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There was a period in my life when I read every Ray Bradbury story and novel I could get my hands on. He had a huge effect on my imagination, my sense of what was possible in stories and in life.
I recently reread one story from The Illustrated Man, “Kaleidoscope,” and it has gotten better and more meaningful. When I was young, I thought it was about an accident in space: several astronauts are suddenly about to die. An action flick, disturbing, but far away–it was about someone else, those adventurers out in dangerous places. On rereading it, I was startled. In the intervening years it had turned into a story about myself and all of us, who after all are also floating in space, all without knowledge of when or how we’ll meet our end. Dealing with our regrets, our bitterness; seeking to make peace with each other as best we can, and give something to the world before we are done.
It’s a beautiful piece of writing, and for it and so many others, I’m grateful to Ray Bradbury. He might have felt, like Woody Allen, that he wanted to live on in his apartment rather than in his work, but for my part I’m glad he’ll always be on our shelf, up at the top of the science fiction section.