Written by Shawn Bourdo
THURSDAY – continued
RAY BRADBURY’S LASTING INFLUENCE – This panel was envisioned almost a year ago and Ray wanted to participate. The guests were confirmed and the panel was finalized just a day before his death this Spring. The panel included writers and friends of Ray such as Mort Castle, Sam Weller, and Joel Hill (Locke and Key). The reason I attended was for the first Comic-Con appearance of Margaret Atwood. This panel took place in a small-ish Room 5AB. The response to Margaret Atwood’s introduction was a loud and long as almost any other star I’ve heard and magnified that much more by the size of the room.
There was an actual rememberence for Ray Bradbury scheduled at a bigger hall later in the Con and this panel celebrated his writing and how it has left its mark on a genertions of writers. Ray Bradbury’s writing is often described as transitional. His books are often the ones that move young adults from the youth novels to adult literature. Here again, we are all celebrating a creator who had a voice. There’s a feel to a Ray Bradbury novel – it can be the science fiction of The Martian Chronicles or the young angst of Dandelion Wine. The panelists found it hard to pin down that voice but it’s one of hope and a way of seeing the world with a sense of wonder.
Margaret Atwood was asked how Ray appeals to such a wide range of readers, even ones who would not normally read a Science Fiction title. She said it succinctly, “By being good.” Bradbury was not afraid to cross genres even within books and he was able to do this because of two things. One, he read everything. Part of finding your own voice is to read all different kinds of literature. And two, he wrote all the time. He has published 27 novels and over 500 short stories. When he decided to try to make a living from writing, he just kept writing, one year challenging himself to write a story a week (which he did).
Ray loved libraries and Sam Weller, biographer of Ray Bradbury, told of his appearances late into his life at the Los Angeles Public Libraries. Often unannounced or not marketed, he would show up to read to crowds of 8-10 people. His love of the libraries went as deep as him often secretly funding the libraries during hard budget times. In fact, Ray Bradbury is the patron saint of all libraries. Every year when there is Banned Book display, his book Fahrenheit 451 is at the front and center. It’s there not because it is banned but because it defends the freedoms of literature in a society. His is a voice that will be missed but his message rings true for all the creators and patrons at this Con – read, write, and view the world with wonder.
GREATEST GEEK YEAR EVER: 1982 – I like to add some of the unique and light-hearted panels to my resume. This is the free-form type of panel that I want to see more of in the future. The premise is that 1982 was the greatest year ever for “geek” films. Hosted by a panel of writers and directors, there were few rules to the panel that showed a few trailers from films of that year and riffed on their importance. These panels do not need a moderator as much as a referee and the crowd should help control where the conversation goes.
In a year of incredible films some like E.T. have not aged as well. For a film that is still Steven Spielberg’s highest-grossing film and was for years the highest grosser of all-time, it isn’t discussed as one of the best films of all-time. In fact, there is little popular-culture discussion of the film, period. Seeing the trailer again, it’s a wonder that any of us went to see the film. If not for Spielberg’s reputation and the fact that Close Encounters was such a hugely popular film, I can’t see much in the trailer that would excite me. Part of the problem, as pointed out, is that we are much more jaded moviegoers. We do not view the world with that same wonder that we talked about with Bradbury. I knew little of the content of E.T. before I saw it in the theater. There wasn’t Facebook pages and online trailers and tons of fast-food tie-ins.