On Campus: Ray Bradbury Writes About Space "From the Heart" Mike Field --------------------- Staff Writer A large, enthusiastic--and predominantly male--audience welcomed science fiction writer Ray Bradbury to Shriver Hall Thursday night. The 75-year-old novelist, poet, essayist and dreamer urged his audience of close to 1,000 to "create at the top of your lungs." Bradbury's lecture, sponsored by the Homewood Office of Special Events, attracted fans and admirers from throughout the Baltimore region who came willing to pay from $6 to $10 to hear the author of Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles tell tales from his own past and urge his listeners to "go home, goddamit, and do it, or I won't come back again." Bradbury last appeared on the Homewood campus as the 1990 Pouder lecturer. Although his talk was playfully titled "One Thousand and One Ways to Solve the Future," Bradbury made no predictions of things to come, choosing instead to focus on events in his own life and his belief in the importance of individual creativity. Everyone, he urged, should spend some time writing. "One of the ways you can test what's in here," said the lifelong writer, touching his forefinger to the great shock of disheveled white hair that crowns his head, "is by writing it out on paper. What are your great loves? What makes you get out of bed in the morning and look forward to the day? What makes you want to live forever?" A master storyteller with a knack for detail, Bradbury recounted his early infatuation with the future that led him to write science fiction. For him, the future was not merely an occurrence at a later date, but a concept of unlimited possibilities and unbounded opportunities. It was, for Bradbury, and has remained ever since, The Future, a place everyone could go to, but only in their minds. "At the age of 9 I started collecting comic books. That's when I fell in love with the future," he said. "I collected Buck Rogers, I lived for Buck Rogers, but in 1929 the Depression was starting and people didn't believe in the future." None of his school chums in the Los Angeles county school he attended shared his passion for rocket ships, space travel and the possibility of extraterrestrial life. The other students teased him mercilessly. "They made so much fun of me I tore up all my comic books, which was about the dumbest thing I could have done," he said. "Then, three days later, I broke into tears. So I had to ask myself, why are you crying? Who died?" Bradbury paused for a moment and looked out at his audience. "Then it came to me. I had died, or a part of me had died when I tore up those comic books and stopped believing in the future. Well, what was I going to do about it? I resolved right then and there to start collecting Buck Rogers comic books again, and I did," he said. Eventually, Bradbury was even asked to write the introduction to the collected works of Buck Rogers. "I started collecting Buck Rogers that day and I never again stopped," he recalled with a huge smile, "and I've never listened to one damn fool since then." His audience cheered. Part personal memoir, part motivational lecture, Bradbury spoke without notes for more than an hour, often urging his listeners to take life in great glorious gulps. "Find your love and practice your love every day of your life," he said. "A lot of people here tonight have a dream. I'm here to tell you, don't let go of it. Hang on to your fevers, your deliriums. Maybe you want to be a writer, or a singer or paint. Do it! And if you have friends that tell you you can't do it, you're no good, you need to be realistic, let me tell you: Get rid of them." Bradbury was in town to address the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science conference held Feb. 8-13 in the Baltimore convention center. "It will just be me and all those scientists," he said, admitting that in school he flunked algebra repeatedly. "People sometimes don't understand that I'm not a scientist. I consider myself a mythmaker, a collector of metaphors. I interpret the universe emotionally, aesthetically, philosophically, religiously. I write about space from the heart." It is that emotional interpretation of The Future that keeps Bradbury going, the thing that gets him out of bed each morning anxious to face the day. "Why were we brought here?" he asked as he concluded. "To see the miracle! But you must give back or you will grow sour and old and die young. The secret is to go out every day and create at the top of your lungs." At the conclusion of his speech Bradbury offered to sign books in the lobby. Within five minutes an enormous line had formed. One man, seemingly in the midst of the mob, kept shouting "The end of the line is here!" It would take more than an hour-- until 10:30 at night--for Bradbury to sign every last paper, book and program put before him. "He made me think that maybe I shouldn't give up some of the things I've been thinking of giving up," said Pikesville High School junior Rachael Leventhal as she waited to have the author sign her copy of The Martian Chronicles. Leventhal sings and composes songs, an occupation she had begun to believe irrelevant to her future ambitions. "Now, I'm not so sure." Nearby, Patti Kimlock, a staff member at the Welch Medical Library, clutched a yellowed copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes. "Ray Bradbury is the person who inspired me to write," she said as the line inched forward. "I heard him speak when he was here before, I'll come back if he comes again." She opened the book to the title page. There, in thick black marker, was a bold Ray Bradbury autograph. "Agh! This is the one he signed last time!" Kimlock said. Then she shrugged. "It doesn't matter. I'll just have him sign it again. I'm a fan." Behind her, the line coiled through the lobby and out the door. Evidently, she was not alone.
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