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Remembering Ray Bradbury--Revisiting his Comic Con 2010 interview

Posted on 2012.06.09 at 05:36
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Ray Bradbury Comic Con 2010

Ray Bradbury is one of my heroes, a flawed saint who plumbed the depths of the human condition and raised a lantern to light the path to our great potential.  He wasn’t just a writer of astonishing tales, he was the grandfather I always wished I had.  His writing with its poetic cadence mesmerizes me, and I’m convinced he will be remembered as the Poe of the 
twentieth century, a literary master who redefined science fiction, fantasy and horror.  He had the magical ability to bring the past into the present, and give the future a nostalgic familiarity.  Ray’s wry humor and love sparkled in his eyes, and continues to do so in his immortal stories, even when he takes us to dark and wondrous places.

I'll never forget, years ago, sitting at his feet, listening as he read from The Halloween Tree.  One of my greatest treasures is a copy of that book, in which he drew a big, grinning Jack-O-Lantern, when he signed it for me at Mysterious Galaxy bookstore.  That was way back in 1993, the first year the store opened in San Diego. At Comic Con in 2010, I was privileged to hear him give one of his last public interviews.  I've reconstructed a partial transcript of that interview, conducted by his biographer, Sam Weller, and I'm honored to share it with you:

Sam Weller:  “You’re a living legend. Do you ever look back and say, ‘My God I wrote that?  How does it feel to be a living legend?”

Ray Bradbury: “Hah-hah-hah.  It feels mighty damn good!”

SW:  “In your books, for instance, Fahrenheit 451, you predicted a lot of things that came true: ear buds, flat screen televisions, the rise of high school violence, the death of newspapers, the rise of graphic novels.  How did you predict so many things?”

RB:  “The secret of life is being in love, and by being in love you predict yourself.  Whatever you want is whatever you get.  You don’t predict things, you make them. You’ve got to be a Zen Buddhist like me.  Don’t think about things, just do them.  Don’t predict them, just make them.  I didn’t think about what was going to happen, I just wrote my stories about what I wanted, and I made them.”

SW:  “Is there any technology you’d like to see in the next few years?”

RB: “There are things I’d like to see disappear. I think the Internet is a great big goddamned stupid bore.”

Sam Weller asked Bradbury about how he responded when asked to have his books released as e-books:

RB: “I got a call from a man who wanted to publish my books on the Internet. I told him, prick up your ears and go to Hell.”

Weller explained that the man who made the request was the CEO of Yahoo.

SW:  “What is our most important goal for our future?”

RB:  “We should never have left the moon. We have to go back to the moon and build a base on the moon, so we can then go on to Mars. We have to become the Martians. I tell you to become the Martians. We have to build a whole civilization on Mars, and then move out three hundred years from now, and go out into the universe, and when we do that, we have the chance of living forever. That’s why I believe in space exploration. Our future is investing right now in space travel. Money should be given to NASA to build the rockets to go back to the moon.”

SW: You’ve been a big advocate for space exploration. Why is space exploration so important to you?

RB: Because we’re going to live forever. We need to go back to the moon and build a colony, and then get to Mars, and then go beyond that into the rest of the universe, and that is how we’ll live forever.”

SW: “You met all the Apollo astronauts in 1967.  What were your impressions of  these bold young astronauts.  Do you have any memories of that?”

RB: “My memories of them are that they were all great people.  But when I met them, I discovered  that all those astronauts had read The Martian Chronicles. When they were all young men, they read my books and decided they wanted to become astronauts.”

Weller asked Bradbury about his role in the creation of the Twilight Zone:

RB: “Rod Serling came to my house many years ago, but he didn’t know anything about writing science fiction and fantasy. So I took him down to my basement and gave him copies of books by Richard Matheson, copies of books by Henry Kuttner, copies of books by Roald Dahl and books by John Collier, and a couple of books by myself. And Rod Serling forgot he read all those books, and when he wrote the program, he copied one of my stories without telling me. So we got into a big argument, and finally I walked away from the Rod Serling show. He had a great show, but he forgot the basis of the show were all the books I gave him by all my friends.”

SW:  “Ray was actually here for the very first Comic-Con. Why did you come and why do you still attend Comic-Con?”

RB: “I remember coming, and there were about three hundred people then. It’s a little different now! I’d been collecting comic strips all my life. I saved Prince Valiant, and Gasoline Alley, from when I was a teenager. So my background in writing was falling in love with comic strips.  They are full of imagination.  I read the comic strips and I learned how to write.”

SW:  “How did comic strips affect your prose writing?”

RB: “It was full of imagination.  It flourished with it pictures.  It taught me how to write.  I’ve read comic strips all my life.  I have all of Prince Valiant put away. I have all of Buck Rogers put away. I put away those starting when I was 19 years old. So my background in becoming a writer was falling in love with comic strips.”

SW: “What’s your favorite comic strip now?”

RB: “My favorite that I read in the paper every day is called ‘Mutts.’”

SW: “You’ve been called the Patron Saint of Libraries. You’ve always been a big supporter of libraries. Why is that?”

