I never knew any of my grandparents; the last died when I was eighteen months old. So this story hit me hard when I found it in a collection of his, probably one I browsed and bought in Belfast Waterstones, looking for ways out of my childhood Doctor Who obsession. We’re talking late eighties. Bradbury’s SF stuff is great, of course, but it’s the straight domestic pieces that have really stayed with me. Decades later, I can still feel the precise quality of shiver I got from stories of his I’ve never read since. This one is a vision of artificial unconditional love, maybe prefiguring what we’re finally getting close to now in AI. But I don’t think Bradbury’s is a cautionary tale; I remember it as a celebration. I might be wrong, though. I haven’t looked at it since my teens. No need. I know exactly how certain moments in that story make me feel, and how much they mean to me, so why would I want to go back? I’ve got it locked up inside.
First published in McCall’s Magazine, August 1969, under the title ‘The Beautiful One is Here’; adapted from his Twilight Zone screenplay, first broadcast 1962. First published under this title in the eponymous collection, 1969. Collected in Ray Bradbury Stories Volume 1, HarperVoyager, 2012, and The Stories of Ray Bradbury, Everyman, 2010