Tag Archive: Ray Bradbury



Mr. Ray Bradbury died on June 5, 2012.  It’s been a year since he left us with a legacy of books and stories, some of which have been made into movies and TV episodes (check out Ray Bradbury Theater on Amazon or YouTube).  In this blog entry I’m not going to recap his life story.  Mostly I’m going to share my own thoughts and feelings on the man from what I saw of him in his works.

Mr. Bradbury could capture the imagination in ways not many authors can.  I’m a huge fan of his short story anthologies, as well as his more lengthy works.  But it was those short stories that always captured my attention the most.  I’ve not done many myself, but I’m hoping to expand eventually.  I’m afraid I’m one of those authors who feels he has a big story to tell most of the time.  Perhaps I just haven’t come up with the right character(s) to be the voice or focus of some short stories.  I’ve got one or two in mind but I have to learn a bit more about who they are and what some of their short stories are like first.

But Mr. Bradbury’s style and ability to create characters and situations never ceased to amaze me.  He could take us to other planets, some nice others not, and allow us to meet people who were people.  They had foibles and shortcomings, a sense of duty, dreams, hopes, laughter and tears.  He had a way of making us feel the depths of these characters emotions and make us ask “How would I handle a situation like that?” without even trying.  Whether we were going to an alien planet with a cynical captain and discover that Jesus Christ had been seen there (title of the story is “The Man”), or a world that would literally love and grant you anything you wished but could turn hostile if you disrespected her (“Here There Be Tygers”),  or even taking on the prospects of reverse racism (“The Other Shoe”), he could make the readers wonder about themselves and the world around them.

But he wasn’t just about science fiction.  He could do contemporary with the best of them.  His exploration into childhood could be very moving and evoke emotions from your past with the skill of a master.  “The Sound of Summer Running” is a short that really took me back to summer days and sneakers.  How did a new pair of sneakers that were just right, feel to you?  Did you could believe you would run faster or jump higher than ever before?  What about the excitement of racing around in the front yards with your friends during those summer evenings, how did that used to feel for you?  Did you play kick the can, or hide and go seek, as the evening shadows slowly stretched and night fell?  I always loved to play then because the game became more interesting and exciting thanks to the added difficulty of the approaching dark.  And he brought all this back to me in that one little story.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that he was brilliant at conveying the human experience (for good or for bad).  There’s a charm to his work that can pull out emotions, memories or even contemplations from the  reader.  Part of this is because a lot of his characters are easy to relate to.  You can almost see yourself or people you know in them, making you feel more at home with them.

So raise a glass of Dandelion Wine or whatever your preferred beverage is and offer up a thanks to a man who gave us so much.  He’s left a lot of works behind for us to explore and enjoy, so if you get a chance to go to your local library check out a book or two of his.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Well folks the response from my question about posting more about writing, and the different aspects that make up a story,  was overwhelmingly positive.  So here is my first posting in that vein.  Today I’m talking a bit about “settings” for your story.  Now settings do more than just give the reader a location where the action is taking place.  Settings do much, much more to the story.   They can be a mere backdrop or they can have a definite impact on how your characters are shaped.  How they become the people they are when we meet them in your story can be very much affected by their settings.

For instance… where does your story take place?  In Heaven?  Hell?  Another planet? This world?  If it is this world, what time frame?  Middle Ages? The future?  World War I or II?  Another time entirely?  And how does that setting affect the rest of your story?  Does the environment your characters are living in shape their personalities or how they get by in life?  Are they isolated with few friends because of the terrain or location?   Are they considered the outsider by the rest of the population who has been brainwashed to fit in and act a certain way by a higher authority?  In Frank Herbert’s “DUNE”, the setting of Arakis had a major role in shaping the main character Paul and his mother.  From leaving a world of splendor with water and lush vegetation to going to a barren desert planet, where water was more valuable than money or any riches.  The dangerous and harsh world re-shapes Paul from pampered youth to hard-bitten leader of the desert tribes of Arakis.  He learns hard and fast how to survive the threats of the planet itself, along with the political backstabbing that led to his father’s murder.  Setting can create a great tension that helps drive your story.

A setting can also be the major plot of a story as well.  In Ray Bradbury’s short sci-fi story “HERE THERE BY TYGERS” a planet itself is the main plot point.  A survey team for a mining company arrive on a planet that is sentient.  It offers them anything they could ever wish for: food, lush vegetation, water, even companionship.  It is a living paradise with the most gigantic and caring hostess you could ever meet.  Unfortunately, through the actions of one of their team, they learn the price of disrespect.  He is killed after purposely trying to hurt the planet by drilling samples in a savage manner.  He hates all planets and feels they must be beaten down and tamed.  In the end, the rest of the crew decide to return home, all save one member who has fallen in love with the planet. The others learn of his departure AFTER they have left and envy him.  They know the planet will take care of him and even maybe extend his life in a lush world that aims to please him.  But they can never return.  Even as they look back on the world it now ‘appears’ as a violent raging world of molten lava and volcanic eruptions.  They realize that the world was in a way a woman who had offered them everything.  But they had scorned her and now she is furious and will not let them return to her surface.   A truly brilliant piece.

So what kind of setting are you aiming for?  An inner-city ghetto?  A desert where an army is trying to deal with survival in more than one respect?  Or are you creating a  quiet suburban town where ‘nothing seems to happen’.  In each case your characters must interact with their surroundings.  That setting should shape your character’s personality and development before and during the story.  In that quiet suburban town where your lead is bored, what secrets lie beneath the ground or behind those seeming bland windows of the cookie-cutter housing that lines the streets.

Settings are powerful tools and not just backdrops.   Keep this in mind as you write, because you never know.  The setting you create may be one that you’ll want to return to again because there are more tales to be told from there.

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