A couple years before Ray Bradbury died he made an appearance at a book store in Glendale called Mystery and Imagination, one of those places devoted to science fiction and fantasy and science fiction and fantasy fans. The place was packed, every nook and cranny. It was a thoroughly enjoyable event, there were things to eat and wine to drink and weirdos to talk to and cool books everywhere. Ray was his usual incorrigible self, up there in years but still Ray. My wife was thrilled. She’s seen him several times, but Ray was old now, and weak, and wheelchair bound, and you got the feeling that we wouldn’t be seeing him again.
The LA Times had sent a hip young blogger out to the thing. He dashed off a few quick sentences tearing Ray Bradbury apart, making him look like a doddering old fool, hinting at senility. He also took one of those National Inquirer style pics that somehow puts a celebrity in the worst light possible. It was not one of the finer moments of the Los Angeles Times.
Nor of Reason magazine, whose online edition featured a blogger snidely railing against Ray Bradbury, tearing him to shreds, based solely on the account written by the LA Times blogger. That was enough for me and I hit the roof and fired off an email. The guy had the decency to post it in his next blog, which surprised the hell out of me. Though if I hadn’t been writing for the LA Weekly at the time, I doubt he would have bothered.
Anyway, this is what I wrote:
I was at that Ray Bradbury event. My wife’s a fan, I tagged along. It was in a wonderful old fashioned used book store, and was a very charming party full of long winded reminiscences and toasts, and to be honest anything Ray said I have heard him say before. Nothing was new. Not a damn thing. He’s been bitching about machines for his entire career (he wrote everything on a manual typewriter). He’s always hated being called a science fiction writer. His government views have changed little. The moon stuff is not surprising…we’ve fallen decades behind schedule on that one compared to what was expected in the sixties, and he’s frustrated not to have witnessed a mars landing. Hard to blame the man on that one. And even his plural internet is perfectly valid unless one pretends that all the intranets, some of them truly vast, are not actually internets…and of course Google is working on its own internet–not intranet–as we speak. He’s hip enough to know that.
And that pic the Times used was not the beaming, laughing old gent who I watched on Sunday.
Alas, that badly written and edited blog entry in the LA Times has now become part of his legacy. The man is being trashed all over the web–like you have done–based strictly upon that little story. There’s no turning back now. He’ll be dead soon enough, and that bullshit story will long survive him, and will become him to many people. After all, they saw it on the internet, it has to be true.
Ray Bradbury died a year or so later and all this was forgotten. I imagine the L.A. Times blogger now brags about the time he met Ray Bradbury, and I’m sure the guy in Reason forgot all about excoriating Ray Bradbury as a “Luddite old fart”.
The problem with bloggers is they think they are important. But really, we are not. It’s just a zillion people typing a zillion zillion words onto the internet. It’s not like writing a novel. It’s not even like writing an essay. It’s barely writing at all. It’s more like the drunk guy at a cocktail party who won’t shut up.