Eating Movies Like Popcorn

Ray Bradbury, named by Marie Arana “America’s one-man fantasy factory,” wrote,

I was a child of movies. My mother ate them like popcorn.

In 1964, Bradbury called cinema “a science fiction device.” He was talking about all cinema. So, naturally, he wished to see film adaptations of his stories. His best-known successes are Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles.

At Barnes & Noble one day, I crossed paths with the book The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work. Opening the book at random to page 76, I went to the bottom of the page and read the last sentence:

If you wait long enough, I learned, and stuff your eyeballs with shapes, sizes and colors, the gumball machine to your skull lends you gifts at the drop of a pen.

I then saw that the essay was titled “Hunter of Metaphors,” by Ray Bradbury. I zipped through the six-page table of contents to see who else had contributed, but I knew I would like the book on the basis of that one remark by Bradbury. So I bought it.

I’ve read at least 23 of the essays now. Some, it turns out, are better than Bradbury’s. But I learned enough from Bradbury to get his little book Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You. For a quick read, Bradbury’s bio-advice is useful.

Creative writing matters to me. So does good filmmaking. And good filmmaking begins with good writing. A screenwriter today, working in a particular genre, might learn something from reading “the book,” then watching “the film,” where each narrates the same story within that genre. But I suspect that it’s worked the other way for Bradbury, too. “Eating movies like popcorn” as a kid fueled his imagination and loaded his mind with metaphors. This showed up in his writing.

On the chance that it could work that way for me, I now have yet another excuse to watch movies.


  1. The popcorn quote is from The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work, edited by Marie Arana.
  2. Bradbury’s 1964 statement that cinema is a science fiction device is from an issue of Spacemen Magazine.
  3. I like reading about writing. If you do, too, check out this post.

Related Posts by Doug Geivett:

About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking, sailing.

One Response to Eating Movies Like Popcorn

  1. Jenn says:

    I agree, and I especially like the quote about “stuff[ing] your eyeballs.” The more ideas that you expose yourself to, the more “well-rounded” you become as a human being. In general, I’d say that being open-minded and intellectually hungry are good for the soul.

    Here’s the dilemma, though: at what point does an idea stop being beneficial and start becoming detrimental? I come across this problem frequently when deciding what kinds of media to partake in. That rated “R” movie, for instance, might tell a powerful story, but at what point does the violence or the language or other negative content detract from the good that it might do for my soul?

    Just some thoughts. I know that in order to become such a brilliant writer and thinker, Bradbury must have had to expose himself to all sorts of horrific ideas. I just wonder if his soul benefited from it in the long run.


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