Ray Bradbury

I see this morning that Ray Bradbury has left us.  I always wanted to meet Ray, not so much as a fan of his stories – to be honest, I haven’t read much of his sci-fi beyond what was required in high school – but I wanted to meet him just to say I did.

Most of the people who are “required reading” in our school English classes are as dead to us as Millard Fillmore.  Hemingway shot himself a year before I was born.  Steinbeck, Fitzgerald, and others all wrote and lived in a dusty past that is long gone even to my generation, and I’m no spring chicken.

When I lived in the L.A. area a few years back, Ray Bradbury was still showing up at libraries and book get-togethers around the Southern California region.  I just thought it would be cool to meet someone who is iconic enough to have made it into our English curriculum.  Kind of like a kid learning about the Civil War in history class and then finding out Abraham Lincoln was holding a Q & A session at the local branch library.

Most of the people we get exposed to in school are of the distant past, or public figures who aren’t accessible to us.  But there was Ray, who lived in the future but didn’t drive a car and didn’t fly in a plane until he was forced to in middle age, still out there talking about writing and imagination and creativity to anyone who was interested.

He was in love with what he did, and even if it’s not my particular “thing”, I still enjoyed reading some of his other essays and interviews, like Zen in the Art of Writing.

I came close a few times but unfortunately never had a chance to actually see Ray Bradbury.  For some reason it was one of those things we think we’ll always be able to do later, but never seems to happen.

When Ray was about 12, he went to a fair and saw a performer called “Mr. Electrico” who shot sparks out his fingertips.  He pointed at Ray and shot him with a bolt, saying “LIVE FOREVER!”.

I think Ray Bradbury will indeed live forever.




There’s A Reason We Had Gatekeepers

I’ve been steeping myself in the land of self-publishing lore lately, and it’s both exciting and terrifying (and I don’t mean in an exhilarating way).

There are a lot of talented people out there, launching blogs, ebooks, podcasts, and social campaigns, all with the idea of driving traffic to their particular product.  I’ve learned a lot about how Amazon works (or doesn’t work) as well as how many genres exist that I didn’t even know about (Apocalypse fiction, anyone?)

But in watching videos, listening to podcasts, and reading blogs, one thing is strikingly clear:  Amateurism reigns supreme.  Maybe some people find that refreshing, but I mostly find it somewhat annoying.

Because let’s face it…..some people, especially writers, don’t belong on video.  There’s a reason we see mostly good-looking, relatively glib people on TV.  That’s because it makes it easier to watch.

There’s also a reason we’ve gotten accustomed to listening to well-spoken people on the radio who know how to stay on topic and modulate their voice so we don’t get bored to death.

But on the Net, amateur efforts reign supreme.  It’s pretty hard for me to buy into what you are selling, especially if the product is communications-related, when your best shot resembles an episode of “Wayne’s World” done in someone’s basement.

There’s more to being good at something than saying you are.  And some people are excellent – I’ve also been very impressed with a lot of the content out there.  But that seems to be the exception, rather than the rule.

I don’t have anything on Youtube, or a podcast……and there’s a reason for that.  Even if you are beauty-contest material, it takes a certain energy to come across well on camera.  Not everyone has “it”.   And nobody is going to listen to my flat, Great Lakes-accented delivery without being reminded of the movie “Fargo”, or a character on A Prairie Home Companion.

I guess it’s a way for people to live out their inner talk-show-host fantasies, but just because we have an abundance of tools available doesn’t mean they are all going to work for anyone who can fire up a webcam and mike.