My last conversation with Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury grew old but he never grew up. The late author radiated joy.
June 6th, 2012
05:54 PM ET

My last conversation with Ray Bradbury

By John Blake, CNN

The voice on the other line was slurred and halting.  My childhood hero, I realized, was nearing the end of his life.

“Hello, Mr. Bradbury,” I shouted into the phone, so loud that one of my colleagues sitting nearby raised his eyebrows.

The call was supposed to be professional. I had called Ray Bradbury’s daughter to tell her that I wanted to write about a different side of her father: What did this science fiction giant think about God and the afterlife?

But that request was a smokescreen. I just needed an excuse to talk to the man whose books and stories had enriched my childhood. Would he be as fun to talk to as he is to read, I wondered?

Overheard: What CNN.com readers are saying about Bradbury

He was better than I imagined. In more than 20 years of journalism, I have never encountered anyone quite like him.

Bradbury, who died at 91 Tuesday night, is already earning plenty of tributes. The author of classics such as “Fahrenheit 451” and “The Martian Chronicles” was one of the last living links to an era in early 20th century America in which children got lost in stargazing or pulp magazines like “Weird Tales” instead of video games.

There was something magical about Bradbury that went beyond his stories. Talking to him was like taking a Happy Pill. I had a loopy smile on my face hours after talking to him. I felt as if I had hitched a ride on a red balloon floating to the stars.

Part of it was his joy and spontaneity – he overflowed with both. It seemed to give him courage in his art and his life.

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“I don’t think about what I do. I do it,” he told me. “That’s Buddhism. I jump off the cliff and build my wings on the way down.”

Then there was his boyish wonder. He sounded like a kid eating chocolate ice cream for the first time. He even lived like a boy until the very end, surrounding himself with stuffed dinosaurs and tin robots in a Los Angeles home painted dandelion yellow in honor of his favorite book, “Dandelion Wine.”

Most of us can relate to the effect children have on adults. Even the grumpiest expressions on adult’s faces evaporate when they see a child giggling and playing. It doesn’t matter if they know the child or not.

Talking to Bradbury made you smile. We only talked about 30 minutes because his stamina wouldn’t allow more. There was no guile or calculation in anything he said; he just felt it - and expressed it.

Here was a man who, upon meeting Walt Disney, said, “Mr. Disney, my name is Ray Bradbury and I love you.” Here was a man who was married 56 years to his muse and late wife, Maggie. Here was a man who loved to eat, laugh and sometimes open his books at night and cry out thanks to God because he was so grateful for his career.

I wanted to tell Bradbury how “The Martian Chronicles” had inspired me when I was in high school. I used to write wooden sci-fi stories and force my pouting younger brother to read them.

I never worked up the courage to tell him that, though. I suspect he heard plenty of tributes like that over the years.

But maybe the best tribute that can be paid to anyone is the reaction I had when I learned he had died. I didn’t feel sad. I smiled and thought, what a wonderful life.

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Bradbury never stopped stargazing. Near the end of our conversation, he told me that mankind would eventually have to follow his example. We would have to explore the stars because the sun would flame out.

“We must move into the universe. Mankind must save itself,” he said. “We must become astronauts and go out into the universe and discover the god in ourselves.”

I like to think Bradbury is now taking that journey. Liberated from his body, I can imagine his wide-eyed wonder as he hurtles past stars, comets and all the alien worlds he wrote about.

Somehow I think the man who jumped off cliffs and built wings on the way down is still soaring.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Books • Culture & Science • Faith • God

soundoff (147 Responses)
  1. Science

    Free speech helps educate the masses................POLITICIANS too !

    Where do morals come from?

    By Kelly Murray, CNN

    Gravity is not up for debate !

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    Hey James Madison................religion has none it looks like.............with the comments on this blog.

    The Big question is ETHICS ! does religion have any ?

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    April 30, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |

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    Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young


    And NO ANGELS the pope KICKED them OFF the TEAM last year !

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    the wrong path is Adam and Eve !

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    No god(s) needed or required to graduate from public schools in the US

    Remember : Adam had to POKE himself hard with his OWN BONE to create Eve.

    No god(s) needed................... Old. DNA works..................also catches crooks !

    Ancient DNA Reveals Europe's Dynamic Genetic History

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    Mar 21, 2013 – [1,2] These plant-derived compounds may be referred to as phytocannabinoids. ... have a protective effect against the development of certain types of tumors. ... In lung cancer cell lines, CBD upregulated ICAM-1, leading to ...

    Good stuff !

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    For what...................... ? Make sure to read what the pope said !

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    Make sure to read comments

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    Star Dust we are


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    The ORIGIN story is bullsh-it...............so is the bible............... nasty !

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    Human Evolution


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    BACKFILL on E =mc2.....

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    May 4, 2013 at 6:47 am | Report abuse |

    Cheech & Chong's History of 420


    All cults...........creationists, ID believers and devil cults.................

    The fact...............the earth is to old ...........time to EVOLVE !.

    Ancient Earth Crust Stored in Deep Mantle

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    Dover Trial Transcripts............................................. FACTS.

