Origins of My Love of Horror 20
Shockingly, I have not discussed Ray Bradbury at all during this series.
So let's talk about him.
Readers tend to associate Bradbury with science fiction, and it's easy to see why. It's hard to divorce Bradbury's name from either The Martian Chronicles or Fahrenheit 451, his story collection The Illustrated Man, or a fantasy novel like Dandelion Wine. But he's penned at least two books of interest to horror readers: his carnival novel Something Wicked This Way Comes (which opens with one of the greatest first lines in horror fiction, second only to the first paragraph of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House), and the collection The October Country.
The stories in The October Country showcase Bradbury's gift for language, his occasional sense of whimsy, and his eye for macabre details. I tend to single out his story "The Crowd", about an individual who realizes that a crowd gathers at every traffic accident, seemingly from out of nowhere, and his dread as he realizes the individuals making up the crowd comprise the same individuals. Other stories in this landmark collection include "Skeleton" (in which a man discovers his skeleton is attempting to escape his body), "The Small Assassin" (a baby goes on a murderous rampage), "The Next in Line" (mummies in Cancun haunt an individual). All are wonderful in their poetic phrasing and use of imagery. There's almost no gore, and some modern readers may not find many of these stories scary, but all leave some impact, and none lack power, even seventy years after their initial publication.
Do you have a favorite Ray Bradbury story? Do you have a favorite Ray Bradbury book? Let me know in the comments.
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Derek Austin Johnson has lived most of his life in the Lone Star State. His work has appeared in The Horror Zine, Rayguns Over Texas!, Horror U.S.A.: Texas, Campfire Macabre, The Dread Machine, and Generation X-ed.
He lives in Central Texas.