Uncle Ray Bradbury

When I was twelve years old, I first met Uncle Ray. I found him in the back of the grade seven classroom in a cardboard box. In that box were rough-edged paperbacks whose best days were far behind them. The book I picked up was The Martian Chronicles.  The cover was orange, the planet mars was in the background, and in the foreground was Ray Bradbury’s face, floating. Daring me to read it. Uncle Ray, as I would soon begin calling him.

I did read the book. And that book changed me. Oh, I had been altered by other books, but there was a deep hypnotism of the language. It wasn’t that I just HAD to read more. It wanted all his words, each avenue of thought, from invisible boys. And me, who never liked short stories could not stop from reading S is for Space and R is for Rocket.

I personally don’t know Ray Bradbury, and the way the world is, I likely won’t ever get the chance to meet him. Yet he is still a part of my family, if I were to put the tree up he would be alonside my other unlces. After all he has guided me.

One of the concepts in life is the whole idea of "paying it forward." In other words if someone helped you get into the position you are at in life today, then instead of paying them back you should pay it forward to the next generation. This happens a lot in writing. If I had to write up a thank you list it would be endless: my parents, teachers, other writers & fans who have dropped me notes of encouragement.

Canadian Cover

Ten years ago I dedicated my novel DUST to Ray Bradbury. Out of all the writers I've read, he is still the one I mark as being most influential in my choice of becoming a writer. The worlds he created made me want to create my own worlds. Each of his stories has been an inspiration to me. So as a thank you I sent him a copy of DUST, which is the most Ray Bradburyesque of my works. This is the letter I received in return:

It hangs on my wall as one of my prize possessions. I see it as a prime example of paying it forward. Bradbury must received hundreds if not thousands of similar requests and the fact that he took the time to reply (even being ill at the time) is very important. Anytime I reply to a fan letter or teach a writing class or answer a question from an up and coming writer, I remember Bradbury's gesture.