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    May 4, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
  2. Kent Van Cleave

    Ray Bradbury has been and always be my favorite author. On his 89th birthday, a mutual friend delivered to him some of my hand-made soap, a tribute to his genius, a way for me to tell him how much I love his work. I am proud to have a picture of Ray, holding two of those bars of soap.

    February 23, 2013 at 4:23 am |
  3. Leif

    Ray Bradbury is one of my favorite writers. He was a true artist of the written word. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

    November 18, 2012 at 3:53 am |
  4. bhaywood64

    John Blake, I love this article. I first read it the day it was posted. Every time I pass by my bookshelf and catch a glimpse of my Ray Bradbury collection (on the top shelf, of course), I am reminded of the day I found out of Bradbury's passing. Your article made it easier. I have this page bookmarked and I return to it from time to time so I can be reminded of Bradbury's inspiration. I especially loved the ending- "I like to think Bradbury is now taking that journey. Liberated from his body, I can imagine his wide-eyed wonder as he hurtles past stars, comets and all the alien worlds he wrote about."
    Thank you for writing.

    July 19, 2012 at 1:51 am |
    • John Blake

      Hi Bhaywood. Thanks so much for your kind words about my tribute to Ray Bradbury. I wrote many articles this past year about heavy subjects – religion, racism, the electin – but writing about Bradbury was my favorite experience. I read my piece again and it made me want to go home and open up by my big Bradbury anthology. I was so blessed to talk to him. Take care.

      November 29, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  5. Gene Beley

    JOHN BLAKE, I loved your article on Ray Bradbury. It was a time machine for me that brought back memories of Ray's calling the Ventura Star-Free Press newspaper, asking for me, or at home, when my wife would answer and wonder who was this Ray Bradbury guy calling? As a young reporter in 1968, he was the first celebrity contact in my professional career. Ray exemplified humility to me and made me glad I chose journalism. I sense, although you're much younger than me, we who follow Ray's comet are members of a big international creative club separated by less than one degree. Richard Bach, another Bradbury devotee, who wrote Jonathon Livingston Sea Gull, once wrote me, "Once you follow Ray's comet, you follow it for life."

    I'm doubly lucky because, at the same time I was hanging out withy Ray, I was hanging out with Johnny Cash. Cash first invited our newspaper photographer Dan Poush and me to accompany him and June to Folsom Prison for their concert January 13, 1968. I hope your experience with "the last call", along with my experiences (see my CNN blog “Ray Bradbury Will Live Forever”), will inspire many others to call their heroes or make the effort to think big and reach for the stars. With Bradbury type imagination, perseverance and a little luck, they, too, may find themselves talking to their heroes or even becoming lifetime friends.
    -Gene Beley, Stockton, CA

    June 10, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • John Blake

      Hey Gene, this is John Blake. Thanks so much for your kind words about my Ray Bradbury post. Wow, Bradbury called you at home? What a treat. I wonder if you had as much fun talking to him as I had talking to him. I used to live in LA so I'm familiar with Ventura County. Thanks again for your kind words.

      June 18, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
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    June 10, 2012 at 4:51 am |
    • curious

      google translate much?

      October 29, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  7. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    June 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      June 8, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • nope


      June 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Jesus


      More lies without any proof, thanks for proving I am correct, I am a god!

      June 8, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Think for yourself?

      You are a moron

      June 8, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • just sayin

      "jesus – You are a moron"

      Now you're getting closer to the truth. LOL!

      June 8, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  8. Dan Sutton

    Nice article: thanks for that. We all miss Bradbury terribly, even though all his books remain – it's the knowledge that he's gone which does it: even though most of us never met him, he was in part responsible for our upbringing. I think we should all get together and try to convince JPL to load his ashes into a Campbell's soup can and include that in the Curiosity mission in August: Bradbury said he wanted to be the first dead person to arrive on Mars, and that he wanted to arrive there in a Campbell's soup can... I wonder if they have room for a few hundred extra grams. That'd be a nice thing to do, I think.

    June 8, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Dan Sutton

      In fact, I think I might just go over to JPL tomorrow (they have an Open Day on which you get to meet the scientists in charge of these missions) and ask them to do it.

      June 8, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  9. jknbt

    Thanks, Mr. Blake & CNN, for this well written tribute. Well done!

    June 8, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  10. Stalin was an atheist that killed millions

    Case closed!

    June 8, 2012 at 7:50 am |


    June 8, 2012 at 3:48 am |
    • Case closed!

      What does that have to do with anything? He killed Jews because HE hated them,not because they "killed Jesus".

      Case closed!

      June 8, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • just sayin

      Only a moron would equate Hitler with Christianity. God bless

      June 8, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  12. amandapalasciano

    I admit I wasn't so serene when I heard of his passing. Even though he was 91 with such a beautiful story behind him, it hurt like Hell to know he was gone. Ray Bradbury was my inspiration to become a writer. He is one of the only people I have found in this strange world, that thinks the same way I do. And we have quite the age gap. I had always secretly hoped I would meet him someday. Somehow. Unfortunately, I now know that that is impossible. At least on this planet, in this time continuum. I am so saddened and I hope that I can use the emotion to dedicate this week or month to some solid writing in his honor.

    RIP Ray Bradbury

    June 7, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • Ray Bradbury

      Your penmanship is atrocious.

      June 8, 2012 at 2:20 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.