray what not to do so he transcended the genres. You can recite his words to open yours minds as to what creativity is.

In Los Angeles Ray was a huge proponent of the library. He did talks there and his love of books is clear from his own book, FAHRENHEIT 451. He spoke at the library often and he was going deaf as years went on. He was often in the library shouting and the librarians would first became alarmed and then aware that it was Ray, they would just smile and move on.

I have two very fond recollections of Bradbury. Years ago our company designed his website, the one that still exists today. When we launched his publisher William Morrow at HarperCollins provided some fabulous videos that had been shot inside his home so readers could see his world. I remember Lisa Gallagher going to do that shoot. When his wife passed away I remember his request for a special memorial message to her to be posted was something that we quickly responded to.

Weller said that while Bradbury liked the idea of Space X, he was troubled by the end of NASA’s space program. He always wanted us to head to Mars and wanted us to get to there in his lifetime. I recall him telling us at Comic-Con a few years ago that he wanted to be buried there. I think that if we ever get there, we should make his dream come true.