Listen to the Echoes

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By Sam Weller at 9:22am ET

(Photograph by Zen Sekizawa. November 30, 2009)

It is almost incomprehensible that it has been one year since Ray Bradbury died. I met the man when he was 79. I knew that one day he would die, as all of us most certainly do. Yet I’ve had so much trouble coming to terms with his absence. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve experienced more than my share of death and loss and hospital-room suffering. Tubes and IVs and morphine and tears. I knew the day would come when Ray Bradbury was no longer here. Still, I continue to grapple with it, my eyes struggling to focus through an incorrect lens.

I still don’t believe.

Ray Bradbury published his first story 29 years before I was born. He established himself as an international writer long before I arrived. When my mom was 9 months pregnant with me, my father read Bradbury aloud to her as I listened intently, in utero. And I later became his biographer. He always thought that sounded like one of his own stories.

For me—and so many others—he has always been.

And perhaps this is why it’s so damned hard to say good bye. Impossible, really. I read him every day. I think about him constantly. I teach him. I share his philosophies. I spread the gospel. I travel and speak and inspire new readers everywhere I go. I fight for libraries because he shared that love with me. He imbues my writing in every possible way. He loved my short stories and wanted me to be—no pressure—the next him. But more than all that, I had the privilege of regularly visiting Ray—hugging him, talking to him, reading to him, travelling with him—for 12 mind-boggling years. One day I will write a memoir about it all.

Here is a story I have never shared with anyone. He had a book that he was working on. Nightmares and Daydreams. It was incomplete. Unfinished. Raw. He regularly asked me to finish it for him. Every time I saw him, in fact. He knew I knew him better than anyone. He knew, at that point, I could almost write like him. He insisted I finish the book for him. His health was failing. He couldn’t do it. And he wanted this last book out there. But it wouldn’t have been right. I am not Ray Bradbury. I have never shared this story with anyone. Every time I saw him in the last two years of his life, he asked me to finish his book. I feel conflicted that I never helped him with this request, but his work should be his own, right until the end.

I think letting him go has been more difficult because of Mr. Electrico, the sideshow performer who, on a grey and gauzy Labor Day weekend, in 1932, told a young Ray Bradbury to “Live Forever!”

We all knew he wouldn’t. He knew he wouldn’t. Yet he has always been….

The Mr. Electrico story, told in glorious detail on pages 32-34 in Listen to the Echoes, was a metaphor, of course. Everything in Ray’s amazing life was a metaphor. He would “Live Forever” through his writing.

But I think in the deepest catacombs of my subconscious, against all logic, I wanted to believe that maybe he would Live Forever. Maybe, just maybe, the sideshow man—whoever he was—spoke truth. Ray Bradbury would never die. He would Live Forever. He would always be.

At the end of our regular telephone conversations, the two of us nearly 2,000 miles apart, he always said good bye the same way:

I miss you…and I love you.

I could not say it any better, my friend.


  1. Ray will “live forever” in the best way possible for a writer: by his words continuing to be read, and by his stories continuing to be remembered.

    He was also fond of certain phrases when signing autographs. “Mad love!” was one of them, although I never QUITE knew what he meant by that (beyond the inevitable image of Peter Lorre that it would conjure up). The other was a simple, one-word command:


    Comment by Phi Nichols — June 6, 2013 @ 10:06am
  2. You were in our thoughts yesterday, Sam. As blessed as you were to have him, and no smoke-blowing here, he was to have you as well. It is clear in stories like the one you share here, and in knowing that you are a hell of a human being. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for spreading the word.

    Comment by Andy Burnside-Weaver — June 6, 2013 @ 1:52pm
  3. God bless you! I currently read your “Bradbury Chronicles” and you are truly a friend to have captured the great man’s journey that it sounds like a collection of his short stories. Your life intertwining with one of my favorite authors is just one of the many serendipitous things in this crazy world. God bless.

    Comment by Kayfey — June 8, 2013 @ 8:36am
  4. Thanks for sharing, Sam.
    Best to you and always.

    Comment by RobertZ — June 8, 2013 @ 1:22pm
  5. Thanks so much for sharing that, Sam. Long may you bear the torch.

    Perhaps Nightmares and Daydreams could appear after all, as an edited collection of fragments, interspersed with editorial comment? That way Ray’s actual words would not have to be interfered with.

    But of course, whether that is possible depends on the state and nature of the existing material.

    Comment by Peter Nel — June 10, 2013 @ 8:30am
  6. Thank you for sharing, Sam. Some losses you never get over, you just get used to. Like you, I hope that some way, some how, Ray really would live forever. I know he does in his stories and all cultural impact he made (like Spaceship Earth) but it’s not the same as having him here. My heart aches for you. I know you and the rest of his family miss him every day.

    You should finish Nightmares and Daydreams; it would be a fitting tribute.

    Comment by Cathy Akers-Jordan — June 10, 2013 @ 11:07am
  7. I concur with Peter Nel.

    Comment by Andy Burnside-Weaver — July 13, 2013 @ 10:50am
  8. Can you contact me? I know Ray Bradbury sent you an essay I wrote on Basho that he thought you should see. Its title was THE NARROW THREAD. I have a copy of his Feb. 23, 2004 to me in which he mentions you. He remarked the essay was ‘:fascinating’ and he would send a copy to you. He told me he had been writing haiku and as that is my specialty for 40 years
    Google my name. I would love to see whatever he wrote in this genre. That same essay is available online at Haiku Chronicles.
    Thanks for whatever you can supply.
    Anita Virgil

    Comment by Anita Virgil — August 29, 2013 @ 7:03am
  9. Mr. Weller,
    I loved your talk in Elkhorn on Friday, keep up the good work! If there is any progress on the Ray Bradbury museum, let me know!

    Orty Ortwein

    Comment by Orty Ortwein — October 26, 2013 @ 2:01pm
  10. I can’t beilvee I’ve been going for years without knowing that.

    Comment by Omar — February 29, 2016 @ 11:40am

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