You can say I’ve got a little bit of bias. Perhaps I’m just a fan of a man who published over 1,000 short stories and was featured in over 100 short story anthologies during his lifetime. Maybe I’m just a fan of a man who was raised in the same zip code as I was. Today is the birth date of Ray Bradbury, the most creative man to ever put ink to paper and I am here to celebrate a man whose legacy still lives on in his hometown and throughout literature.
Ray Bradbury would have been 96 years old today. Widely regarded as “the world’s greatest living science fiction writer” for most of the second half of his adult life, Bradbury was born and raised in Waukegan, Illinois. A young man who was fascinated with architecture, books and magic spent most of free time at the Waukegan library, a Carnegie building that still stands today, Bradbury said that he realized he wanted to be a writer around the age of ten or eleven.
The man means the world to so many people, across the globe, and his works shine as brightly today as they did upon first publishing. From Stephen King and Neil Gaiman to Steven Spielberg, Bradbury was seen as a beacon of creative genius by just about anyone who fancied science fiction, fantasy or the macabre. Fun fact – Bradbury had dinner with David Bowie and Alice Cooper back in the 1970’s. Let that sink in for a moment. How epic must those conversations have been, and how truly cool was Bradbury to have received an audience of Alice Cooper and David freakin’ Bowie in their heyday for dinner?!
During the seventy-plus years that he wrote, Bradbury appeared in just about every known magazine in the country and he also was the proud creator of THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER, which ran for six seasons – two seasons on HBO and the final four on USA Network – from 1985 to 1992.
From ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’, ‘Fahrenheit 451’ and ‘Dandelion Wine’ to ‘The Halloween Tree’ and ‘The October Country’, Ray Bradbury’s bibliography reads like a “greatest hits” collection that just keeps going and going and going.
In Waukegan today, there is going to be a SpaceWauk – an extension of the city’s monthly ArtWauks throughout downtown Waukegan that recognize local art and the creative minds that fuel this city’s blossoming endeavors. Tonight, it’s all about Bradbury, though, as Dr. Mark Hammergren, an astronomer and director with the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, will be on hand to lead a presentation and Q&A that will celebrate Bradbury and the stars above. The event is free (so is parking!) and will take place at the Stiner Pavilion in Waukegan from 7:30pm to 9:00pm this evening. There will even be a Ray Bradbury look-alike contest with prizes and did I mention you’ll be taking in the stars in Bradbury’s hometown?
Waukegan’s Director of Public Relations and Marketing, as well as the man who is the proud father of the successful ArtWauk events that have become a staple of social life here in Bradbury’s “Green Town”, David Motley had this to say as we reflect on the man who did so much and meant even more to the city he was born and raised in:
“We in Waukegan will continue to celebrate the life and legacy of the one and only, Ray Bradbury. On this day, and on every day, we join with countless Bradbury fans worldwide and beyond, that draw inspiration from his prophetic visions of the future. His influence on our community and on our modern civilization and culture is a lasting tribute to the impact of his forward-thinking imagination.
We are very proud that we are able to help recognize his amazing life and artistic achievements as we share in his reverence. Today, we are sure that his spirit is smiling upon us from his distant base on the planet, Mars. Happy Birthday, Ray!”
Bradbury’s second home would be Los Angeles, where he spent the majority of his teenage years and became the iconic author we all know and love today. The Ray Bradbury Read will be taking place today outside of the Los Angeles Central Library, which just so happens to be next to Ray Bradbury Square. Authors, friends and even family members of Bradbury will be reading the late maestro’s work. The event will go from 12pm to 3pm PDT and will include a reading from actor Joe Mantegna.
So if you fancy yourself a reader, an imagineer or just someone who loves to life in the fantastique, do yourself a favor and take a few moments to enjoy some of the work that Ray Bradbury so lovingly laid out for future generations. You’ll be glad you did.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Bradbury. You may be gone but you will never be forgotten.