Yesterday I attended the Ray Bradbury Tribute panel at Comic-Con 2012, at which a number of the late writer’s friends, colleagues, and famous admirers shared stories of the man many of us regard as America’s all-time finest writer of fantastic fiction. Author Joe Hill, illustrator Gary Gianni, and Logan’s Run writer William F. Nolan were just a few of the folks in attendance. I spoke afterwards with George Clayton Johnson, who -- along with Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont – was part of Rod Serling’s writing staff on The Twilight Zone (his “Kick the Can” episode was remade by Steven Spielberg in the director’s Twilight Zone: The Movie segment). After an impassioned and moving speech at the tribute, Johnson told me he’s currently working on a new short story collection, and he shared some thoughts on how Bradbury influenced The Twilight Zone.
“Well he influenced everybody,” said Johnson. “I went to The Twilight Zone with Ray Bradbury in my heart, and everything that I pitched to the show had a Bradbury slant. I mean, not only the fantasy stuff, but the Dandelion Wine material. Because I’m very entranced with small little stories with a slightly odd touch. I’m doing a collection called A Touch of Strange, and A Touch of Strange is just that. It’s totally realistic stories, using New York literary values as literature, but with that oddness that Ray introduced into his stuff. I’m in the process of making the selection of my ideas and things to put into this odd little book.”
“Ray Bradbury was my inspiration,” added Johnson. “He was the one person who convinced me, by his attitude toward me, that I too could do it. Because you never believe you can. You’d love to believe that one day you’ll be a published guy and people will ask for your autograph, but you don’t believe it could happen. But when a guy like Bradbury looks at me and says, ‘Oh yes, you’ve got talent. You can do it…’ He made me believe in myself.”