Captain Rayhab

A Whale of a Good Time with Ray Bradbury

Tom Zimberoff
5 min readJun 18, 2024

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©1986 Tom Zimberoff / May not be copied, shared, reproduced, or altered in any manner whatsoever / All Rights Reserved

Ray Bradbury famously said, “People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it.” You might think he would have wanted to prevent this: Imagine one of America’s most august authors encouraging someone he’d just met to dress him up in a nineteenth-century frock coat, plant a stovepipe hat on his head, paint a wicked-looking scar down the side of his face, glue on a preposterous beard, amputate his right leg at the knee — well, sort of, then prop him up like that in front of a camera holding a harpoon. Yet the man whom The New York Times called “the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream,” whose legacy includes classics like Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles, insisted I do exactly that. He had no qualms about this capricious portrayal, that it had nothing whatsoever to do with science . . . or, well, I suppose you could say it had something to do with fiction.

I was assigned to photograph a dozen Hollywood VIPs for a 1986 feature in Los Angeles magazine called “Alter Egos.” Ray Bradbury was one of them. The publication date coincided with Halloween, and everyone would be wearing a costume — any guise they wanted. This would be fun! While I was on the phone with Ray to make arrangements for his slot in the shooting schedule, he exclaimed, “I want to…

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