All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury
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THE MAN WHO FORGOT BRADBURY
I am forgetting things, which scares me. I am losing words, although I am not losing concepts. I hope that I am not losing concepts. If I am losing concepts, I am not aware of it. If I am losing concepts, how would I know?
Which is funny, because my memory was always so good. Everything was in there. Sometimes my memory was so good that I even thought I could remember things I didn’t know yet. Remembering forward . . .
I don’t think there’s a word for that, is there? Remembering things that haven’t happened yet. I don’t have that feeling I get when I go looking in my head for a word that isn’t there, as if someone must have come and taken it in the night. When I was a young man I lived in a big, shared house. I was a student then. We had our own shelves in the kitchen, neatly marked with our names, and our own shelves in the fridge, upon which we kept our own eggs, cheese, yoghurt, milk. I was always punctilious about using only my own provisions. Others were not so . . . there. I lost a word. One that would mean “careful to obey the rules.” The other people in the house were . . . not so. I would go to the fridge, but my eggs would have vanished.
I am thinking of a sky filled with spaceships, so many of them that they seem like a plague of locusts, silver against the luminous mauve of the night.
Things would go missing from my room back then as well. Boots. I remember my boots going. Or “being gone,” I should say, as I did not ever actually catch them in the act of leaving. Boots do not just “go.” Somebody “went” them. Just like my big dictionary. Same house, same time period. I went to the small bookshelf beside my face (everything was by my bed—it was my room, but it was not much larger than a cupboard with a bed in it). I went to the shelf and the dictionary was gone, just a dictionary-sized hole in my shelf to show where my dictionary wasn’t.
All the words and the book they came in were gone. Over the next month they also took my radio, a can of shaving foam, a pad of notepaper, and a box of pencils. And my yoghurt. And, I discovered during a power cut, my candles.
Now I am thinking of a boy with new tennis shoes, who believes he can run forever. No, that is not giving it to me. A dry town in which it rained forever. A road through the desert, on which good people see a mirage. A dinosaur that is a movie producer. The mirage was the pleasure dome of Kublai Khan.
No . . .
Sometimes when the words go away I can find them by creeping up on them from another direction. Say I go and look for a word—I am discussing the inhabitants of the planet Mars, say, and I realise that the word for them has gone. I might also realise that the missing word occurs in a sentence or a title. The ________ Chronicles. My Favourite _________. If that does not give it to me, I circle the idea. Little green men, I think, or tall, dark-skinned, gentle: Dark they were and Golden-eyed . . . and suddenly the word Martians is waiting for me, like a friend or a lover at the end of a long day.
I left that house when my radio went. It was too wearing, the slow disappearance of the things I had thought so safely mine, item by item, thing by thing, object by object, word by word.
When I was twelve I was told a story by an old man that I have never forgotten.
A poor man found himself in a forest as night fell, and he had no prayer book to say his evening prayers. So he said, “God who knows all things, I have no prayer book and I do not know any prayers by heart. But you know all the prayers. You are God. So this is what I am going to do. I am going to say the alphabet, and I will let you put the words together.”
There are things missing from my mind, and it scares me.
Icarus! It’s not as if I have forgotten all names. I remember Icarus. He flew too close to the sun. In the stories, though, it’s worth it. Always worth it to have tried, even if you fail, even if you fall like a meteor forever. Better to have flamed in the darkness, to have inspired others, to have lived, than to have sat in the darkness, cursing the people who borrowed, but did not return, your candle.
I have lost people, though.
It’s strange when it happens. I don’t actually lose them. Not in the way one loses one’s parents, either as a small child, when you think you are holding your mother’s hand in a crowd and then you look up, and it’s not your mother . . . or later. When you have to find the words to describe them at a funeral service or a memorial, or when you are scattering ashes on a garden of flowers or into the sea.
I sometimes imagine I would like my ashes to be scattered in a library. But then the librarians would just have to come in early the next morning to sweep them up again, before the people got there.
I would like my ashes scattered in a library or, possibly, a fun-fair. A 1930s funfair, where you ride the black . . . the black . . . the . . .
I have lost the word. Carousel? Roller coaster? The thing you ride, and you become young again. The Ferris wheel. Yes. There is another carnival that comes to town as well, bringing evil. “By the pricking of my thumbs . . .”
I remember Shakespeare, and I remember his name, and who he was and what he wrote. He’s safe for now. Perhaps there are people who forget Shakespeare. They would have to talk about “the man who wrote ‘to be or not to be’”—not the film, starring Jack Benny, whose real name was Benjamin Kubelsky, who was raised in Waukegan, Illinois, an hour or so outside Chicago. Waukegan, Illinois, was later immortalised as Green Town, Illinois, in a series of stories and books by an American author who left Waukegan and went to live in Los Angeles. I mean of course, the man I am thinking of. I can see him in my head when I close my eyes.
I used to look at his photographs on the back of his books. He looked mild and he looked wise, and he looked kind.
He wrote a story about Poe, to stop Poe being forgotten, about a future where they burn books and they forget them, and in the story we are on Mars although we might as well be in Waukegan or Los Angeles, as critics, as those who would repress or forget books, as those who would take the words, all the words, dictionaries and radios full of words, as those people are walked through a house and murdered, one by one: by orang-utan; by pit and pendulum; for the love of God, Montressor . . .
Poe. I know Poe. And Montressor. And Benjamin Kubelsky and his wife, Sadie Marks, who was no relation to the Marx Brothers and who performed as Mary Livingston. All these names in my head. I was twelve.
Bradbury Edited by Sam Weller and Mort Castle. Copyright C 2012 by Sam Weller and Mort Castle.
Reprinted by permission of William Morrow Paperbacks, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Fahrenheit 451. The Martian Chronicles. The Illustrated Man. Something Wicked This Way Comes. The names echo through the ages with the thunderous sound of Ray Bradbury’s singular storytelling genius.
Neil Gaiman. Margaret Atwood. Joe Hill. Harlan Ellison. Masters of fantasy, science fiction and horror in their own right, they now gather to pay homage to the giant in their midst.
Edited by Mort Castle and Sam Weller, Shadow Show collects over two dozen original stories in the spirit of Ray Bradbury from today’s best authors. From distant planets to strange small towns to post-apocalyptic America, these tales of terror, satire and “what if” are Bradburian fiction at its finest, celebrating the sense of wonder he instilled in us all.
Hardcover Book : 464 pages
Publisher: William Morrow & Co, Inc/Imp Of Har ( July 01, 2012 )
Item #: 13-608742
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.25 inches
Product Weight: 19.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)