The Tale-Teller Who Tapped into the Gothic Core of America

Ray Bradbury, who died this week, was celebrated as a giant of science fiction, but his books defy classification. What accounts for his remarkable scope and influence?
  1. Just three months ago, at the end of February, I was sitting in a bar in the Chicago Hilton, discussing Ray Bradbury. I was staying at the Hilton, and in a moment Bradburian in its weirdness, I had been put into the suite where President Obama saw on TV that he had just won the US presidential election. On that occasion the immense, many-roomed suite must have been full—of family, of security folks, of political staffers—but I was in it all alone, and it was not the best place to be while dwelling on things Bradburian. It was too easy to imagine that there was someone in the next room. Worse, that someone might be my evil twin, or myself at a different age, or it might contain a mirror in which I would cast no reflection. It took some self-control not to go in there and look.

    In February, however, the Chicago Hilton was not crawling with secret servicemen talking into their sleeves, but with 4,000 writers, would-be writers, students of writing, and teachers of writing, all of whom were attending the conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs where I was to give the keynote address, and every single one of whom would have known who Ray Bradbury was.

    In the Hilton bar with me was Bradbury's biographer, Sam Weller. It was the first time I'd met him, in person that is, though I felt I already knew him. He'd contacted me on Twitter—this is a 21st-century story—to see if I'd like to contribute to a tribute volume, edited by himself and by veteran horror writer ...