Celebrating My Story Father On World Book Night
World Book Night is a celebration of the love of books and reading. I'm pleased to see some of my favorite authors in the official list of thirty titles selected by the publishers, booksellers and distributors on the board of directors and advisory council... authors like Sherman Alexie, Octavia Butler, Jhumpa Lahiri and John Irving. Their works have touched and inspired me, and I hope you give them a chance to work their magic on you, too.
Still, none of these truly brilliant authors can claim to be the one who has most inspired me. Indeed, the author whose life's work means more to me than any other is not among the thirty honored tonight. Nor was he on the list for the inaugural World Book Night last year.
No matter... for Ray Bradbury will always be at the top of every list of authors I care to count. He's my Inspiration Zero; my Story Father.
The inscription from my parents inside the paperback copy of "The Martian Chronicles" is dated 1979. I would have been twelve years old ("The golden age of science fiction," as Peter Graham famously wrote ten years before I was born). It seems to be the first of Bradbury's books in my possession, but I feel I was certainly younger when I first discovered him. No doubt I took home "R Is For Rocket," "The Illustrated Man," or "S Is For Space" from the Glendora Public Library years before, much as the young Bradbury himself discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs in his own small town library.
Reading Ray Bradbury along with the harder science fiction of a Larry Niven and the purer fantasy of an L. Sprague de Camp undoubtedly helped keep my literary tastes from becoming too calcified in one genre or another. For Bradbury is not a genre writer. Not exactly. Not... particularly.
Sure, he's known for "The Martian Chronicles," but that mosaic novel is full of tales that are lyric, aching poetry more than they are future history. Just as "Fahrenheit 451" is more political and social satire than bleak dystopian predictor. "Something Wicked This Way Comes," rather than being a horrific tale of temptation, is, like its cousin "Dandelion Wine," an earnest and sentimental love letter to childhood seen through frosted glass. His delightful and often surprisingly moving trilogy of mystery novels ("Death Is A Lonely Business," "A Graveyard For Lunatics" and the tour de force "Let's All Kill Constance") are travelogues through time and tone -- specifically the Hollywood of the forties, fifties and early sixties.
Science fiction, horror, fantasy, mysteries... Bradbury can't be pigeon-holed, unless you place him squarely in the slot labeled "storyteller." I see that polyfluous influence at work when I look at my bookshelf and see works by Carver and Clavell as well as Clarke, Kress and Kelly next to Kafka, Steinbeck and Saberhagen next to... well, next to Selznick.
I have Ray Bradbury to thank for that, too. While no one would mistake whatever nascent style or voice might be at play in my own work as having a Bradbury feel, his deep, abiding, passionate love of story is always there like a warm hand on my shoulder. Led by his example, presented in a dozen novels and a half-thousand shorter works, plays and screenplays, I am always driven to write about what it means to be human, what it feels like to be alive, what it was like then, and what it could be like next.
I don't care about genre.
I care about story.
That's because of Ray Bradbury.
This World Book Night, before I turn in for the night, I'm going to read a bit from "Death Is A Lonely Business," because it's been a while since we've visited. I encourage you to find your own Ray Bradbury to read tonight. I bet there's already something there on your bookshelves, waiting. And when World Book Night is in the past, let's meet here in the comments to talk about what Ray Bradbury means to you. I'd love to know.
-- Matthew Wayne Selznick
Long Beach, California
Matthew Wayne Selznick is a creator working with words, music,
pictures and people. A social media pioneer and Amazon Top 100 author,
he helps independent authors and other creators complete their
creative endeavors and build audience through his company, MWS Media.
He lives in Long Beach, California.