What’s Love Got to Do with It?
How a Conversation with Ray Bradbury
Changed My Life
by David Boyne
“ Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.”
Somewhere in my once-in-this-lifetime conversation with Ray Bradbury he told me the same story I had read in his book, Zen in the Art of Writing, Essays on Creativity.
It was the story of when he was a 9-year-old boy way back in October of 1929 and after weeks of tormenting from his peers he succumbed to their contempt and pressure. He did what they wanted: He tore up his collection of comic books. Destroying those comic books, Bradbury said, nearly destroyed him. For a month he wandered in a dark daze, sick at heart, and knowing, “I am as good as dead.”
What the 9-year old boy then chose to do would set the pattern for what has proven to be a long, rich, rewarding and rollicking life. He quietly, firmly, implacably, rebelled. To Society, with its crushing criticisms and persecutions of those who choose not to conform, Ray Bradbury flipped the metaphorical finger. And he joyfully returned to collecting his beloved comic books.
In his 80s when I spoke with him, he told me that the boy who fell in love with comic books had gone on to fall in love with whatever and whomever he damn well pleased and that he had never again even considered asking for anyone’s permission or approval.
My Conversation with Ray Bradbury
The first evening I telephoned to interview Ray Bradbury his daughter, Alexandra, answered.
She told me, “Dad is out somewhere.”
And I wondered, when Ray Bradbury “is out somewhere,” where might that be?
After all, Alexandra’s dad is a guy who has imagined human colonies on Mars. He has warned us of a frighteningly real future in which firemen burn books and mechanical hounds hunt down men by tracking their DNA. He has shown us a possible future in which our children are so abandoned to and absorbed in a four-walled television reality show that they think the scene they are watching of lions devouring their parents is not real. He has also given us hilarious waking dreams in which Laurel and Hardy come back to life to move a grand piano down a staircase in the wee hours of the morning with satisfyingly slapstick consequences.
“Should I email my questions to him?” I asked Alexandra.
“Dad doesn’t do email,” she said. “That’s why I’m here in Los Angeles. I come here once a month from my home in Arizona to do the computer things because Dad won’t use computers.”
“You mean Ray Bradbury—one of the most influential science fiction writers of all time—doesn’t use computers?”
Alexandra laughed. “I like to tease him about it.”
“Is Ray Bradbury a Luddite?”
“I guess you could say that. I like to call him Mr. Sci-Fi.”
Alexandra, a woman in middle age, had used a perfect valley-girl accent to stretch out the sardonic nickname for her father, “Mis-ter Sci-Fiiii.”
“Or maybe,” I wondered, “Ray Bradbury is just so far ahead of us that he’s gone right by computers. Maybe we’ve got to catch up to him?”
The second evening I called, Ray Bradbury answered. He said, “Just start asking your questions. We’ll see where it all goes.”
Then he gave me a warning. “If you start to get whiplash, put down the phone!”