RB:  “When I left high school, I had all my plans to go to college, but I had no money. I decided I will not worry about getting money to go to college, I will educate myself. I walked down the street and went into the library.  I went to the library three days a week for ten years, and educated myself. It’s all free, that’s the great thing about libraries. Most of you can get the money to go to college, but if you really want to educate yourself, go to the library.  When I was twenty-eight-years-old, I graduated from library.”

SW: You’re turning ninety in just a few weeks …”

RB: “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

SW:  “Any reflections on that?”

RB: “It’s been ninety goddamn incredible years!  Every day I’ve loved it. Because I’ve remained a boy. The man you see here is a twelve-year-old boy, and the boy is still having fun. You remain invested in your inner child by exploding every day. You don’t worry about the future, you don’t worry about the past, you just explode. If you are dynamic, you don’t have to worry about what you are. I’ve remained a boy, because boys run everywhere.  They keep running, running, running, and never looking back. That’s me, the running boy.”

SW:  “You’ve said you consider yourself a Zen Buddhist.  Is that your spiritual leaning?  What are your beliefs?  What faith are you?”

RB: “I became a Zen Buddhist automatically because I remember being born.  From the moment of birth I remember every second of every hour of every day of my life.  When you have total recall, you are pure Zen.  You don’t have to think about things, you live in the middle of existance.  I live in the middle of my life; there are no perimeters. I expand to the universe.  All I have to do is be.”

SW: “If you could time travel back to any moment in your life, what would it be?”

RB: “Every single moment. Every single moment has been incredible. I’ve savored it, enjoyed it, because I’ve remained a boy. This man you see here is not an old man, it’s a twelve-year-old boy, and this boy is still having fun.”

SW: “Do you have any regrets?”

RB: “I regret I didn’t have more time with Bo Derek!”

SW: “Ok, now you need to tell everyone the story of you and Bo Derek.”

RB: “She came up to me in a train station in Paris thirty years ago and said ‘Mr. Bradbury?’, I said, ‘Yes.’ She said, ‘I love you,’ I said ‘Who are you?’ She said. ‘My name is Bo Derek.” She said, “Mr. Bradbury will you travel on the train with me?’ I said, ‘Yup!”

[pause]

SW: “And I think the rest of the story is censored.”

RB: “Heh!”

SW: “What is your greatest love?”

RB: “I’m the world greatest lover. I love to write short stories; I write short stories. I love to write novels; I write novels. I love to write poetry; I write poetry. I love to paint; I paint paintings. I love to write screenplays; I wrote a screenplay. I’ve loved all these things, and I did them.”

SW: “Do you have any upcoming film projects?” [Weller pointed out that Chrysalis is coming to DVD shortly, and then asked about others.]

RB: “Well, Mel Gibson owns the rights to Fahrenheit 451. I’m sure you all saw Mel Gibson on television last week, yelling at his girlfriend. So you know right now he’s not doing anything with Fahrenheit 451.”

Weller added that The Martian Chronicles is currently in development with 20th Century Fox, and spoke about the TV series that appeared in past.

And then there were some questions from the audience.  Almost all were prefaced by expressions of love for Bradbury, several of them tearful and filled with anecdotes about how they first discovered Bradbury’s work:

Question: “You’ve been an influence on so many writers. Who were your influences?”

RB: “Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Edgar Allen Poe. I remember Edgar Allen Poe scared the hell out of me, and I loved it.”

Q: “Much of your prose is so beautiful, it’s like poetry. Are there any poets who influenced you?”

RB: “Shakespeare, and Alexander Pope.”

Q: “Given the longevity of your career, what keeps you motivated to keep writing?”

RB: “I have more work to do!”

Q: “How do you feel your writing has changed over the years?”

RB: “It’s gotten more brilliant!”

Hearing Bradbury say he is a twelve-year-old boy inside, running, running, running and never looking back, while in his wheel chair, hard of hearing, with his speech impaired by a debilitating stroke (none of which have quenched the fire of the immortal boy) brought me to tears. When Bradbury finished, the crowd gave him another standing ovation and sang “Happy Birthday” to him. Bradbury closed his eyes and held up his hand, feeling the love and adoration pour from his fans. He placed his hand on his chest, soaking it in, with joy and rapture lighting up his face, and with a beaming smile blew kisses to the audience.

Interview transcribed from personal notes, and reconstructed after cross-referencing multiple sources, including video recordings of the interview, blog from “Discover Magazine” writer, Eric Wolff, GeekDad on “Wired” and Parker Ward on UGO.com.


Comments:


(Anonymous) at 2012-06-09 14:26 (UTC) (Link)

Exactly!

What you shared surely does present that fine Mr. Bradbury!

Mort Castle
rjcrowtherjr
rjcrowtherjr at 2012-06-16 00:10 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Exactly!

Mr. Castle, an honor to find you here reading this memorial. Ray continues to be such an inspiration to me. I just so happen to own a copy of your excellent book, "On Writing Horror." A bit embarrassed to admit that I haven't read your novels--I must track them down and delve into your worlds.
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