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What is Ray Bradbury?

July 14, 2009 |  9:11 am

Raybradbury_withcake

Author and screenwriter Steven Paul Leiva has been hanging with Ray Bradbury -- even made a video for the Buffalo Film Festival -- and in an essay for our brother blog, Hero Complex, he tries to get at the essence of exactly what the octogenarian author is.

If you are of a certain age and read the works of Ray Bradbury in your youth, you probably read paperbacks emblazoned with the words: “The world’s greatest living science fiction writer.”... In almost everything you read about Bradbury his name was either preceded or followed by the words "science fiction writer," despite the fact that other things you read stated quite emphatically that Bradbury was either "not that" or "much more than just that."

The problem seems to be that we are all trying to label the wrong thing. If trying to label what Bradbury does is frustrating, maybe we ought to widen our vision and try to label him simply by whom Bradbury is. ...

Bradbury is a fan − of science fiction because it taught him to see the wonder in life, of life because to feel it intensely is a kick, of humanity because that is his tribe and he has found humanity’s striving to reach the stars a noble bid for immortality that is the action of doers and not dreamers. And what is “fan” but a nickname for “lover?”

Bradbury is a lover. It informs everything he does, especially his speeches where he informs the pubic to be lovers too. “Love what you do, and do what you love,” he often says. And it certainly informs his writing, which he does in an improvisational manner, like a jazz musician, or, more to the point, like a young lover.

Bradbury is also a gatherer of interesting honors. He's been awarded a National Medal of Arts; given a star on the Hollywood walk of Fame; received the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters; had an asteroid named for him; been given multiple Stoker Awards, including one for lifetime achievement; won an Emmy and a Saturn Award for television writing; and received the French Commandeur Order des Artes and Lettres medal in 2007.

With his 89th birthday coming up on Aug. 22, Angelenos' favorite science fiction writer -- or, if you prefer, lover -- is likely to land on Jacket Copy again.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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Everyone's invited to Ray Bradbury's birthday party

Photo: Ray Bradbury in 2003 with a birthday cake in the foreground. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times.

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