Monday 10 June 2024



Fifty years ago, today, RAY BRADBURY, visionary American writer of fantasy and sci-fi classics – think The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 – sat down at his typewriter in Beverly Hills and replied to a fan-letter from a 25-year-old guy in Britain who had sent him some provoking questions about a mutual idol – Walt Disney...

This remarkable letter was to be the beginning of a wonderful friendship that would last for almost 40 years and only ended with Ray’s death in 2012. 
Only a few days before he died, I received – by email, via his daughter, Zee, who latterly served as his amanuensis – a final missive…
Dear Brian,
Thanks for your wonderful note; it's always great to hear from you.
Zee read your email to me and I cannot believe what you and David have to go through. [We had to vacate our flat for a year during repairs to the building] 
Of course, now that you've had to dig through all your treasures, perhaps we should get you two here to take care of this out-of-control homestead of mine!!!! I love this old house of mine and even if I didn't, I think I'd be stuck here because there's just so much stuff.
I'm glad to hear of your new book and I do hope you'll send me a copy of it when it comes out.
I think Zee told you that I had been in the hospital, but this old Martian is doing fine, so don't you worry.
I send you and David much love,
My discovery, in my early teens, of the extraordinary worlds of Ray Bradbury was a fiery baptism in the waters of metaphor and simile, in the rip-tide of allusions and illusions, in the great wave of allegory and analogy. 
His books were like gathering the Golden Apples of the Sun; getting drunk on Dandelion Wine in the shade of the Halloween Tree in the October Country; or finding a prescription for a Medicine for Melancholy whenever Something Wicked This Way Comes.
Our correspondence and, later, our meetings in London, California and Florida, were treasured like the rarest and richest gifts stolen from a dragon-horde or from seemingly commonplace pebbles and shells found shimmering along new-washed shoreline in the first light of dawn.
To engage with Ray on any topic of conversation was nothing short of thrilling: invigorating, enlightening, challenging and inspiring. Never more so than when talk turned to shared passions and obsessions. 
Cue a topic; any one: Disney (especially Fantasia and the wonders of Disneyland); dinosaurs and robots; Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol; comic books (Flash Gordon, John Carter of Mars and the ‘pulp poets’ of the ‘fifties); cinematic classics (The Phantom of the Opera, Citizen Kane and La Strada); the monsters of moviedom (from King Kong to the beasts of Ray Harryhausen); Hollywood’s funny men (Stan and Ollie, Buster Keaton and Chaplin); artists (especially Piranesi, Eyvind Earle and, his own frequent illustrator, Joe Mugnani) and then more Disney and so much more of anything and everything.
Ray became my mentor and critic, my goad and guide, source of inspiration and spur to my imagination; but he was also ever the challenger to my preconceptions and debunker of my hypocrisies. We talked about joys and sorrows, origins and destinations, risings and fallings, dreams and nightmare, realities and masquerades, every shade of love, hate and whatever lay between. 
Our thirty-eight years of friendship was, as I grew up and he grew older, a love-affair of ponderings and speculations. I miss him as much today, as I did twelve years ago, when that ‘Old Martian’ (as he called himself in his last email) set off on his last great exploration of the Great Unknown that, again and again, he celebrated throughout his life…

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