I originally wrote this post for Quirk Books, linked here.
Let us play a game called “What If”. What if Ray Bradbury, science fiction writer extraordinaire, had become a magician instead?? Sounds far fetched right? Not really. You see Ray Bradbury loved magic, so much so that he often said if he had not discovered writing, he would have become a magician. Imagine if you will “Ray the Magnificent”!!
But how did the father of science fiction fall in love with magic? Well, in 1932, when Bradbury twelve years old, a carnival came to his home town. One of the performers was Mr. Electrico. Dubbed so by sitting in an electric chair and being hit with fifty thousand volts of pure electricity! During the show, Mr. Electrico pulled out a sword and touched Bradbury on the brow and whispered, “Live forever.”
Bradbury would go on to say that in that moment “something important happened to me that day because of Mr. Electrico. He gave me importance, immortality, a mystical gift. I went home and within days I started to write. I’ve never stopped.” And we all know how the story goes after that, Bradbury would go on to write such classics as “The Martian Chronicles” and “Fahrenheit 451”.
But, what if this encounter had happened differently? What if instead of being inspired to write, Bradbury was inspired to become a magician! He could have become “Ray the Magnificent”! He could have become the next Houdini or Harry Kellar. Bradbury would have traveled the country performing for awestruck audiences, dazzling them with his mysterious illusions!
But then he wouldn’t have become one of the most celebrated writer of the 21st-century…. Or brought modern science fiction into the literary mainstream. And not to mention all the cool space discoveries that were named in his honor, such as the Curiosity landing site or the 1992 asteroid. Maybe it was better that Ray Bradbury didn’t become a famous magician. The world of science fiction would be lost without him! After all, he was the master of literary illusion, and maybe we should just be happy with that.