My Dear Friend Ray Bradbury
As many of you know, my dear friend Ray Bradbury died last night. I’ve been doing radio interviews reminiscing about this great man, KPCC just now, COAST TO COAST tonight, BBC Friday and more.
I’m writing a long piece about our fifteen-year friendship, which I’ll post soon.
But for now I wanted to share two pieces I wrote about Ray — “What I’ve Learned from Ray Bradbury” and the introduction I wrote in 2009 for THE COMPLETE MARTIAN CHRONICLES (what an honor…). Feel free to pass this along.
He was a dear soul and a terrific writer, a huge inspiration, mentor and friend.
When Abraham Lincoln died, his Secretary of State said, “Now he belongs to the Ages.”
Now Ray belongs to the future… because the future always belonged to him.
All good thoughts your way,
WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM RAY BRADBURY
by Marc Zicree
• Get up and write, five days a week.
• If you need help getting your work done, reach out to those who love you. They want to help.
• Take time off on the weekend. Be with those you love.
• Live from love, work from love, and do everything else from love.
• Find joy in every day, every hour, every moment.
• Save everything that matters to you, and keep it within reach.
• Get out into the world, no matter how difficult.
• Laugh at what limits you. It pits your life force against the darkness. (This doesn’t mean you can’t be pissed off at it, too.)
• At the same time, always keep fighting to be and do your best.
• Never sell out, and don’t suffer those who have.
• Do everything with gusto.
• Take naps.
• Help your friends, and view everyone with compassion.
• Stand up for yourself. Modesty is not a strength.
• Answer your own phone.
• Mourn for those who are gone and don’t forget them, but don’t bury yourself with them.
• Cry easily. It’s not a weakness.
• Never grow up. At least, not in the areas where it counts.
• Stay curious about everything.
The Unpublished Martian Stories of Ray Bradbury
by Marc Scott Zicree
A man peers through a hole in a wall.
“What do you see?” his companion asks.
“Wonderful things,” Howard Carter replies, the first man to lay eyes on the Tomb of King Tutankhamen in millennia.
Key among that assemblage of royal bric-a-brac, a treasure among treasures, is a gleaming mask of gold and lapis, blind eyes and perfect lips.
The year is 1922. Soon enough, a young boy will see that mask. It will lodge in his mind and, in time, what once looked upon a kingdom will gaze out over a world.
The world of Mars.
We needn’t name that boy, of course. It’s Ray Bradbury, and the glinting cold object that held such power within its simulated cheek and brow was but one of a myriad magpie acquisitions that would coalesce into one of the greatest works in modern literature.
Most such creations share one thing in common: they leave us craving, in the words of Edward G. Robinson’s Rico in Key Largo, “More!”
For whether we’re talking about Luke Skywalker’s Tattoine or Huck Finn’s Mississippi or the decks of the starship Enterprise, the most compelling fictions create not just stories but whole worlds, the beguiling suspicion that just over that hillside lies an infinity of richness, that one could venture into that endless landscape and wander forever.
Bradbury himself was snared in just this way when he read A Princess of Mars at age twelve and promptly banged out a sequel on his toy typewriter.
And I was, too, when at thirteen I wrote my own sequel to The Martian Chronicles. In it, the last human left on Mars spends long years wandering the dead cities and dry seabeds, his life at last dwindling out beside an ancient canal, as the story concludes:
He lay back against an old cot and closed his eyes.
The Martians came to him, tens of thousands of them. All wore luxurious robes and metal masks. The Martians came.
The Last Man opened his eyes and looked around him. “I haven’t much time, you know.”
A Martian with a warm smile put his hand on the Last Man’s shoulder. “We know. That is the reason we have come.”
The Last Man died.
And with that, the ancient Martians went back to the old cities, their homes.
Everything was as it had been.
On that day in 1968, I had inhaled, devoured The Martian Chronicles and oh, how I longed for more.
Visit Ray Bradbury’s home and you will find he is surrounded by everything he has ever known and loved – photos of his child self and his beloved Aunt Neva, autographs of movie stars he collected as a newsboy, mementoes of carnivals and magic shows, comic strips and long-ago matinees – as if his head had exploded and the contents shockwaved out around him.
His Martian tales are the same.
Bradbury’s Mars is a synthesis, a blending of details, of the Mars of Wells and Percival Lowell and Burroughs, of Bradbury’s dandelion and lightning bug boyhood in Waukegan, of the Arizona he encountered on his family’s pilgrimage west, of the carnage and clamor and fine aspirations he found when he arrived in Los Angeles.
Love is prevalent in these stories – naturally, as it has formed the foundation of his life, and work, and art.
And death is there too, on a grand scale.
“I’d just begun to court Maggie,” Ray told me of the formative period of these stories. “I met her in the bookstore, had a lot of dates with her, and we got engaged in May, 1946.
“That summer, they began to carry out the atom bomb experiments. At that time, various scientists were asked the question, ‘What if the Earth catches fire? What if the atoms begin to inflame themselves, and you can’t put out the fire, and the whole world goes up? Could that happen?’ The scientists couldn’t answer, they didn’t know! They were just going to drop the bombs, and maybe the world will burn up!
