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Ray Bradbury, R.I.P.: His Colorado connection

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Bradbury in 1975.
The death of author Ray Bradbury this week touched millions of readers worldwide. But it had very personal significance to Colorado Springs' Barry Hoffman, who first made contact with Bradbury around a quarter-century ago, published limited editions of his work on his Springs-based Gauntlet Press imprint, and facilitated a unique connection between the Fahrenheit 451 scribe and his son, Bridesmaids actor David Hoffman.

"It was not something unexpected," Hoffman says of Bradbury's passing at age 91, "but it's obviously a terrible loss and a little bit of a shock. I know people who've seen him relatively often in the past year, and they would fill me in on how he was doing -- and he hadn't been doing well."

Fortunately, Hoffman believes Bradbury's legacy remains in exceedingly good shape. "Unlike many authors in the 20th century and even now, I think Ray is going to be remembered hundreds of years from now."

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Barry Hoffman.
In Hoffman's view, Bradbury was just as fine a man as he was a writer, as exemplified by the way they first came into contact.

During the late '80s, Hoffman was a middle school teacher living in Philadelphia, and rather than teach his students about literature by using material from the assigned basal reader, he shared "stories from authors I was most interested in: Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Bob Bloch, Stephen King. I would make copies of the stories, which was probably illegal but was important to the kids in the class, and if there were videos of the stories, we'd watch them, too -- things like The Ray Bradbury Theater," an intermittent series that ran on HBO and the USA Network from 1985 to 1992.

In this context, Hoffman had his students write Bradbury a letter "saying what they thought of his writing -- and I had them write a story in his style, which was obviously pretty impossible for kids to do at that age, but they did their best. And he was kind enough to write a letter to the class and send a poster that he signed."

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Bradbury's "Illustrated Man."
This tie was strengthened considerably when Hoffman launched Gauntlet. Among the first books the press issued was a limited edition of Bloch's Psycho -- the book on which Alfred Hitchcock's ageless shocker is based. He then reached out to Bradbury and Matheson, known for the likes of I Am Legend, to write an introduction and an afterword, respectively -- and both eagerly agreed. Then, just before the new version was set to go to the printer, he sent a copy to Bloch, who told Hoffman he received it on the same day he learned he had terminal cancer. "He said, 'When I read Ray's introduction and Richard's afterword, I cried,' because it made him feel so wonderful," Hoffman recalls.

In the years that followed, Hoffman began publishing limited, autographed editions of Bradbury's writing, including October Country, Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Illustrated Man -- the last book featuring an illustration by Bradbury himself. "Initially he did it in black and white and faxed it to me -- and he wrote on it, 'Is this okay?'" Hoffman reveals. "I thought to myself, 'Even if this is terrible, I'm not going to say that to Ray Bradbury.' But it was really good." What stuck out to him, though, is that "Ray was humble enough to ask, 'Is this acceptable? Or should I start over?'"

Page down to continue reading Barry Hoffman's memories of Ray Bradbury.



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