A few days ago, I received a telephone call to tell me that Ray Bradbury had just died.
I can’t write a proper obituary about the man who had been a friend for very nearly three-quarters of a century, ever since that day in 1939 when both of us — kid fans, yearning to be writers, though neither of us had sold a story yet — ran into each other at the very first World Science Fiction Convention ever. Ray had dreamed of going, but didn’t have the price of bus fare until the great father figure of fandom, Forrest J Ackerman, loaned it to him — and, once present, Ray spent most of his time trying to interest New York editors in the cover art of his friend, Hannes Bok.
In the seventy-odd years since then, our lives intersected from time to time. Now and then I would buy something of his for some magazine or anthology I was editing; sometimes we would appear on some con program together, occasionally I would take him to lunch in the endeavor, usually unsuccessful, to persuade him to write more for me.
One particular lunch, early on, sticks in my mind. We were walking toward a restaurant in Century City when a cab driver slowed, leaned out of his window and called, “How you doing, Ray?” And somewhat sheepishly Ray admitted to me that many of the cabbies in the Los Angeles area knew him well, as a steady customer, because he never himself drove a car. (Later, as he prospered, he kept a car and driver of his own.)
I saw Ray last a couple of years ago, when he and I were joint guests for the science-fiction program at UC-Riverside. He was feisty as ever, rather startlingly denouncing current science fiction as trash or worse — though it turned out that what he meant to be denouncing wasn’t print science fiction, but only the current crop of sf films. I would have liked to go into that in more detail, and to ask if he included the film Avatar. But time didn’t permit, and now I never can.
So long, Ray. You’re leaving me feeling a little lonesome.