Book Review: “Listen to the Echos: The Ray Bradbury Interviews” by Sam Weller

I don’t normally gravitate towards non-fiction. As a kid any time I had to do a book report on a non-fiction book I was so bored. The only exception was one book on St. Patrick that read like a novel and tore down the absolute hatred I had for non-fiction. The complete opposite of my dad who pretty much only reads non-fiction.

I also usually feel a little weird about biographies. If they’re dead then it’s a little less weird I guess. It’s like seeing how the magic is done and I’d rather not know unless I can sweep it under the umbrella of history.

Listen to the Echos is Sam Weller’s second book on Ray Bradbury. His first being The Bradbury Chronicles and his third being The Last Interview.

Let’s start with who Ray Bradbury is. Ray Bradbury was an American author who wrote several famous works and a ridiculous amount of short stories. (I have a collection of them and the book could break someone’s foot if it was dropped) He was born in Illinois in the 1920’s and then moved to LA where he lived until he died 2012. He wrote The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451 (the temperature in which books burn), Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Illustrated Man and so much more. At least as a kid who grew up in the USA his short stories were always available in several English textbooks so when I took a class by Sam Weller in college on Ray Bradbury a lot of the works we studied were familiar. His work tends to have a science fiction or fantasy element to them and vast love for the universe, nostalgia, and autumn. While he is a science fiction writer who didn’t like to be categorized as one (he also wrote in many other genres) his science is more based on fantasy and feeling than mathematical or scientific facts.

The book is a collection of interviews that Sam Weller conducted with the late Ray Bradbury while working to create his first book, a biography. It’s broken up into sections where he talks about his childhood, living in LA and all his famous friends, writing, his own works, and then his opinions on politics, sexuality, religion, education, and the future.

One thing you learn fairly fast about Ray Bradbury is that he was playing in many different fields, at around the same time. He was writing stories, writing screenplays, working in architecture, print, screen, theater, audio, and anything he wanted to try he did. He networked before networking was a thing and pretty much knew anyone and everyone until eventually everyone knew him. He grew up in LA meeting all the stars of classic Hollywood and collecting their signatures. He met many of his favorite directors and actors with a reverse Princess Bride move. “Hello, My name is Ray Bradbury and I love you/your work”. And usually, it led to lifelong friendships. To an extent, it can feel like it’s nothing but name dropping but when you live through the golden age of Hollywood and know all the going on’s of the time period, go to many of the parties or have the people doing all the work over for dinner it makes sense. Like his friendship with Walt Disney led to him working on the Epcot Center at Walt Disney World.

The flip side of it, of course, is when people get excited over him. After he became a well-known figure. People like rock stars who liked his science fiction and were so excited to meet him. Even an actress/creator whose work I enjoy can trace her starting point to a funny music video she did about Ray Bradbury which I remember watching in Sam Weller’s class but never connected the dots that she was the same person until she mentioned it in an acceptance speech.

There’s something fun to the web in which he lived where he pretty much knew everyone or they knew him and how it rippled out. It’s like one of those artists bubbles you learn about, like The Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris, or the cafes in Prague, where the famous artists of the time all gathered and knew each other before they were famous. How people inspired by his works created other famous works or named things after him. He inspired countless artists, scientists, musicians, and writers. He made a stamp on American culture. The idea of the butterfly effect came from one of his short stories, the same short story that inspired Jurassic Park. There’s a crater on the moon named after one of his works as well as an asteroid. It goes on and on and on.

It’s all rather fascinating and these parts of the interviews are really interesting to me. And reading these interviews were fun. I didn’t like everything Bradbury had to say. Which is to be expected. There’s things I didn’t want to know and found interesting that he talked about despite saying he himself didn’t read biographies because he felt certain things should be private yet then talked about those things himself.

But overall for a collection of interviews, it was fun to learn more about his history, the effect he had, and his process as an artist. It felt a little bit like a time capsule into a time gone by with just that shot of inspiration that makes me want to just sit in front of my computer and write. Which is always appreciated.

If you want to learn more about Ray Bradbury I highly suggest checking out Sam Weller’s website. It’s crammed full of Ray Bradbury things and musings from his biographer (Sam Weller) who Ray Bradbury quoted saying:

“Sam Weller knows more about my life than I do”

Ray Bradbury

Normally I put a link to the books available on Bookshop, which is a website that finds local bookstores and gives them about 70% of the proceeds of sales. (and I have an affiliate link with) However, I scoured Bookshop and the only version of this book they have is a hardback that is over $40. I don’t feel comfortable linking to that. So instead I’m going to link here to Sam’s book page which then will allow you to look at all the books he’s worked on (Though his newest isn’t there yet) and pick out which Bradbury books you’re interested in. So if you want to read this book or others about Ray Bradbury (or the one that’s a collection of stories written by almost everyone who was inspired by him) you can check out the books here to buy them.

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