Friday, July 13, 2012

Shadow Show: All New Stories In Celebration of Ray Bradbury

I first learned about Ray Bradbury in the library of St. Michael's Elementary School in Greenville, Pennsylvania when I was in the 4th grade.  The Library was small and stocked with a lot of books that just weren't that interesting to me.  Then I came across a hardcover edition of S is For SpaceI'm positive that the book wouldn’t have been on those shelves if it had nearly as an evocative title as some of the stories within:  "Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed," "Time in Thy Flight", "Come into my Cellar", and "The Million Year Picnic."

The years since then have come and gone, and the great man is dead.  But his progeny are scattered across the world, writing in a way that's only possible because Ray Bradbury did it first.  Shadow Show: All New Stories In Celebration of Ray Bradbury collects original short stories inspired by the works of Ray Bradbury from authors like Neil Gaiman, Dan Chaon, Kelly Link, Joe Hill, Bonnie Jo Campbell, and Dave Eggers.  Chaon and Hill, in particular, knock it out of the park with their stories about werewolves and sea monsters, respectively.  The line-up of all star authors doesn't disappoint (with the exception of Eggers, who seems to have mailed this one in) with their stories. 

But what will probably stick with me the most isn't the fiction.  It's the author notes (again, with the exception of Eggers, who I normally love).  They showcase not only Ray Bradbury's influence on today's crop of A-list writers.  They showcase a kind and generous man who went out of his way to engage with his fans, even if they were children.  Take Dan Chaon's note, for instance.  He wrote Bradbury a letter when he was in grade school and along with it sent some stories he had written.  Bradbury not only wrote back, but read the stories and provided critiques.  This correspondence continued until Chaon was in college.  His story, "Little America" is an outgrowth of one of those grade school stories that Chaon sent off.

I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to Ray Bradbury than Shadow Show.  In the opening to S is For Space, Bradbury wrote:

                        Jules Verne was my father.
                        H.G. Wells was my wise uncle.
                        Edgar Allen Poe was the batwinged cousin we kept high in the back attic room.
                        Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers were my brothers and friends.
                        There you have my ancestry.

In Shadow Show, we have—in a single volume—a representation of Bradbury's children, and what an amazing family it is.  Bradbury recognizes this in his introduction, but this observation is more poignant now that he's gone.

If there's a part of you that ever wondered what it would be like to get a tattoo that moved, or what your best friend's father is hiding in his basement, or how you might use a phone that could put you in touch with the past, or what society might look like if it started regulating appearance, then pick up Shadow Show.  It's more than worth your time.

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