Happy Birthday, Ray Bradbury

(UPDATE: Ray Bradbury passed away on June 5, 2012.  He will be missed. I had written this article commemorating his birthday. He will not be forgotten.)

Ray Bradbury was born on August 22, 1920, and we are lucky to still have him among us, writing amazing stories to spark the imaginations of multiple generations.  He is a literary giant and we are blessed indeed that he continues to write.  When I wrote an essay about my favorite short story writers, I failed to include Ray Bradbury on the list -- now I will attempt to redeem myself by dedicating today's blog entry to him on his 91st birthday.

I remember, even as child when I first read his collection of science fiction tales about the red planet in The Martian Chronicles, what a master of words he was.  Reading his prose, I was aware for maybe the first time how a story when told well could be elevated to poetry.  It wasn't overwritten, but rather it was perfectly written.  The images and the ideas evoked by his sentences and paragraphs transported my young mind to new places. 

I hunted down another Bradbury book, The Illustrated Man, more fantastical short stories, each different, but connected by a speculative thread in which the tales came to life from tattooed images on a mysterious man's skin. 

When I was assigned in school to read his classic Fahrenheit 451, about a dystopian future where books were forbidden, it didn't seem like homework.  It was another thrilling adventure from the creative pen of someone who had helped introduce me to the world of storytelling.

Ray Bradbury transcends all genres.  He is a writer extraordinaire.  Even though he has excelled at writing science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mysteries, categories that I love, his greatest feat is that his stories are accessible by anyone, not just fans of sci-fi.  Immerse yourself into his books and experience the joy of reading, of losing yourself in incredible and timeless parables and fairytales. Pick up any of his books -- Dandeline Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, or Farewell Summer -- and no matter how many times I may have read them before, they still strike me as fresh.  Want a short tale to tide you over before bedtime or during a lunchbreak?  You can't go wrong with any of his hundreds of stories -- "A Sound of Thunder," "All Summer in a Day," "The Lost City of Mars," and all the rest.

We should cherish him while he is still with us and celebrate each new story we might still receive from his ceaseless imagination.  Happy birthday, Mr. Bradbury.  I hope you have many more.