Ray Bradbury passed away this month, on June 5th, and when I heard about this I felt a feeling of loss that took me by surprise. It was deeper than I thought it would be, and I wasn’t sure at the time just why.
I had taken Fahrenheit 451, the movie from ‘66, out from the library the other day and had it sitting by my computer when I read about his death in the news. I belive this is his most popular story, and after watching the movie and in light of recent events, it was interesting to watch the interview with Bradbury that was in the special features. I learned that he was library educated, going to the library to learn what he wanted and never going to college. According to his interview he felt that Fahrenheit is the only work he did that truly fell into science fiction (with the library defining sci-fi as stories that are plausible through technology vs say, fantasy, which includes magic and the fantastic). This is interesting because everyone always says he was a great mind behind sci-fi. It’s weird that he didn’t feel that’s what he wrote. He even mentioned that the Martian chronicles, which really sound sci-fi-y are actually based in Greek mythology, so he would consider them fantasy.
I remembered reading Something Wicked This Way Comes, and enjoying it. I also remembered watching episodes from the old Bradbury theatre show, particularly the one about the time traveler who steps on a butterfly. But there was something more, something that nagged me.
Then, last night, it hit me, and the shockwaves were like someone took a sledgehammer to the top of my head and my body, like Wile E. Coyote’s, felt the resounding BONG!
The Fog Horn. It was a story I had read in my early teens from a school reader of mixed literature. The Fog Horn touched me; emotionally ripping out my heart and letting it beat there, raw on the floor. Suddenly, I saw myself in my room, at that age, my throat tight with pain that comes before weeping, in awe that something this good was in a book from school. I remember noting the name of the author, and thinking, I must read more of him.
My God! That was Bradbury?!
Instantly, I was on google, and oh… yes, Bradbury did write the Fog Horn. He wrote the story that crunched my heart when I first read it so very long ago. And now I know exactly why I felt that blip of loss when I read about his passing.
It wasn’t just that he was a great writer, or some feeling of passing guilt that I had not taken the time to read more of his works, when I had three of his old novels sitting, dusty, on my shelves at home. It was the fact that this was the man who wrote that story. One I will not only never forget the plot of, but I will never forget that this story made me feel something, and just how that something felt. This was not an intellectual pursuit. This was emotional. This was painful. And beautiful. This was what great writing, at least to me, is all about. You can tell me many a story, and I will like you for it, perhaps respect your writing chops. But if you can make me feel like he did, when emotion zaps electric through my blood, then, then my dear sweet brother, you rise above. And rise above he did.
I took a look online and found this story was on a site from the University of Sheffield although there are a few errors in the formatting and editing, hopefully that won’t take away from the story. I cannot guarantee that you will like it as much as I do. You would probably need to be in a similar place in your life, or a similar frame of mind. I find it also looses a bit being online like that, and I’m suspicious if it is actually allowed to be there. So, if you want to do Bradbury a solid, you can find the Fog Horn in his short story collection The Golden Apples of the Sun. I know I’m now going hunting for it.
The fog horn blows. And I answer.
Rest in Peace, and thank you.