They’re more than a tribute, they’re words to live by. In fact, of all the eloquent and heartfelt expressions of loss and appreciation since Ray Bradbury’s passing, these are the ones that, for me, cut to the heart of the matter. I’m talking about what Guillermo del Toro said yesterday in a brief note to Vulture:
His soul was gentle but his imagination was fierce.
If you read the rest of the text from Del Toro you’ll see that Bradbury was clearly an inspiration. He was also that for Neil Gaiman, to put it mildly, as this moving post makes abundantly clear.
Indeed, without Bradbury, there’d probably be no (literal) mythologizing of small-town Americana in the manner of Gaiman’s American Gods. There’d also, arguably, be no early Stephen King, and therefore no Stephen King as we know him at all.
For that matter, would there have been the heightened creepiness of multiple classic episodes of The Twilight Zone (a series which ultimately adapted Bradbury’s work), or, for that matter, Jack Finney’s The Body Snatchers, without the smiling, neighborly-faced nightmare that is “Mars is Heaven!” from The Martian Chronicles? And clearly, with the emphasis on childhood and the child’s point-of-view in Something Wicked This Way Comes and many other Bradbury tales, there’s little or no Steven Spielberg, at least no seminal Spielberg of the ’70s and early ’80s. And without that Spielberg there’s no J.J. Abrams; on a separate, but parallel, track, without Bradbury, there’s probably no Damon Lindelof (as this piece on Bradbury’s influence on TV suggests)… and thus no Lost.
A reach? Recall the powerful “grabbers” of that first season—that Jack saw his dead father walking around, and in a place where he had no reason being had he even been alive… and then think again about the seductively warm and yet chillingly sinister “Mars is Heaven!”
Here are clips illustrating both (the latter taken from a 1990 TV adaptation)… although those who are deeply familiar with either text may feel that their brevity here doesn’t really do justice to their kinship.
Obviously the roll call of those of who have been influenced by Bradbury could go on; hence the title of this post. But it’s not that Bradbury’s themes per se or his unique prose style prompted others to follow in his creative footsteps. I’d contend that, instead, it was his mix of the everyday and observational with the utterly fantastic, and moreover his exploration of the deep connections between these two realms, that so sparked the imaginations of creators the world over.
That’s because his work told us that our personal memories of childhood, of our intensely mundane communities, and indeed of all that is earthly, is not a disadvantage when crafting the wondrous and the unearthly and the supernatural—on the contrary, they represent a supreme advantage. It’s this juxtaposition that, in addition to evoking the uncanny in powerful ways, simultaneously humanizes fantasy by making it relatable and bestows the magical upon our day-to-day lives… which in turn is a genre recipe that is so accepted today that we may not realize who helped popularize it. Again, think about the best work of talents such as Del Toro and Gaiman, of Pan’s Labyrinth and Coraline, and tell me if you don’t hear Bradbury sliding between the folds of their child-centric storylines, both sinister and warm-hearted.