Some things are hard to write about

I know I haven't written anything about Ray Bradbury's passing. That's been kind of a hard one for me, like when Kurt Vonnegut died--it's surprising how much it can affect you when a writer dies. Even if you never met the person (and I never met Bradbury, although he did give a free talk to a massive arena full of schoolchildren when I was 11 or so that I attended, and he was entertaining in the extreme), if their work really influenced you, it's a bit like losing a family member. 

I grew up reading Bradbury.  My dad was a big fan. That in itself was interesting because by the time I was old enough to start reading adult fiction, my dad had stopped reading it--the rigidity and the extremely fragile sense of identity that would eventually kill him had already led him to stop reading anything that wasn't purely functional. But he was very pleased that I was reading Bradbury--Bradbury was, in his words, "a dandy writer" who specialized in the short story, a form that was for my father a guilty and even shameful pleasure.

In Bradbury's obituaries, it's noted that he married literature and pulp sci-fi, which was an extremely novel mixture at the time. But of course, if you grow up reading someone like Bradbury, the idea that science fiction is some kind of lesser genre that can't be used to talk about complex ideas, adult experiences, philosophy/spiritualism, or social issues is the novel one. I was well into adulthood before I noticed that sci-fi has its particular lowest-common-denominator (horny teenage boys) that the less-ambitious writers feel obligated to cater to.

That expectation that science fiction should not be dumb--that it should be challenging and well-written and non-formulaic and not all about wish fulfillment--was part of the reason it was so frustrating to me to realize that traditional publishing had become so rigid and narrow that if someone like Ray Bradbury--Ray Freakin' Bradbury--was just starting out today, his work would not get published. Because it was different. Because it was creative. Because it was unlike anything anyone else wrote.

At that is why people love it.

I am very much of the "Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom!" school of thought--I like that there are no gatekeepers with self-publishing. I'm happy that people can publish stuff that's really freaking weird. Because without the weirdness--without the people who don't obey the rules--you get no Ray Bradburys. No Kurt Vonneguts. No Robert Silverbergs. No Philip K. Dicks. You just get the sexy girlie aliens in glittery spandex and the big alpha males with their enormous guns. You just get the kid stuff.