I’m a take-it-or-leave-it Science Fiction fan. Ray Bradbury was never a favorite author, but I did tolerate Fahrenheit 451 when it was shoved down my throat on some summer reading list. He passed away this week, and this morning’s New York Times delivers an outstanding send-off to a writer who deserves a lot of credit for bridging the gulf between the lurid pulp covers of tentacled aliens and calliphygian space nymphs to the world of serious letters. Asimov, Heinlein, Dick, Herbert …. there’s quite a few “serious” sci-fi writers, but none really hit a chord with me.
The current New Yorker carried a brief but oh-very-sad reminiscence by Bradbury, possibly his last published piece. In it he talks about launching paper hot air balloons into the evening skies with his grandfather and watching their flickering light and beauty fade into the darkness with tears streaming down his five-year old cheeks.
“But I could not let it go. It was so beautiful, with the light and shadows dancing inside. Only when Grandpa gave me a look, and a gentle nod of his head, did I at last let the balloon drift free, up past the porch, illuminating the faces of my family. It floated up above the apple trees, over the beginning-to-sleep town, and across the night among the stars.
We stood watching it for at least ten minutes, until we could no longer see it. By then, tears were streaming down my face, and Grandpa, not looking at me, would at last clear his throat and shuffle his feet. The relatives would begin to go into the house or around the lawn to their houses, leaving me to brush the tears away with fingers sulfured by the firecrackers. Late that night, I dreamed the fire balloon came back and drifted by my window.”
So sad and so beautiful and now I want to go read more of the same.