“So in the middle of my love affair with Maggie, there was a terrible fear that I’d better love her as best I could, while there was time remaining. A lot of those stories came out of that summer of being really fantastically in love for the first time. Maggie was my first real great love affair, and I was twenty-six. It’s all the more precious when the world you live in is so incredibly fragile.”
Bradbury’s Mars, with its crystal towers and whispering sands, its brooding canals, was – and remains — more real to me than many places in my own life, more real certainly than the actual Mars, with its desiccated landscape and pale thin air and life that may or may not dwell somewhere beneath its surface.
Often as I navigated through high school and college, got married and charted my course, I’d crack open The Martian Chronicles and idyll awhile there, taking a breather from this hectic, cacophonous life.
The stories, those marvelous stories — of the first four expeditions and the fates that met them, of the night meeting between man and Martian that was so like a dream, of elegant sand ships and garish hot-dog stands — those and their companion tales always remained the same. And whatever further marvels beckoned siren-like beyond the horizon or blew whispered promise on the back of my neck might be hinted at but could never be known.
Or at least, so I thought.
But with the passing decades, I discovered that the Chronicles, like Tut’s storeroom, had an antechamber, a side room as large as the first.
And it too held wonders.
All the ungathered Mars stories, flung like golden coins throughout Ray’s other collections.
And now finally the rarest of all, brought out into the sun — Bradbury’s unpublished tales of Mars.
Here then are these scattered children, these strays and wayfarers, lulled out of the dark and silence, assembled at last. And although these scatterlings are of a piece with the stories contained in the Chronicles and Ray’s other published Mars stories, they offer up their own bouquet, subtle yet different, redolent of yearning and melancholy and loss.
The Disease, Dead of Summer, The Martian Ghosts, Jemima True, They All Had Grandfathers, The Wheel, The Marriage.
At times showing their bones and rough edges, the stories are breathtaking, original, fresh. Not merely covering old ground, they fill in the blanks, shed light into black corners. Earthmen appear as Martian ghosts, prostitutes ply their trade, Halloween is celebratedon Mars, a saloon is erected, the first civilian dies on Mars, a Martian girl and an Earthman marry.
But bare description does little to illumine their majesty and the unique music that is Ray’s alone. Phrases that surprise and catch our breath summon it best, as in “The Disease,” that equally-tragic sequel to the Chronicles’ tale of the First Expedition, where the dying Yll looks over at his already-dead wife Ylla “like a small dark craft rising and falling upon the tidal mist of the room” and reflects how “we shot the dream and killed it, and now the dream is killing us.”
Or the heat of Mars in “Dead of Summer,” “the time of dust rising in a warm spice upon the air… leaving the boats deposited like brittle leafs, upon the steaming dry channel.” Or Jemima True, “with hair like an explosion of sunlight, and skin like snow.” Or the hard sweet truth of Nowhere Town in “They All Had Grandfathers,” where “it’s always the working men come first, the runaways and hard men,” those who hear the siren call and know “it’s in every man, early or late, sometimes he just wants to travel light.”
And finest and most delicate of all, the marriage of Captain Samuel Pace and his Martian bride Elta and their world inbetween, where “half the trees are elm trees and half the trees shed fire, and half the children have blue eyes and half the children have eyes like melted gold.” In its microcosm, “The Marriage” encapsulates the entire sweep of Ray’s Martian saga; the alien becomes familiar, the familiar alien, until they are mixed together and all division lost. This is the American story, with Ray the inevitable offspring of it, and ourselves as well.
Here’s Ray’s advice on how to read this entire book, and by extension these long-lost stories: “Dive in! A book is a lake, a pond, an ocean. Dive in, swim out, and drown. Read the whole collection. Don’t linger. Keep moving, and you’ll wind up with ‘Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed.’
“And when you finish reading this book, you may wake up in the middle of the night feeling that something’s happened to your eyes…”
A grand sojourn, a safari to new, far yet familiar terrains. “We have met the enemy and he is us,” goes Walt Kelly’s oft-quoted refrain. But whom we encounter in this distant mirror held close are ourselves as both enemy and friend, through the lens of Bradbury’s love and his concern, for he has long feared the obliteration of both future and past.
Fifty years on and more, we are staggered, not by how outdated these stories might seem, but rather how immediate and relevant they are to our times.
The threat of nuclear annihilation is still with us, though subtler and thus less contained, diseases new and old ravage the world, and everywhere the delicate and vulnerable confront being ravaged and ground under heel.
But through all of this, Ray – even in his darkest moments – comforts us that the blade of grass inevitably thrusts up through the concrete… and that, over time, our finest, most sensitive, most Martian selves will prevail.
Marc Scott Zicree is a 2008 Hugo and Nebula nominee for “World Enough and Time,” which was dedicated to Ray Bradbury. He’s also the author of the bestselling TWILIGHT ZONE COMPANION and MAGIC TIME trilogy of novels, in addition to being a writer-producer with hundreds of hours of network drama credits.