When Uncle P was in the 8th grade (When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth), I had an amazing and inspiring English teacher named Jack Fogarty, whom I have mentioned more than once here on Caliban's Revenge. Jack encouraged me to write and to act and to express myself and to be myself. He also taught me how to analyze a novel and the novel he used to do so was Ray Bradbury's dark fantasy "Something Wicked This Way Comes." A semi-autobiographical tale of an evil carnival populated by people who live off fear and steal souls. I was riveted and couldn't wait to see how it ended. And of course, I devoured everything I could find by Bradbury, afterwards. "The Martian Chronicle;" "The Illustrated Man;" "Dandelion Wine;" "Fahrenheit 451:" "The October Country;" "The Halloween Tree;" "I Sing the Body Electric;" the list goes on and on. Bradbury was a major influence on me and countless other writers. Even Steven Spielberg recently talked about how much Bradbury influenced his early films.
The prolific Mr. Bradbury wrote for TV and film and his works have been adapted into loads of movies and TV shows, including the Canadian anthology series "The Ray Bradbury Theater," which ran from 1985 to 1992 and was syndicated here in the U.S. He was good friends with movie effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen and presented Harryhausen with the Gordon E. Sawyer award at the 1992 Academy Awards.
A life-long conservative, Bradbury was less than happy when documentarian Michael Moore named his 9/11 conspiracy film Fahrenheit 911, though he allowed the title to be used. When "Fahrenheit 451" was released as an eBook in 2011, Bradbury said "We have too many cellphones. We've got too many internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now." Interestingly, Bradbury also said "Fahrenheit..." was the only Science Fiction he ever wrote. He claimed the rest of works were fantasies, because they "...could never happen."
His short story "All Summer in a Day" is probably my favorite. It's about a group of schoolchildren living on Venus where it constantly rains and the sun is only visible for two hours every seven years. Margot, who once lived on Earth and remembers the sun, is locked in a closet by her cruel classmates, who don't believe her accounts of what the sun looks like. She misses the two hour event and her classmates later feel remorse for what they've done. It's everything I felt as a gay kid, without the remorseful classmates (though I doubt Bradbury intended any gay undertones when he wrote the story in 1954). "Something Wicked..." remains my favorite Bradbury novel and I revisit it often. As I've mentioned several times, the 1983 Disney film adaptation starring Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce is less than satisfactory.
Other screen adaptations of his works include:
It Came from Outer Space
The Illustrated Man
The Electric Grandmother
The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit
and the lamentable A Sound of Thunder
Bradbury passed away on Monday at the age of 91. Like many of his fans and admirerers, I am mourning the loss of one of our smartest and most prolific fantasy authors. The world is better for having had him in it, and a little worse for having lost him.