The heavy front door closed behind me, blotting out the revealing rays of the midday sun.
I cursed in my head. I should have caught a cab here, I thought. It was only a mile between my apartment and the house, so I had decided to walk. But April in LA can be hot. Sweat was running down my back and my palms were wet. I held them by my side awkwardly. Maybe the cool air would wisp some of the moisture away before I offered my hand.
I stepped forward. Right foot out. Left foot. Right again. Don’t count the steps.
I could see the room now, at the end of a long hall. Books weighed heavy on shelves all around. The familiar smell of book dust – the “finest pollen in the world”, as he had once described it – hung heavy and familiar.
And there he was. Flanked by a carer, with a mop of white hair and thick-rimmed spectacles. Ray Bradbury, the man who had penned many of the defining books of my teenage years: Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man.
The world lost a literary legend on 6 June. Bradbury spent the best part of his 91 years writing books, short stories and TV shows which had a profound influence on the lives of countless science fiction and fantasy fans. And, needless to say, he has a special place in this Paleofuturist’s heart.
That is why, a few months ago, I made the pilgrimage to meet him. It was an honour to be able to quiz him and to thank him for all that he’s given the world. No doubt, Bradbury understood my fandom. He was a fan of so many writers and movie stars, growing up as a teenager in Los Angeles. His family moved to LA in 1934 when he was 14 years old and Bradbury was, as he describes it, an “autograph hound", collecting the signatures of movie stars in the 1930s.
Movies and politics
I have been asked if it was his last interview. It could have been. I don’t know. And nor does it matter. It was a rare moment with a childhood hero and a rare insight into a man whose prophecies seem as relevant today as they did 50 years ago.
Mr Bradbury spoke with a kind of stilted cadence as a result of the stroke he had suffered 13 years earlier. He had a difficulty in conjuring the words that you could tell still burned inside of him.
It was frustrating thing to witness - a man struggling to produce the language that had defined his very existence; words that bubbled just below the surface; his body betraying his mind, in some small ways stifling the passion that was stirring underneath.
We talked about movies (he said Billy Wilder was the director who most influenced his work), we talked about politics, (he said President Reagan was the best president since Abraham Lincoln), we talked about why he never drove a car (he thought he would be a “maniac” behind the wheel) and we talked about his encouragement of his friend Walt Disney to run for the mayor of Los Angeles (Walt’s reply was, “who needs to be mayor when you’re already king?”).
I asked him about space exploration and whether it was something that he thought about much when he was a kid. “No, I was thinking about Mars. I wasn’t thinking about space. I read John Carter, Warrior of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. So, when I was twelve years old I wrote a sequel to John Carter. So I wasn’t thinking about space, I was thinking about John Carter and about Mars.”