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 universe...you'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.