Shadow Show was not an intentionally posthumous tribute to the late Ray Bradbury. It just turned out that way as Bradbury passed away little more than a month before the anthology was published. What would have read like a loving tribute to a great writer if he were still alive now becomes, whether we like or not, a kind of eulogy, a funeral song for one of American fiction’s greatest imaginations. But even amid the predictable (and deserved) outpouring of love for Bradbury in the weeks after his death, Shadow Show stands out, not just because it’s a collection of stories directly inspired by the man, but because it’s a deliberate and beautiful declaration by some of the most unique voices in modern fiction that the greatest legacy Bradbury left behind was one of unlimited creativity.
After a warm introduction by editors Weller and Castle, Bradbury himself pens a brief foreword to the anthology, describing it as a kind of homecoming in which he can revisit all of his familiar storytelling tropes through the eyes of his literary children, writers like Neil Gaiman and Kelly Link and Ramsey Campbell and Charles Yu. From there, the stories begin, an earnest and spellbinding collection of monsters and aliens, heavies and heartbreakers, spaceships and shadows.
In “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury,” Neil Gaiman examines the nature of memory through a wonderfully re-readable monologue woven with Bradbury references. In “By The Silver Water of Lake Champlain,” Joe Hill ponders the nature of childhood imagination through a little girl dressed as a robot. There are dark and magical tales like Alice Hoffman’s “Conjure,” short but sweet creep-fests like Dave Eggers’ “Who Knocks?,” and varied and wondrous journeys into the future like Robert McCammon’s “Children of the Bedtime Machine,” Yu’s “Earth (A Gift Shop)” and Link’s “Two Houses.” It all ends, fittingly, with a tale from Bradbury’s longtime friend and fellow sci-fi master Harlan Ellison. “Weariness” is a brief vignette set at the end of the universe. It serves as a powerful closing of the curtain on Bradbury’s many-colored imagined cosmos, and it’s followed by a bit of reminiscing by Ellison that’s bound to bring a tear to the eye of any Bradbury fan.
Shadow Show is an essential addition to the collection of Bradbury fans, sci-fi fans, fantasy fans and anyone who wants to know what a good story is. It’s a collection of titans, truly towering imaginations of all stripes, coming together to all say that Ray Bradbury is where they came from. It’s a reminder of how important the man was not just to genre fiction, but to storytelling, and the legacy he leaves in these pages will leave you breathless.