Author: Jonathan R. Eller
Illustrator: V. Tony Houser; Ray Bradbury Literary Works
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Published: August 2020
Genres: Biography, Literary Studies, Science Fiction
“Science Fiction was an armature for Bradbury to place his explorations of the human heart, and his desire to see humanity properly launched into the larger cosmos.”
– Jonathan R. Eller, Bradbury Beyond Apollo
Is it enough to know someone you never met only found by time? Predicated on love, conviction and a healthy supply of dreams share the answer in this third installment from the biography trilogy by Jonathan R. Eller, Bradbury Beyond Apollo. The autodidactic author from Waukegan, Illinois lived a mixed albeit remarkable life of a man and a myth. He is a celebrated cultural commentator and liaison for humanity who had the preternatural understanding of the mysteries of life and death before he was literate. From being an autograph hound over the walls of Hollywood studios to convention-bending and genre-breaking writing, Ray Bradbury has gone far beyond his understated status as a storyteller using his past and pulled back the curtain of reality as a visionary to reach the future.
In the latter half of Bradbury’s career, the expense of celebrity and craft were in conflict and complicated his creativity, a condition of careful consultations with his childhood loves and creative control of his story adaptations for film, stage, and television. This transition into new mediums began after his first twenty years in the literary mainstream, starting with his popular pulp tales from the 1940s. With the short-lived Apollo missions starting in 1969, his moonward mission with the Great Tale of the Space Age became spiritual and political, social and personal, as the need for exploration off the page became greater than on the page. Public engagements, humanitarian causes, editorial specificities, and the refashioning of stories for anthologies and the mass media audiences made it difficult for Bradbury to pen anything original. What can be salvaged, however, is the belief in reinvention as rebirth, a means to never end a project by writing it in more than one format, for more than one audience. Meanwhile, Bradbury was able to weather these production storms through the denouncement of labels, dangers of fame, the fear of unrequited love, and the unfettered, ego-centric tunnel-vision and detachment from progress that denies all human potential and history, forward and backward.
Eller marks Ray Bradbury’s centennial birthday with the publication of this timepiece of a man who was a timepiece. Many of Bradbury’s readers knew his early work best, perhaps to the detriment of his later installments as a poet, playwright, and screenwriter. A first impression is rarely a last impression and his unique, amorphous path from stardom to the stars is a testament to the subversion of self in favor of the selfless. Bradbury Beyond Apollo does not pose a life after Bradbury, it witnesses and celebrates life onto another ad infinitum, with Bradbury’s vision for the future: a mirror to show you and I as us. The life of Ray Bradbury cannot be missed as much as it can be said in this sense: Ray Bradbury never died, he lived.