I was introduced to one of Ray Bradbury’s stories at a young age, though I didn’t know his name. A teacher who wanted to illustrate the concept of forgiveness showed us a video adaptation of All Summer in a Day. I think the deeper meaning was over my head, but the idea of a world that was constantly raining stayed with me. When I read other classic science fiction as a teenager, by authors who depicted Venus as a rainy jungle, children standing under sun lamps were the first thing that came to my mind.
My parents were familiar with his other stories; I think “A Sound of Thunder” came up while we were watching Back to the Future, and my mom would occasionally mention a story about somebody with an electric grandmother.
I think the first story of his that I read on my own was “Usher 2,” which was reprinted in a magazine my brother brought home from high school. I had been reading Edgar Allan Poe in school, and gobbled it right up. I made me want to read more of Poe, although I don’t remember if I made the leap to other Bradbury stories right then.
A cartoon based on The Halloween Tree came out the year I entered high school (as did a picture book for younger children called Switch on the Night. I like that the Dillons seem to have been inspired in this project by the art of Joseph Mugnaini, who did the cover of the book above and who often illustrated Bradbury’s work). I remember reading my library’s copy of The Halloween Tree, and I have sought it out at other libraries as an adult.
You can see that much of his work dealt with the scary and the strange. (Neil Gaiman has written about discovering Bradbury’s story “Homecoming” as a child, and there is now a lovely edition illustrated by Dave McKean.) Fahrenheit 451 was the first dystopian novel I ever read. It’s a good entry point for a teenager, and so are the short stories. The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles have vivid images that will give you nightmares and stick in your head. But I’d like to leave you with an image from that last book, a story called “The Green Morning.” Imagine a man trudging across a barren landscape, planting trees on a completely treeless world. The trees silently rise up and spread their branches, and he turns around to see.