I became aware of Bradbury when I was a kid though the 1979 NBC miniseries that adapted his collection of related tales called “The Martian Chronicles.” I later became a huge fan of his eerie short stories, such as “The Crowd,” “The Coffin” and “The Scythe,” and his haunting novel “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”
In 2001 I learned what a class act Bradbury could be as a person. I was working on a profile of Roanoke author Nelson Bond, who wrote hundreds of short stories, radio plays and even television shows in the early 20th century. (Nelson died in 2006 at age 97.) I’d seen books Bradbury had inscribed to Nelson on the shelves in Nelson’s bookshop and knew he was a fan of Nelson’s work. I had no handy means to reach him directly, so I wrote him a letter and hoped.
He called me at home. My wife Anita had the memorable experience of needing to tell a friend she had to hang up because Ray Bradbury was on the other line. Bradbury and I had a short but delightful conversation. In his deep, rich voice, he kept insisting he didn’t think he could say much that would help me, all the while very quotably praising Nelson’s sense of humor. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tell him how much I admired his work. He responded by graciously thanking me.
Bradbury’s literary presence has long since surpassed his humble origins in pulp magazines. In the past decade he received lifetime achievement awards from every place imaginable, including a special Pulitzer Prize citation and the National Medal of Arts.
It’s possible though that none of these awards got more attention than the tongue-in-cheek tribute created in 2010 by 20-something comedienne Rachel Bloom, whose R-rated, unprintably-titled music video expressing her admiration for the writer went viral. By all accounts, Bradbury responded to her graciously, too.