I remember reading Ray Bradbury for the first time in junior high. I had a class called “Reading for Fun” which was basically an open period to encourage us to read; I didn’t really need any encouragement but I couldn’t pass up more time for books. I read Something Wicked This Way Comes, and was thoroughly freaked out by the Illustrated Man, and hooked by the story. In time, Bradbury became one of my favorite authors, whether he was writing creepy fiction, non-creepy fiction, science fiction, or whatever.
On Friday, I attended a Comic-Con panel spotlighting Bradbury, and it was pretty amazing to see him, nearly 90 years old and still writing. Sam Weller has spent about ten years interviewing Bradbury, and just published a book recently: Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews. Weller spent half of the hour asking Bradbury some questions, sharing some stories about him, and then Bradbury took questions from the audience. You could tell his body was frail (he entered in a wheelchair) and his hearing wasn’t so great, but his memory was still sharp and he still had a great sense of humor.
Weller mentioned that Ray Bradbury has never driven a car, but he did get to drive the Mars Rover once, with a joystick, and the folks at NASA even presented him with a Mars Drivers License. He also talked about being a Zen Buddhist, giving government back to the people, and helping Rod Sterling get started writing “The Twilight Show.”
I scribbled down notes during the panel; while these are not verbatim and don’t comprise the entire interview, I tried to get the quotes as close as possible.
Sam Weller: You’ve had a long career and influenced so many people with your writing. How does it feel to be Ray Bradbury?
Ray Bradbury: It feels mighty d–n good!
SW: In your books, for instance in Fahrenheit 451, you predicted a lot of things that came true: earphones, the death of newspapers, graphic novels … How did you predict so many things?
RB: You don’t predict things, you 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 godd–n stupid bore.
[Apparently Bradbury once cussed out the CEO of Yahoo, according to Weller.]
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: 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 300 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. My background as a writer was based on my love of comic strips.
SW: Do you still read comics?
RB: My favorite is one that’s in the paper, “Mutts.”
SW: You’ve been called the Patron Saint of Libraries. You’ve always been a big supporter of libraries. Why is that?
RB: In high school, I had plans to go to college, but I had no money. I decided that I could try to get money to go to college, or I could educate myself. I went to the library three days a week, for ten years, and it was all free. Many of you [in the audience] can get the money to go to college, but if you really want to educate yourself, go to the library. When I was 28 years old, I graduated from Library.
SW: You’re turning 90 in just a few weeks …
RB: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
SW: … Any reflections on that?
RB: It’s been 90 godd–n incredible years.
SW: If you could time travel to a 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. She said to me, “Mr. Bradbury, I love you!” I said, “Who are you?” She told me she was Bo Derek, and asked, “Will you travel on the train with me?” and I said, “Yup!”
SW: And I think the rest of the story is censored.
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.
And then there were some questions from the audience, almost all of which were prefaced with how much they loved Bradbury, or a story about how they first discovered his writing, etc.
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!