I’m honestly not sure when I started reading Bradbury. I think it was as an adult, but he’s one of the writers who seems to have always been there, as a part of my literary consciousness. Meaning that I don’t remember before having read him, unlike Kate Chopin or Willa Cather–I distinctly remember the before and after of having read them. What he meant to me as a young writer was permission to treat science fiction frankly as metaphor, which the other science fiction I was reading didn’t give me. He was basically writing prose poetry as science fiction–which puzzled me back then, but became part of the way I approach the genre now. And there’s one thing I got from him that affected me in an incredibly deep way, at the core–the conclusion of Fahrenheit 451.
‘Fever Dream’, one of my favourites.
Bradbury’s short stories were on our school’s English syllabus. There was also a lot of Bradbury in the school library. I found Fahrenheit 451 too bleak to be really memorable (though the living, speaking books cheered and enthralled me), but others stuck with me: ‘All Summer in a Day’ (I first encountered it as a short TV movie), ‘The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit’ (another favourite), ‘The Big Black and White Game’ (read during the glory days of WI Test cricket vs England), and ‘Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed’ (that was on the syllabus, postcolonial before I knew what the word meant). Dandelion Wine mostly went over my head except for that one shining bit with the lime vanilla ice. It didn’t matter whether Bradbury was writing pure SF or a realist story with a slight touch of the extraordinary. He wrote like he understood people and loved them in spite of and because of it.
I can’t remember when I first read Bradbury. I paid attention to book authors, but not so much to short stories in anthologies. But when I started publishing, enough people compared my stories to his that I suspect he was a strong influence in how I see the world and how I construct prose, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.
James Patrick Kelly
I don’t know how many other sf writers of my generation (mid-babyboom) felt the need to wrestle with the Big Four (Bradbury, Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke) in the work, but I have — and more than once. It’s just another way to help me understand why I am still doing this thing after more than three decades. But that’s why I wrote an homage/reply to the unutterably poignant “There Will Come Soft Rains” back in 2005. Ray Bradbury, influential? Yes and I’m proud to admit it.
E. Lily Yu
Like so many of you, I came to Bradbury very young, in middle school or so, just as I was starting to write. I read everything he wrote that I could find, with a strange combination of eagerness and reluctance; his stories at once repelled, enchanted, disgusted, fascinated. I remember that he had an obsession with the disfigurement and transformation of the human body that made my skin itch, tattoos and electrified bodies, mummified women and deboned men, whatever the hell was in “The Jar.” I remember reading that he wrote his stories by making lists of nouns, and I tried to do the same. (It didn’t work.) Stories like “The Fog Horn” taught me the naked shapes of plot. Dandelion Wine taught me some of the beauties that language is capable of. I don’t know if, as Andy suggests, we had to have met him young, but I haven’t read Bradbury in years. I’m afraid of being disappointed if I revisited him. The America he wrote about, America past and America present and America future, the American Mars, was an exquisitely nostalgic, gorgeous, white male world, full of small-town boys in blossom, and I loved that vision when I was a child. I’m not sure how I would see it today.
I wish I could have met him. The shape of the hole he left in the world is infinitely lovely.