Sunday, October 06, 1996

Ray Bradbury Interview - Part 1

(A long time ago - 1995 to be exact, I wrote a feature story on Ray Bradbury, based on an
interview and remarks he made at Centenary College in Shreveport. Since a lot of people drop by here to read my post on "The October Game," I thought this might be of interest. In several parts - here is my story on Cosmic Ray from The Alexandria Daily Town Talk, Feb. 25, 1995.)

Ray Bradbury created the Illustrated Man for a 1951 short story collection. The man was a fellow whose flesh had become the canvas for a carnival witch who tattooed him with multi-colored scenes.

Anyone studying the elaborate mosaic on skin sees the tattoos swirl into stories. This happens to a young man on a walking tour of Wisconsin. When the man meets the Illustrated Man and becomes fascinated, unable to look away even though he's been warned against gazing too long.

The tattoos show the young man tales of technology gone awry, examinations of social attitudes, chillers about mankind's darker side.

You realize in talking with Bradbury that he is an illustrated man, this chap soetimes called Cosmic Ray. His career has stretched from the days of the pulp magazines to the present and encompassed not just the science fiction and fantasy stories for which he is best known -- about one-tenth of his total output -- but also detective fiction, memoirs, poetry, plays and essays.

Not covered with a frightening maze of images, he is nonetheless a man with a multitude of stories, which spring instead from his imagination, illustrations of a thousand wonders. The silver-haired author who also penned The Martian Chronicles, Green Water, White Whale, Something Wicked This Way Comes and more, confirms in conversation that the office portrayed in the opening moments of television's "The Ray Bradbury Theater" is indeed the land of imagination where he labors, filled with mementoes of 40 years. His favorite item: an 8-foot Bullwinkle, a gift from his daughters. ("You can imagine them carrying that in.")

He sits in that "magician's toy shop" for a telephone interview conducted in advance to coincide with his appearance at Centenary College, Shreveport, to discuss "One Thousand and One Ways to Save the Future."

I ask about beginnings, recalling an essay about a certain summer of his youth in which those in his hometown knew to steer clear because he was destined to regale them with enthusiastic accounts of tales he'd been reading. He doesn't respond to that specifically, though he answers. The year he was 8, the total field of science fiction struck his imagination. Buck Rogers was new and Edgar Rice Burroughs had already given the world not only Tarzan but John Carter of Mars, a swashbucker thrust into an almost medieval world on the red planet.

"I think Burroughs influences more young men than any other writer," Bradbury speculates. He's talked not just with other authors but scientists as well and found that shared interest with the likes of Carl Sagan and Arhur C. Clarke.

To be continued...


Charles Gramlich said...

Burroughs was certainly an influence on me, as was Ray Bradbury, of course. Ray doesn't seem to write the kind of prose he used to write, but on my shelves I'll always have such works as S is for Space, R is for Rocket, and a dozen others in addition to the ones you named. I sometimes wish I could discover him anew.

Anonymous said...

Good interview. i enjoyed reading it.

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