Which is a pretty damned good run, when you think about it. I'm sure Death had one hell of a battle getting him to sit still for it.
I'm pretty sure I've said this several times, but back in 1978 I harbored hopes of becoming a writer (don't we all). I discovered Ray's address in a copy of "Who's Who" and in my young arrogance wrote to him asking for advice. Much to my shock he not only wrote me back, but included a few booklets he'd come up with with practical advice on writing. The two things that stay with me to this day are "Don't think" and "Don't accept any criticism unless it's good".
I loved his works. There was a certain rhythm to his words and cadence that just carried you along. And oh he was a master of the opening line. "It was a pleasure to burn." Certainly got your attention, didn't it? But my favorite bit was in "Something Wicked This Way Comes", where he builds up this incredible dramatic bit with Will against the carnival...and the next chapter is simply "Nothing much else happened the rest of the night."
I wrote to him on two other occasions-can't remember why--but he was always gracious in responding. And the highlight of my life was meeting him at Archon in 1996. I was still very much reeling from the death of my father a year earlier, so things like this felt a lot more intense than normal. I gave him two of my tattered old books to autograph--the copy of "Fahrenheit 451" that I'd bought from Scholastic back in 1968, and another tattered copy of "Martian Chronicles"...and somehow managed to tell him how much of a guide and inspiration he'd been to me. He was very gracious and allowed me to get my picture taken with him--which is sitting back at my apartment near the computer.
I won't pretend that I have ever been any great shakes as a writer. I've written tons of fanfic and have one professional sale to my record. But anything I've learned and/or developed over the years started with Ray and the advice he gave me way back when--especially on how to read not only WHAT other writers are saying, but HOW they say it and add it to your repertoire.
He was my hero, and yes I'm sad, but I'm also celebrating one hell of a great life. "One For His Lordship, And One For The Road!"
Addendum: If you're remotely curious about what he suggested back in '78, this is most of it.