Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury, Sci-Fi Author, "Fahrenheit 451", "The Martian Chronicles" 1920-2012

Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and other beloved science fiction novels, died Tuesday night at the age of 91, according to the AP.

"His legacy lives on in his monumental body of books, film, television and theater, but more importantly, in the minds and hearts of anyone who read him, because to read him was to know him. He was the biggest kid I know," his grandson told the i09 science fiction blog.

Bradbury sold eight million copies of his books in 36 languages, according to The New York Times' obit.

He attributed his success as a writer to never having gone to college--instead, he read and wrote voraciously. "When I graduated from high school in 1938, I began going to the library three nights a week," he said in an interview with The Paris Review. "I did this every week for almost ten years and finally, in 1947, around the time I got married, I figured I was done. So I graduated from the library when I was twenty-seven. I discovered that the library is the real school."

"The universe is a little emptier right now," Texas A&M Commerce English Professor Robin Ann Reid told Yahoo News. She wrote a book about Bradbury's works and sits on the board of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. "There's less of that sense of joy and exultation that he was writing in his works all the way to the end."

Reid said Bradbury was the first writer to jump from pulp magazines to mainstream literary magazines, thus bringing science fiction writing into the mainstream. Bradbury also wrote fantasy and horror.

His best known book, Fahrenheit 451, was a dystopian tale set in the future about a society where books were banned and firefighters spent all day burning them. "Bradbury's novel anticipated iPods, interactive television, electronic surveillance and live, sensational media events, including televised police pursuits," the Associated Press writes.

Bradbury suffered a stroke in 1999, and lost his wife in 2003, but he continued to write.

Bradbury's biographer Jonathan Eller said in a statement that Bradbury "hated intolerance, and those who deny the existence of intolerance. He was not afraid to write about and condemn the evils of prejudice and racial inequality at a time when such stories were hard to publish in America." Eller also pointed to Bradbury's words to Caltech's graduating class of 2000, whom he urged "to witness, to celebrate, and to be part of this're here one time, you're not coming back. And you owe, don't you? You owe back for the gift of life."

Bradbury recently wrote a short essay responding to his favorite Snoopy comic strip about how much rejection he faced when he first began writing. "Starting when I was fifteen I began to send short stories to magazines like Esquire, and they, very promptly, sent them back two days before they got them! I have several walls in several rooms of my house covered with the snowstorm of rejections, but they didn't realize what a strong person I was; I persevered and wrote a thousand more dreadful short stories, which were rejected in turn," he wrote.

But he said later in The Paris Review interview that he did not feel responsible for his own writing success, saying he felt that God helped him write. "The best description of my career as a writer is 'at play in the fields of the Lord.' It's been wonderful fun and I'll be damned where any of it came from. I've been fortunate. Very fortunate," he said.

In a recent issue of the New Yorker, Bradbury wrote about discovering science fiction stories as a child growing up in Waukegan, Illinois, and his love for his grandfather. "I would go out to that lawn on summer nights and reach up to the red light of Mars and say, "Take me home!" I yearned to fly away and land there in the strange dusts that blew over dead-sea bottoms toward the ancient cities," he wrote.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Richard Dawson, Actor, "Hogan's Heroes", host of "Family Feud" 1932-2012

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Richard Dawson, the wisecracking British entertainer who was among the schemers in the 1960s TV comedy "Hogan's Heroes" and a decade later began kissing thousands of female contestants as host of the game show "Family Feud" has died. He was 79.

Dawson, also known to TV fans as the Cockney prisoner-of-war Cpl. Peter Newkirk on "Hogan's Heroes," died Saturday night from complications related to esophageal cancer at Ronald Reagan Memorial Hospital, his son Gary said.

The game show, which initially ran from 1976 to 1985, pitted families who tried to guess the most popular answers to poll questions such as "What do people give up when they go on a diet?"

Dawson won a daytime Emmy Award in 1978 as best TV game show host. Tom Shales of The Washington Post called him "the fastest, brightest and most beguilingly caustic interlocutor since the late great Groucho bantered and parried on 'You Bet Your Life.'" The show was so popular it was released as both daytime and syndicated evening versions.

He was known for kissing each woman contestant, and at the time the show bowed out in 1985, executive producer Howard Felsher estimated that Dawson had kissed "somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000."

"I kissed them for luck and love, that's all," Dawson said at the time.

He reprised his game show character in a much darker mood in the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger film "The Running Man," playing the host of a deadly TV show set in a totalitarian future, where convicts try to escape as their executioners stalk them. "Saturday Night Live" mocked him in the 1970s, with Bill Murray portraying him as leering and nasty, even slapping one contestant (John Belushi) for getting too fresh.

The British-born actor already had gained fame as the fast-talking Newkirk in "Hogan's Heroes," the CBS comedy about prisoners in a Nazi POW camp who hoodwink their captors and run the place themselves.

Despite its unlikely premise, the show made the ratings top 10 in its first season, 1965-66, and ran until 1971.

Both "Hogan's Heroes" and "Family Feud" have had a second life in recent years, the former on DVD reissues and the latter on cable television's GSN, formerly known as the Game Show Network.

On Dawson's last "Family Feud" in 1985, the studio audience honored him with a standing ovation, and he responded: "Please sit down. I have to do at least 30 minutes of fun and laughter and you make me want to cry."

"I've had the most incredible luck in my career," he told viewers.

"I never dreamed I would have a job in which so many people could touch me and I could touch them," he said. That triggered an unexpected laugh.

Producers brought out "The New Family Feud," starring comedian Ray Combs, in 1988. Six years later, Dawson replaced Combs at the helm, but that lasted only one season.

According to the Internet Movie Database, Dawson was born Colin Lionel Emm in 1932 in Gosport, England. His first wife was actress Diana Dors, the blond bombshell who was Britain's answer to Marilyn Monroe.

"Survey Says! Rest In Peace."