Ray Bradbury, one of the ‘old men of Science Fiction’ has passed away at the age of 91.
Bradbury wrote in the era when ideas we consider tropes now were, well, ideas. When they thought there may be canals on Mars, before man had been to the moon. It was a golden age of science fiction writing.
When I was in my early teens I discovered a pile of old Science Fiction short story compilations in the shed. My Dad had read them back in the 70’s, but they were really stories from as early as the 40’s.
Bradbury was among them, telling stories with the twists so common to the form, but tying it in with heart, thoughtfulness and sentiment. His prose was almost poetic even while he built tension in stories like ‘The Fog Horn’, or bordered on the theological in ‘The Traveler’. My favourite by far though, and my favourite short story of any author is ‘A Sound of Thunder’.
Bradbury’s tale of vainglorious hunters going back in time to hunt a Tyrannosaurus and unwittingly affecting their future would, if published today, be considered a rehash, a cliche. Except Bradbury did it with such class, subtlety and so perfectly for the short story form, to me everything since seems trite.
In 1983 Bantam Books published ‘Dinosaur Tales’, an illustrated collection of Bradbury’s short stories about dinosaurs. Among them was ‘”Besides A Dinosaur, Whatta Ya Wanna Be When You Grow Up?“(alarmed grandfather looks for a substitute obsession when his grandson begins sharpening his teeth), “The Fog Horn“(a terrifying and mournful romance between a lighthouse and….. something ancient) and “A Sound of Thunder”.
And so came together my favourite short story, and my favourite illustrator, William Stout, who had provided the beautiful drawings to accompany the story. There’s little I can say about how much this double whammy affected me as a developing artist, except perhaps that one day I still want to make a short film that’s entirely true to the story and illustrations in that book. I’ve posted a couple of illustrations from the book below, both are by William Stout.