Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Goodbye to Ray Bradbury

It seems so appropriate that Ray Bradbury, the great social commentator who captured our nation's attention with his science fiction works, died yesterday as Venus passed between the Earth and the sun.  Just like that extraordinary celestial event, Bradbury enlightened generations of readers and forced us to look differently at the world around us.

In the days after September 11, 2001, I used many of the stories from his Martian Chronicles collection in my eighth grade English class, challenging my students to think outside their comfortable boxes a bit to imagine life on another planet, full of new experiences and the uncertainty of the unknown.  "All Summer in a Day" always struck a particular chord with them, perhaps because it captured the absurdity of adolescence, just in a very distant setting.  And I have always maintained that Stewie Griffin, the evil baby in Seth McFarlane's "Family Guy," is loosely based (whether consciously or not) on the main character in Bradbury's "The Small Assassin," an incredibly chilling story.  When I'm watching an episode of "Mad Men," my mind sometimes drifts to Bradbury's stories, perhaps because the settings of both are so similar, and I imagine Don Draper as the unhappy hero dreaming of a far off world, a rocket ride away.

Our world lost an incredible writer yesterday.  Just like the transit of Venus, we won't encounter another author of his magnitude for a long time.