RIP Ray BradburyPosted: June 6, 2012
Legendary Science Fiction author Ray Bradbury has died at age 91. Bradbury was a favorite of mine. His books got me started down the path of reading the genre. Many of his best books have become movies. My junior high school had us read and watch Fahrenheit 451.
His writings ranged from horror and mystery to humor and sympathetic stories about the Irish, blacks and Mexican-Americans. Bradbury also scripted John Huston’s 1956 film version of “Moby Dick” and wrote for “The Twilight Zone” and other television programs, including “The Ray Bradbury Theater,” for which he adapted dozens of his works.
“What I have always been is a hybrid author,” Bradbury said in 2009. “I am completely in love with movies, and I am completely in love with theater, and I am completely in love with libraries.”
Bradbury broke through in 1950 with “The Martian Chronicles,” a series of intertwined stories that satirized capitalism, racism and superpower tensions as it portrayed Earth colonizers destroying an idyllic Martian civilization.
Like Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End” and the Robert Wise film “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” Bradbury’s book was a Cold War morality tale in which imagined lives on other planets serve as commentary on human behavior on Earth. “The Martian Chronicles” has been published in more than 30 languages, was made into a TV miniseries and inspired a computer game.
“The Martian Chronicles” prophesized the banning of books, especially works of fantasy, a theme Bradbury would take on fully in the 1953 release, “Fahrenheit 451.” Inspired by the Cold War, the rise of television and the author’s passion for libraries, it was an apocalyptic narrative of nuclear war abroad and empty pleasure at home, with firefighters assigned to burn books instead of putting blazes out (451 degrees Fahrenheit, Bradbury had been told, was the temperature at which texts went up in flames).
It was Bradbury’s only true science-fiction work, according to the author, who said all his other works should have been classified as fantasy. “It was a book based on real facts and also on my hatred for people who burn books,” he told The Associated Press in 2002.
His books were as much social statements on our modern lives as they were about possible futures.
Upon hearing of the death of Ray Bradbury, author of The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, and Something Wicked This Way Comes, director Guillermo del Toro e-mailed Vulture a brief note. “I feel lonelier. The world is vast and barren: Bradbury was one of the titans of fantastic fiction and a unique voice in American literature. The lyricism of his prose influenced many generations across the globe. A humanist before anything else, Bradbury nurtured my youthful hopes, my flights of fancy. His soul was gentle but his imagination was fierce.”
Bradbury was prolific. Yet, many of his books are literary classics. He lifted a genre known for bad b grade movies and worse paper back dime store pap to something beyond.
Ray Bradbury’s more than 27 novels and 600 short stories helped give stylistic heft to fantasy and science fiction. In ‘The Martian Chronicles’ and other works, the L.A.-based Bradbury mixed small-town familiarity with otherworldly settings.
He had been way laid by a stroke recently. Still, he will be known as an enduring figure of the last century as he projected and wrote about our possible futures.