The first Ray Bradbury book I ever read was his short story collection, The Illustrated Man. The image of a drifter with tattoos that told stories is one of the most lasting images from literature I have encountered so far, and something I think about every time I get inked these days: the stories that correspond to these lasting images.
After the 91-year old author was announced dead in his Los Angeles home Wednesday morning, the internet exploded with stories of lasting images that live inside the books and movies produced by the beloved storyteller.
For some, it was his early short story collections (like The Martian Chronicles) or his great early novels (Something Wicked This Way Comes) or maybe the film adaptations of his best works. Both the literary and film communities took pause Wednesday to recognize his humanistic influence on their fields.
Whatever your favorite plotline or medium, all of Bradbury's works share a commonality: the story was always the thing. The Illustrated Man carries his stories on him. In Farhenheit 451, when the books are burned, the people realize that the stories live within us, not on the page.
For me, Bradbury's short stories were initially a form of escape from the assigned novels in English class, I was pleased to discover Farhenheit was on the reading list in eleventh grade English Lit because it meant we'd get to do a little futuristic sci-fi reading amidst Madame Bovary and Heart of Darkness. While my teacher spent most of the time harping on the dangers of television and technology, it was the first time I really explored the concept of "not believing everything you hear."
Today I'm a writer and a storyteller, presenting my thoughts and factoids all over the Internet that Bradbury warned us against. "We have too many cellphones," he said when e-books of his stories began to emerge. "We've got too many Internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now."
Ironically, the Internet will be where Bradbury's fans will continue to share their own stories about his effect on their lives. Hopefully, people will return to their dog-eared copies of his books just as quickly as they download them to their Kindles.
Regardless, Bradbury passes in to legend now and his stories will not be forgotten.