I was younger than my own daughter is now. I had the same ravenous appetite for literature as she, and books were my escape from the bullying, as well as the sometimes overwhelming banality of the outside world. I had just returned from a trip to the local drug store with my mother. I had shiny quarters, nickels, and dimes in hand when we left on the excursion – my allowance earned by taking out the trash and other odd jobs around the house. Now that we returned the lion’s share of that allowance was gone, but now I held in my hand a paperback book from the spinning rack at the corner of the pharmacy. I had already devoured a chapter or two while my mother waited for her prescription to be filled and while on the ride home. This was a new kind of book. A new kind of genre. And it spoke to me.
Upon arriving home I showed my prize to my father, exclaiming with excitement that I had discovered a new type of book. One that he had surely never heard of before – Science Fiction. He looked at the paperback and scanned the back cover.
“You know, Science Fiction was around when I was a kid, too,” he told me.
I was in awe. This stuff had been out there? Why hadn’t I been informed? “Really?” I asked.
“Sure,” he replied. “H. G. Wells, Jules Verne… The list goes on and on. You know what? There’s a book I think you’d enjoy…” He rummaged around in the shelves and pulled out a copy of The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury, then told me, “This was always one of my favorites.”
…And thus was my introduction to one of the greatest SF/Fantasy authors of all time.
I was fortunate enough to have met Ray Bradbury many years ago when I was still an “aspiring author in search of a publisher,” and he was on a book tour. I not only had him sign a book for me, but one for my father as well. I will always remember that.
Mr. Bradbury died this morning at the age of 91. He will be sorely missed, but he left this world a far more interesting place by being the man who illustrated it for us with his words.