In this compilation spanning a decade of interviews, Sam Weller showcases two facets of Ray Bradbury: his boundless natural curiosity and his diligently practiced craft. Through years of studying the author’s life to write his biography, The Bradbury Chronicles, Weller knew where to steer these interviews to bring out the story, demonstrating his encyclopedic knowledge of Bradbury by catching him in the occasional contradiction or pressing him on a detail. Weller steps out from behind the mirror only once, when he mentions that he is a professor of creative writing.
Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews
by Sam Weller
Stop Smiling Books
An unexpected gift in the transcriptions is that Bradbury does more than mine his life story for anecdotes: he also teaches a model for a writing life. Bradbury advises aspiring writers to write one story a week for fifty-two weeks. Each new story will benefit from what was wrong with the last one, and in the end, the writer will learn from himself. “Never think about stories,” Bradbury says. “Do them. Trust your subconscious to have all these springs in there.” To that end, he maintained a firm attachment to the myths and metaphors of youth, keeping his study full of toy robots, model spacecraft, dinosaur figurines, and other trappings of his inquisitive boyhood. Writing took hold of Bradbury at age twelve, when he met Mr. Electrico, a stunt performer at a traveling carnival. They formed a connection through a shared magic trick, and an inchoate spark of recognition left Bradbury feeling profoundly changed: “It was intuitive. It just happened.” Next came a typewriter, a move from Waukegan to Hollywood, and an adolescence spent chasing adventure and movie stars. When Bradbury graduated from high school in 1938, he began going to the public library three nights a week instead of attending college. He insists that a library holds all the education anyone needs.
To be a writer, for Bradbury, means consuming language in every available medium. He has fueled nine decades of creativity by immersion in all forms of literature, as well as film, comics, and music. Beyond his iconic works of science fiction such as Fahrenheit 451 and The Illustrated Man, Bradbury has written screenplays, stage plays, essays, and poetry. He dreams of an opera as his next project. After two major obstacles—the stroke he suffered in 1999 and the loss of his wife in 2003—Bradbury only fortified his resolve to be productive. His philosophy is one of practicality, coupled with living life “at the top of your voice!” Accordingly, when Weller inquires about some of the technological inaccuracies that appear in some of his science fiction, Bradbury explains that he didn’t want to learn to build a rocket — he wanted to fly one.
The reader need not be a Bradbury buff to be stirred by his exuberance or by Weller’s ability to illuminate the most inspiring gems of his life. When asked how he wants to be remembered, Bradbury tells Weller, “The thing that makes me happy is that I know that on Mars, two hundred years from now, my books are going to be read. They’ll be up on dead Mars with no atmosphere. And late at night, with a flashlight, some little boy is going to peek under the covers and read The Martian Chronicles on Mars.”