Wednesday, August 15, 2012

You Don't Walk Alone

You may think I’m a bit late in writing a tribute to Ray Bradbury. Though I admire the man and his amazing output this little essay isn’t exactly a tribute. What I intend to stress here is that no matter how talented or dedicated to craft a person may be no one achieves the ultimate pinnacle of success entirely on their own. Bradbury’s life is an excellent illustration of this fact. Bradbury was born into a working class family. In his early years he was surrounded by a loving and encouraging extended family and the warmth of that relationship and its benefits would be reflected later in some of his best loved stories. He had fond memories of an aunt reading him stories as a child and that may have influenced him to begin setting down his own tales on paper before he entered his teens. He actually earned his first pay as a writer at the age of 14 when George Burns hired him to write for the Burns and Allen radio show. After graduating from high school, he joined the Los Angeles Science Fiction League, befriending Robert Heinlein and many of the other big names of the genre. It was with the help of Heinlein in 1940 he made his first professional sale to a West Coast magazine of which many have never heard. Ray Bradbury never went to college. Instead, he went to the library all day, three times a week, until he got married at 27. Ever afterward he continued to laud the library as his “university” and, in gratitude to his alma mater, made a practice of organizing fundraisers for libraries. Despite his fame, Bradbury had his share of rejection, too. For a long time, he couldn’t get a publication outside of science fiction magazines. It was Truman Capote who finally recognized Bradbury’s talent, pulled his story “Homecoming” out of the slush pile, and convinced his editor at Mademoiselle to buy it. The New Yorker has only ever printed one of his stories, even though he sent them several hundred over the years. And in the 1970s, The Paris Review declined to publish an interview with him because they found him “too enthusiastic.” The Review made up for that error of judgment in 2010 with Interview No. 203. Bradbury claimed a wide variety of influences, which included friends and family. And he never forgot his debt to them. That, my friends, is the purpose of this essay—never forget the importance of other people in your life. None of us walk alone.