My friend Ray,
Years ago at WorldCon, the International Science Fiction Convention, I wandered into a forum, I believe I was going to hear Margaret Weise, maybe it was Gillian Horvath, whoever it was, I sat on the front row next to a guy that was not that different than many of the other mature looking fanboys at the convention. (BTW, I highly recommend you make this convention someday, it moves every time it happens to a new place in the world, I believe I saw it in Denver.) We talked about different stuff at the convention, he had been to many, so had some great insight into generating interest in the game I was promoting. I had such a good time talking to him that I asked if I could buy him lunch and talk some more. He told me if I waited till after his forum he would be happy to eat with me. Turns out he was leading the next forum and his name was Ray Bradbury. On that day I had a dozen of his books sitting on the shelf beside my bed. I had read them all. In those days I read a ton and all of it was science fiction or fantasy.
I was star struck for most of the forum and terribly embarrassed I had not recognized him. We went and ate lunch afterwards with several people, all of them writers. I had read all of them, it was a surreal experience. Ray introduced me as “his friend Mike,” and invited all of his other friends to help answer my questions, about the convention and games at the convention. I did not get to buy him lunch, someone else picked up the bill. Ray and I spent the rest of the afternoon together, bouncing around to different events. I held his bag for him while he signed autographs, he was always grateful and very polite to everyone. And he always introduced me to everyone, even the most obscure fans as, “his friend Mike.” As the evening got closer he talked a doorman into letting me into a reception, again full of people whos names I knew all too well. Lots of drinks and finger food. He was busy most of the time, but as he was leaving he came over to say goodbye and I told him I would leave with him. I was still a bit worried someone was going to figure out I was not supposed to be in there.
As we walked toward the elevator we ran into a couple of my fans, and they asked me to sign some Highlander cards. Ray quickly took my bag from me to hold while I signed the cards. I introduced the two young men to “my friend Ray.” They had no idea who he was. The two young men fawned over the cards with FAR more enthusiasm than any of Ray’s fans had done with his autograph. He smiled at me and nodded his head in respect as the young men walked away. I could not help but feel a great sense of pride and I was wearing an enormous smile. We both laughed uncontrollably for a while, it could have been an awkward moment but Ray was so humble and we had spent so much time together it seemed like I had known him for a decade.
We exchanged cards and I emailed him a number of times over the next few years. I always told him how honored I was we had spent time together and reminded him I still owed him lunch. He forwarded me some articles he had found about my game, which made me feel even more honored, he had bothered to keep up on me. We talked several times about meeting up again, but it never happened.
A few times in your life you meet people who are fast friends. You cannot explain it, nor can you artificially recreate it. I have always thought of Ray Bradbury as a friend and mentor, even though we really only spent that one afternoon together and only exchanged a couple handfuls of emails, I learned so much from him. His example of grace and humbleness sticks with me to this day.
Ray Bradbury died yesterday, I hope someday I can pass on the feeling he gave to me.
That is a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing.
“Listen,” said Granger, taking his arm and walking with him, holding aside the bushes to let him pass. “When I was a boy, my grandfather died, and he was a sculptor. He was also a very kind man who had a lot of love to give the world, and he helped clean up the slum in our town; and he made toys for us and he did a million things in his lifetime; he was always busy with his hands. And when he died, I suddenly realized I wasn’t crying for him at all, but for all the things he did. I cried because he never would do them again, he would never carve another piece of wood or help us raise doves and pigeons in the backyard or play the violin the way he did, or tell us jokes the way he did. He was part of us and when he died, all the action stopped dead and there was no one to do them just the way he did. He was individual. He was an important man. I’ve never gotten over his death. Often I think what wonderful carvings never came to birth because he died. How many jokes are missing from the world, and how many homing pigeons untouched by his hands. He shaped the world. He did things to the world. The world was bankrupted of ten million fine actions the night he passed on.” Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
My story isn't as personal but if you'll bear with me I believe it'll be worth it. My uncle Max H. Flindt spent many years researching his theory that modern man is the result of unions between apes and Starmen. He wrote four nonfiction books on the topic. The last was Between The Apes And The Angles published shortly before his death. He asked Ray to write a forward--it took a great deal of courage on my uncle's part--and Ray agreed.
Part two of my story is that my grandfather, Uncle Max's father, wrote science fiction for the pulp magazines before his tragic death when he was only 36. Today I posted Ray's forward on my grandfather's website www.HomerEonFlint.com
In my opinion Ray's nonfiction was as brilliant as his fiction. Everyone is welcome to enjoy it on Grandpa's site.
Hi Vella, and welcome. I wasn't familiar with Max H. Flindt, or Homer Eon Flint, so thanks for posting this. I think I have seen this piece of Ray's writing before, perhaps collected in one of his books of essays. (Maybe not the exact same essay, but certainly the same ideas.)
Thanks for posting!
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