View 731 Saturday, July 07, 2012
We had the LASFS memorial meeting for Ray Bradbury this afternoon. A bit of a low key event, since the LASFS members who knew Ray back when he was an active member are pretty well gone. Ray was of an age when he was required to take a physical examination for the World War II draft. The story is that he went to the physical and they said what’s the lowest line you can read on that eye chart, and Ray, blinking behind his thick glasses, said “What eye chart?” I can well believe it: I know for a fact that Ray could not recognize me from five feet away unless I spoke. He always remembered friends’ voices, but he could not recognize faces beyond a yard or so.
Ray later told Robert Heinlein about his military physical exam, and Robert is said to have said “You didn’t try hard enough.” I have no idea whether this is true – Robert never told me that story – but it is a matter of public record that Bradbury did volunteer Red Cross work during the war. I was friends with both, and I never heard either speak of the other one way or another, the subject never having come up. I did see the two together when we were all three on some kind of panel involving Mars not long after the Viking Lander made it absolutely certain that the old view of Mars as a rather cold Earth with thin atmosphere were dead, and Ray’s Martian Chronicles went from far-out science fiction to wild fantasy, and Heinlein’s Red Planet went from juvenile SF to – well, I guess fantasy is as good a word as any. And most of the public’s interest in space travel and space colonies went away when it was proved that you couldn’t live on Mars or Venus, or anywhere else off Earth without a bubble to live in.
After that a lot of the Spacefaring Nation dream faded away, and it’s just now being revived again. At least I hope it is.
Dr. Pournelle, you wrote:
“Yes. Ray was too thoroughly entwined with the Hollywood establishment to be very open politically, and he talked politics very quietly and confidentially. He had a lot at stake.”
I recall at least one time Ray Bradbury was not quiet about a controversial political matter. He was guest on an LA talk radio show, back in the days talk shows had guests, often promoting a book or film, with interviews and listener questions. The controversy was the Jarvis-Gann initiative that, as Proposition 13, would limit/slash property taxes in California. Bradbury was guest on one of the top-rated LA talk radio shows, back in the days talk shows had guests (often promoting a book or film) with an interview and listener questions. He was one of those people who could just appear and keep a host and listening audience enthralled on all sorts of topics for an hour or two. Somehow (perhaps because he always spoke of his love for the libraries) Prop. 13 came up in the latter part of this particular hour. I don’t think I ever heard Ray more passionate and fiery — urgently speaking how it *must* be passed by the people. This was no matter of lofty ideas or dreams; our *liberty* was at stake! 1978 was my first state-wide election and I was already long-enthusiastic for Prop. 13. But it was wonderful to hear one of my literary heroes speak eloquently a voice that the usual toney West Side LA politics could not tolerate.
Pax et bonum, Steven+
The Rev. Steven P. Tibbetts, STS
Born in Hollywood, Playing in Peoria
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Peoria, Ill.
I read this at the Bradbury Memorial because it reminded me of Ray’s generosity toward newcomers. In the 70’s I was actively promoting Mote and Hammer, and sometimes found myself on some of those morning shows alongside Ray Bradbury. One would suppose that the usual outcome of that would be that Ray would get all the air time, but he would have none of that: if the host didn’t ask me to talk, then Ray would direct questions to me so that I couldn’t be ignored. I will always be grateful to him for that.
There is much discussion of the San Bernardino property adjustment scheme, and considerable speculation about what CERN actually found, all for another time. I am sure there will be coverage of the Bradbury memorial on the LASFS website.