Long before I read my current favorite authors such as Eric Hoffer and GK Chesterton, my favorite was Ray Bradbury. I cannot imagine going through childhood without him as a guide. His stories were often set in northern IL, and I grew up in southern WI, so of course I imagined he sometimes crossed the border and his young world was the same as mine. The other border he often crossed was that of time, and my becoming a Futurist can be traced back to Bradbury more than most other inspirations.

His stories were both of innocence, wonder, exploration and imagination, which should not be separated from each other, especially innocence which is too easily dismissed by the moderns. Innocence at any age keeps the eyes open, recalling a time before fear and focus. Innocence is the portal for all of that. It starts with innocence.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury was part of The Big Read effort sponsored by the NEA, where communities around the country would collectively read various great works. The Waukesha Public Library System invited me to be a part of their lecture series on that book. Two weeks before my talk, they had Sam Weller talk about The Bradbury Chronicles, the official biography of Ray Bradbury. As I was reading that book and crafting my own talk, I kept noticing that there’s some sort of connection between Bradbury and Chesterton. After Weller’s talk, I asked him if Bradbury had ever read Chesterton. His eyes got big and he said that Bradbury was a “huge, huge fan of Chesterton.” He also said that Bradbury had a whole row of Chesterton books right behind him at his desk.

When I told Sam of my plan to connect Bradbury and Chesterton in my talk, he insisted that I write to Bradbury about it. He said make the font really big because at that point Bradbury was blind in one eye and not seeing too well out of the other. Sam also promised that Bradbury would write back to me… so in my early fifties, I wrote my very first (and probably last) fan letter. It was five pages long, and filled with Chesterton quotations, a few of the colorful slides I had made for the talk, and a sincere words of gratitude for what he had brought to the life of a young boy living in Monroe, WI in the 1960s.

I never heard back from him, but it doesn’t matter. I just hope he read it and and it brought a smile to his face. He had done the same for me when reading him as a boy.