Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke. The ABCs of my early science fiction reading habits.
Science Fiction, for me in the late 60s, was magazine short stories, collections of short stories, and novels built out of short stories. The short form was the delivery vector of choice for the time,and you can see it in the author collections as well as such early books as Foundation,or, more importantly, the Martian Chronicles. These three authors were my entryway into the greater world, and each had his own style - Asimov explained the universe. Clarke had the wonderful stinger endings. And Bradbury was the poet.
Of the three, Ray Bradbury had both the sense of fantasy and lyrical language that was not present in the other two. While Asimov and Clarke were firmly moored within the bolts-and-rivets school of hard SF, Bradbury moved in other directions - into emotions, into memory, into fantasy and into horror. He was in the SF genre because there was was no other box big enough to hold him. He was the New Wave before there was a new wave, and showed that SF could be so much more.
He also had the sense of Americana that wasn't in other authors. There was a hearthwarm nature to his writing, a commonality of the small town and the new suburb, a level of connection. His world was the strange carnival that comes to town and the fungal invasion of the mushroom kit. Even his Mars was very Middle American. He was the Norman Rockwell of the printed world.
And he wrote about writing, and revealed his heritage. He embraced the dark forces of American Fantasy and stood against the more puritan nature of our Middle American heritage, against the censors and most of all, against a unity of thought. He was in favor of scaring people because it was part of being alive, and bemoaned the forces that thought to reduce fiction and imagination into a single uniform vision. In the (later) Moorcockian Universe of Law versus Chaos, he stood proudly with Chaos.
He was also my first exposure to Lovecraft. It was an aside, where a man from the past goes into a library and asks about Lovecraft, and is asked by the librarian if he means a sex manual. It is a joke, but one with deeper meaning at a time when Lovecraft was the domain of a small coterie of cultists and forgotten by the larger world. The multiple medias have opted for diversity, of many voices, and Bradbury was one of those greater voices.
Mr. Bradbury leaves behind a huge library of deep, abiding, and long-lasting work. His Mars will always be my Mars - not Burrough's barbarian queens or Well's tripods. He owns Halloween. His firemen haunt my nightmares.
In memory, go out and read some of his works.
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