When Ray Bradbury was 12 years old, at a circus in Waukegan, Ill., he met a magician named Mr. Electrico, who tapped him with his wand and told him, “Live forever!”
“I decided that was the greatest idea I ever heard,” Bradbury recalled years later. “I started writing every day. I never stopped.”
The magician’s wand did its best against mortality. Bradbury – the 20th century’s most enduring and endearing science-fiction and fantasy author – died June 5 at age 91.
But of course, the spell really did come true. Through his unforgettable books and short stories, Bradbury most likely will live forever.
He penned a masterpiece still being taught in schools: Fahrenheit 451, one of the ultimate books about books – specifically censorship and a chilling futurescape in which books are outlawed.
Three years before that, in 1950, was his first big literary hit – The Martian Chronicles, a collection of short stories about Earth colonizers’ conflicts with an ancient civilization on Mars. In that construct, he took on contemporary issues such as racism, capitalism and the emerging superpower race of that decade.
Odds are, if you find a Bradbury book it won’t be in the best condition. That’s because fans read and re-read his books so often. The many collections of his short stories – R is for Rocket, or A Medicine for Melancholy, or The Golden Apples of the Sun – are revisited with the affection with which you would drop in on an old friend.
In a sense, he always remained that charmed 12-year-old, sharing the breadth of his imagination with generations of readers. For that, we’ll always be grateful.