Once upon a time there was a world just apart from ours – a world of rockets launched into the unknown, with sons and wives left on the ground, watching, breath held, the arc up into the stars. The rockets went to deserted Martian cities made of glass, and to Venus to struggle with endless gray rains. This was the world of the golden age of science fiction, where every rocket landing was the end of one era but the beginning of a new one; where Earth may destroy itself with totalitarianism and nuclear war, but in the end, there was always a safe place to start over.
And there was another world, the October country, a world of shadows and strange creatures and chill winds. This was the world of the haunted carnivals, of the dark side of coming-of-age, of family trauma. This was where cursed tattooes told stories and mysterious strangers promised – and delivered – eternal youth, at a price. This was where witches and ghouls formed hodgepodge families in haunted houses, and for a few hours each night the boundaries between our world and the next dissolved.
And there was another world, this one much more like ours, with glorious summers and boyhood adventures. This was the world with the dandelion wine, the next-door neighbor’s fantastic inventions, the soda fountains, and the unadulterated joy of the freedom of summer. This was the world where no one really understood death or aging or love, but they felt them and their effects so deeply, perhaps they understood them better than they thought.
Thanks for all of those worlds and all the others, Ray Bradbury. Thank you for your four hundred short stories, eleven novels, the Twilight Zone episodes, and everything else. Here’s to you.