Johns Hopkins Gazette: February 12, 1996

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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