When personal memory retrieval technology becomes commonplace, and we can revisit our own pasts in immersive detail, there is an evening early in the 1990s I look forward to experiencing again.
College friends of Audrey and I were visiting Edmonton from Killam, and had tickets to something called "An Evening with Ray Bradbury" at Grant MacEwan College. There had been promotions about their upcoming stage production of "Something Wicked This Way Comes", so I anticipated excerpts from that play and perhaps some of his other works, like The Martian Chronicles.
Imagine my surprise when the man himself took the stage and spoke for almost two hours, without notes.
Ray Bradbury, talking about his childhood friend, who was a magician capable of animating toy dinosaurs on film and having them eat your father (Ray Harryhausen!), and of being a starving writer and an affluent producer, and of his love of public libraries, and about the importance of creativity and imagination in our daily lives, especially for children and everything in between. Most vividly, I recall the energy and joy that he effused so effortlessly, despite being in his seventies at the time.
Bradbury's work was often called science-fiction, and often dealt with technological themes like interplanetary travel or computers, but I have always regarded him as more of a fantasist. His stories always focused on how ordinary people react to extraordinary circumstances, but even when dealing with spirits, or monsters, his compassion and humanity were evident. When he passed earlier this year at age 91, I remembered that unexpected encounter with great fondness.
I was reminded of that evening this afternoon when I stumbled across a deadmau5 video based on Bradbury's short story The Veldt. It is well done, using simple animation to act out an element of the story in a way that plays with our protagonistic assumptions, especially for those of us who haven't perused the source material in decades. I wonder if he had a chance to see or hear it before his passing, and if he would have enjoyed it.
I've made creativity and imagination and play as much a part of my life and the lives of my wonderful family as I have been able. I have to wonder if Bradbury planted a seed that evening we saw him, if he merely watered what was already there. Regardless, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to listen to him in person, even if my recollection is vague and imprecise.
An opportunity to return to the GMCC theatre two decades ago and listen again to this masterful storyteller would be worth quite a bit to me.