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What makes someone a living legend? Does he have to live long enough to see his work become popular? Outlive his critics? For many writers in the past, a true fan base only developed posthumously. John Keats, the English poet, is a good example. While alive and writing his heart out, he was heavily criticized and eventually died in poverty; only later was his work prized by the masses.

Not so with Ray Bradbury.

In his early days, he wrote a short story every week and submitted it, too busy to notice the rejection letters that came pouring in. He loved to write. He still does. Novels, short stories, poetry, one-act plays—even a holiday musical: Merry Christmas 2116—his body of work is loved the world over.

His poetic prose in Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Death Is a Lonely Business has been a real inspiration to me, and his advice to struggling writers to “struggle harder” comes from life experience. He knows what he’s talking about.

Seeing him Thursday night at the Escondido library was a surreal experience. He spoke about being a “lover of life,” and that, for him, his writing has always been a labor of love. I didn’t get a chance to shake his hand or tell him how much I appreciate him; but he probably gets enough of that already. There was standing room only, and an allotted fifty fans ahead of me were having him sign copies of We’ll Always Have Paris.

What do you say to someone who’s laid the foundation for your favorite genre? “Thank you for inspiring me.” This morning, I submitted a story to Atomjack that’s more than a little reminiscent of his marionette tales. “I owe you, Mr. Bradbury.” That’s the truth.