My Writing Influences – Ray Bradbury


To understand my enjoyment, obsession, delight with Science Fiction, one has to understand a bit about my early life. I was raised in the Space Race era – the 60’s and 70s. My drawings from first grade on all seemed to be of rockets. I lived in Pasadena, California – home to JPL and Caltech and my childhood friends fathers were scientists and professors who worked on missions that went to Mars, Venus and Jupiter. I even participated in a creative writing and art project sponsored by Caltech to describe what Martians would look like. I spent summers watching the Apollo missions on TV while playing with cereal box toy moon carts. My first completed plastic model was the Apollo Lunar Exploration Module.   I was born in the space era, weaned on moon shots, and clothed in extra planetary explorations.

When I was nine or so, I went to a garage sale and picked up a used copy of “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. It was my first introduction to a “dystopian future” although I am sure I wouldn’t have known what that meant and I am not sure the genre had taken hold in Science Fiction yet. Despite a depressing theme, I was captured by the writing: the descriptions, the conflict, the idea and the hope at the end.  From that point on, I consumed just about any Science Fiction book I could get a hold of.

At an elementary school book sale, I bought several short story books authored or compiled by Ray Bradbury. I will cite three of his best for your enjoyment. The first was “The Pedestrian”. Bradbury would later say the inspiration for this story was an unpleasant encounter with LAPD late one night. He also said that it could have been the opening chapter of “Fahrenheit 451”. The lead character is a writer who, having a bit of writers block late one night, takes a walk. He is stopped by a driverless police patrol car which cannot fathom: a) why anyone would write and b) why anyone would be out wandering alone.  Having determined that the lead character is deviant, he is whisked away to be “corrected”.

The second was “A Sound of Thunder” in which a business offers sportsmen the chance to go back in time and hunt extinct species.  This hunt would go back and hunt a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Only something goes horribly wrong. I can’t say more or I would spoil the story, but the descriptions and emotions are amazing. And Bradbury always had a way to add and amazing twist at the end.

The third was from “The Long Rain”. Venus was a planet of mystery at the time. We now know it to be vastly different that Bradbury had imagined it. But the story was a fascinating look at how a group of people might face a crisis. If one looks at the context of the Cold War, the potential for analogy there is striking – do we give up and become lost in the conflict, do we believe ourselves insane at this endless onslaught, or do we persevere to the end only to question if we really have reached safety?

Bradbury’s stories were classic literature views of the state of humanity. He frequently found it wanting, but always found some hope.

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4 thoughts on “My Writing Influences – Ray Bradbury

  1. Terrific influence, Syd — and I enjoyed your relation of growing up in the space-race era! Ray was a master writer, upon whom we all should buttress our works of speculative fiction, or at least our thinking about it and the writing process. I’m sad that we lost him. In any case, Something Wicked … remains one of my favorites, as well as Fahrenheit 451 (which probably should go without saying; it’s a fantastic English-major type of book that really should be more a part of the canon than it likely is). I will have to check out the stories you mention, too.

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  2. I enjoyed “Something Wicked …” as well. He did a compilation of his favorite short stories by other authors that was great as well – “Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow.”

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    • Thanks for the comment. I find it a bit of irony that I am being asked to extend my post. Readers of my story might be putting up both hands and saying “stop!…you’re only encouraging him.” This post is relatively brief (560 words versus my chapters 5000+).

      As I review the post, I laid out two and possibly three really good essay topics for a college English paper. Having dangled such bait, I then do nothing with those ideas. Perhaps what I meant to say was that Bradbury opened my mind to the power of literature through the vehicle of Science Fiction. In that he is a foundational influence and for that I am truly grateful. Sadly, I have not quite risen to his descriptions, the richness of his conflicts, or the surprise of his endings. I can hope I will someday (but then I hope for a lot of things like peace in the middle east, equality and justice for all, and a really good linguine and clam sauce). I am going to add some more recent author influences that I am reading. Those have a more direct influence and I will point out where you might see them show up in my writing.

      Thanks for the support

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