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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ray Bradbury Loves Dinosaurs

If there’s one thing I share with Ray Bradbury, it’s a love of dinosaurs.  In his introduction to Dinosaur Tales, he states that it’s his All Time Favorite Subject.  Bradbury admits he doesn’t know why seeing “King Kong” in the cinema awakened a lifetime love of the extinct creatures.  But he credits Dinosaurs with much of his later success as an author, and two stories in particular helped make his name in both Science Fiction literature and Hollywood. 

As Bradbury says, “I accept the fact, and proclaim it quietly, that without dinosaurs my life would have been nothing at all.  Dinosaurs started me on the track to becoming a writer.  Dinosaurs helped push me along that track to acceptance.  And a dinosaur who fell in love with the sound of a lighthouse foghorn in a story called “The Fog Horn,” which I wrote and published in 1950, changed my life, my income, and my way of writing forever.” 

This seems rather a sweeping statement, and perhaps a little inaccurate, as a quick review of Bradbury’s short fiction Bibliography shows that he sold a great many stories before he wrote “The Fog Horn.”  But then, in regard to the other great 1950s Dinosaur story for which he is known, “A Sound of Thunder,” he describes the process of writing it as an experiment. 

“I simply sat down to my typewriter one morning, with no idea where I would wind up, and hammered together a Time Machine, and shot my hunters back a few million years to see what would happen.  Three hours later, after a butterfly had been stepped on, making it one of the first, and unconscious, ecology stories, the tale was done, the beast slain, and all political history changed forever.”  

So perhaps “A Sound of Thunder” influenced the way he approached writing.  Today, the latter story is regarded as one of the All Time Great Time Travel Stories.  But it is the former, “The Fog Horn,” that influenced the 1953 movie “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms,” and drew the interest of movie director John Huston, who hired Bradbury to write the script for his 1956 adaptation of “Moby Dick.” 

Ray Bradbury became a highly respected Science Fiction author, with hundreds of stories published.  He would go on to forge a significant career in Hollywood.  He's become a pop culture icon: most people recognize his name, and smile when they hear it.  So perhaps Bradbury’s statement isn’t so sweeping after all.  Perhaps Dinosaurs were primarily responsible for all his later successes as an author.  But it was only when he found a way to write about the subject he knew and loved best that people recognized that love, that enthusiasm, and responded to it.  If only each of us, myself included, could understand what we care about most of all, and find a way to channel that love to make others’ lives better.   But then, Bradbury began writing stories in the late 1930s.  His two career-changing Dinosaur stories wouldn’t arrive until the early 1950s.  His example suggests that the process of discovering one’s true love, and unlocking the means of expressing it, is no easy task, or the work of a moment.

Dragon Dave

Dinosaur Tales includes those two classic stories, two poems, two later stories, and wealth of Dinosaur illustrations.  

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