On the Death of Ray Bradbury

When NPR first announced their “This I Believe” series, I jumped at the chance to show the world why an early introduction to science fiction was essential to my creative development. My essay wasn’t picked for broadcast, but it is archived on their site, along with all the others that didn’t make the cut.

With the passing today of Ray Bradbury, I’ve decided to reprint that essay on my website, because Bradbury and Heinlein were my primary introductions to science fiction.  Bradbury was especially important to me because my favorite form of writing is the short story, and he was a master of that form.


I don’t remember which one I saw first. It was either Bradbury’s R is for Rocket or Heinlein’s Red Planet, but the sequence doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I took them both home from the public library and read them, sitting on my brown beanbag throne, flanked by tidy bookshelves like Centurion guards. In that space I discovered the alternate worlds of “A Sound of Thunder”, “The Foghorn” and Willis, the Martian roundhead, and I was hooked on science fiction.

Later, I stalked the arid dunes of Arrakis with blue-eyed Paul Atreides and cried when I learned that Ellison’s Jeffty was still five, and had never lost his Captain Midnight Decoder Ring. Science fiction crossed over into fantasy and I found myself lost in Mordor with Frodo and Sam, then combing the treasure room of Atuan with Ged, seeking to restore the ring of Erreth-Akbe, and with it, worldly balance. And Thomas Covenant, unwilling tutor that he was, reminded me that the real world was of prime importance, and that I was lucky to be in it.

When Dungeons and Dragons came along in the late 1970s, my friends and I were naturally hooked, and spent every Sunday afternoon in the library’s basement conference room, crawling through each other’s imaginations, solving puzzles and laughing at our own absurdity, bundles of creativity wrapped in cloaks of innocence.

Now, I’m nearing middle age. The marathon D&D sessions have morphed into occasional afternoon strategy games with the same lifelong friends. Books (when they aren’t in boxes) don’t come off the shelves nearly enough, and I seem to need more sleep than I ever did when I was younger. But the sparks of creativity and imagination that burst into life with Bradbury’s Rocket still smolder. Occasionally one will ignite and float skyward with the completion of a poem or short story. A flurry might crackle and spit into being while I play guitar with my band. More sparks glow when I read a sonnet to the woman I love, asking her to marry me beside a high country lake.

I believe that creativity is vital to the soul. It connects us to others in ways we don’t expect or understand. It builds self-confidence and teaches us to find solutions to problems no one can predict. It helps us to explore other worlds, mindsets, and cultural ideas. And in the visual and musical arts, creativity helps us express that which has no words.

If not for the sparks of wonder that I found in the Bradburys and Heinleins of the world, I might never have known what it’s like to feel the joys of creativity and imagination. I might have never learned to play guitar, or to appreciate the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. I might have never gazed at the Milky Way above timberline and wondered who else was Out There.

And, worst of all, I might never have known the importance of Captain Midnight Decoder Rings.

Originally appeared on NPR’s “This I Believe” website, dated June 14, 2005

Godspeed, Ray Bradbury. Enjoy your train ride to the afterlife, because I know you won’t take a plane.

Rainy Sunset

I took this picture with my camera phone tonight while on a grocery store run.

Rainy Sunset
This is why I live near the Rockies. When mother nature contrives to create images like this, I remember to take a deep breath, enjoy the gift, and put everything in perspective.

Life has been rough at times over the last couple of years, with family illness, a divorce, very tight finances, and my job not going as well as I would have liked. But there are bright spots, and I think that is what Mother Nature is trying to tell me.

I’m getting married again in a few weeks, and in that marriage, I gain not only a loving, supportive, intellectual wife, but I gain a new son. I will never attempt to interfere with Logan’s relationship with his real father, but for those times when his Dad is not able to be there for him, I hope to be an able assistant.

Another bright spot of the last couple of years is my band, Steel River Three. We haven’t made much money, but we have managed to play several different venues and are starting to notice familiar faces at the shows. I’ve become much more comfortable playing and singing in front of people, and recently wrote my first song in over eight years.

The writing is taking off a bit, too. The articles for ComputorEdge are not only bringing in a bit of extra money, they have given me the confidence to submit more work to different markets. As I mentioned in the last entry, I submitted a piece to NPR, and yesterday I submitted a short-short story to the new science fiction/horror magazine Apex Digest. The response time for that market is listed as 20-30 days, so I hope to hear whether the story was accepted by mid July. I also have another story idea that might be right up that magazine’s alley, but I have to write it before I can submit it. 😉

Yes, there have been challenges in my life recently, many of them brought on by myself, but I need to remember that not all is dark and stormy. As people in the Pacific Northwest might say, the sun breaks are a reason for celebration.

Writing Songs and Articles

Last night I sent my latest article to ComputorEdge, entitled “Communication at the Speed of Life.” The article is about communications and network advances in the medical field.

Today, I got another assignment from that editor, and Lannette and I will be co-writing an article for a November issue. Looks like the writing gig is starting to show a little action, at least in terms of non-fiction sales.

I’ve also submitted an essay to NPR’s This I Believe series. If my essay is chosen, I will be asked to record a reading of it for the series. Oh, and I’ll get a couple hundred bucks. This writing stuff is taking off at just the right time; I can really use the extra money right now.

Friday, I debuted my latest song, “New Guy Smell” with Steel River Three. I have a recording of “New Guy Smell,” but I’m not happy with the vocals. I need to re-record it. When I do, I’ll post an MP3 on this site.

Logan leaves tomorrow for a month-long stay with his grandparents in Washington state. We won’t see him until just before the wedding. I’m going to miss the kiddo.

In general, there are a lot of things going on in my life right now. At some point, I need to get a storage shed built. There are always bills to catch up on. I have some website updates to perform, both personal and for other people. And oh yeah, there’s this wedding coming up, too.

Sometimes it seems life is a series of “must-dos,” and that there’s not much room for creativity. I’m glad I’m able to keep the creativity going for right now.