Ray Bradbury - Santa Barbara Writers Conference Keynote - 1983 - Something Wicked This Way Comes - Mystic Ink Publishing Voices of the Masters Series


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Legendary science fiction writer Ray Bradbury inspired thousands of writers with his opening keynote speeches at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference which he kicked off from its humble beginnings in 1972 for 37 years until his passing.

This talk is from 1983 which was the 11th year of the conference.

Ray was a pillar of the conference and I was blessed to be mentored by him.

I was asked to contribute the following essay in a limited edition hardcover tribute to him which I have republished in my short story collection titled "A Short Walk to the Other Side".

A Ray of Light


Matthew J. Pallamary

In the early seventies I read a short story in a high school English class titled There Will Come Soft Rains that captured my imagination in a way that few stories could. Its opening burned an indelible image into my mind the same way the outlines of a family had been burned into the side of a computerized house where robots went through preprogrammed computerized chores in the aftermath of an atomic blast. This post apocalyptic family portrait created by Ray Bradbury still haunts me more than three decades after first reading it.

In the years that followed I discovered that I had a knack for writing, but never in my wildest imaginings did I think I would actually become a writer, and never in my even wilder imaginings could I conceive of knowing Ray Bradbury as a guiding light, an inspiration, and a loving, caring mentor.

In nineteen-eighty-eight I attended the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference for the first time, and on opening night I heard Ray kick off the conference with an outpouring of love, passion, and inspiration, not only for the written word, but for life in general.

“The hell with everything else”, he exhorted. “Write for the love of it!”

Year after year I have returned to the conference, first as a student, then as a workshop leader, each time hearing this same message spoken in different ways with just as much passion, if not more, and each year my inspiration is rekindled anew.

In nineteen-ninety-four I published my first short story collection titled The Small Dark Room of the Soul. Friends and colleagues urged me to ask Ray for a blurb because we were affiliated through the conference, but I found myself in mortal terror at the thought of it. Eventually I screwed up my courage and asked the advice of Sid Stebel, a friend, mentor, and a close friend of Ray’s. Sid went to bat for me and eventually Ray blessed me with the words: “Bravo More!”

Never in my life had two simple words carried so much power.

Six years later when my first novel, Land Without Evil came out, I was once again urged to ask Ray for his blessing. During that time he suffered a major health setback that hospitalized him, so I gave up all hope of getting another blurb. To my amazement, soon after my request I received a typed yellow card signed by Ray, full of encouragement, apologizing for not getting back to me sooner, saying he couldn’t read my work, but giving me permission to use his original blurb. I treasure that card and have it framed and displayed prominently in my writing space beside a picture of Ray and me. I consider myself blessed to know him personally and doubly blessed by the wish he granted me.

Cinderella had her fairy godmother to inspire her with loving light beyond her wildest imaginings, and I have my own Ray of light, a writing godfather who did the same for me.

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