Science Fiction author Ray Bradbury dies

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury transformed his inner child in to notable works of science fiction that have been recognized with awards and citations for lifetime achievement.
Image: Alan Light.
Austrian actor Oskar Werner portrayed the fireman Guy Montag in the 1966 Truffaut film adaptation of Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451.
Image: Geoffrey Chandler.

U.S. science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, who was 91, died in Los Angeles on Tuesday, according to his daughter.

Bradbury's most famous novels are The Martian Chronicles (1950) and Fahrenheit 451 (1953), and a collection of short stories The Illustrated Man (1951), but he was also known for helping write the script for John Huston's film adaptation of Moby Dick (1956), his works for the televised anthologies The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents and hosting a similar TV show later, The Ray Bradbury Theater, which included episodes based on his work.

In an interview, Bradbury said that he was "that special freak, the man with the child inside who remembers all."

He started as a short story writer for pulp magazines like many science fiction and fantasy writers in this period, and eventually compiled his first book: Dark Carnival (1947), a short story collection. He wrote his two most famous novels at the beginning of the 1950s. A book editor suggested he use his stories about Martians to create a unified work in book form, and Bradbury turned the idea into his Martian Chronicles. He said he churned out Fahrenheit 451 on a typewriter that he rented at the library for a dime every half hour at a total cost of US $9.80, which meant that it would have taken him exactly 49 hours to write the classic.

His book Fahrenheit 451 cut to the heart of book banning and burning in the twentieth century as it imagined a future in which books were outlawed and minds were controlled by the state through a TV-and-Internet-like technology. French director François Truffaut adapted Fahrenheit 451 into a 1966 New Wave film of the same name and in English, which starred Austrian actor Oskar Werner as the fireman Guy Montag and British actress Julie Christie as Clarisse. The BBC dramatized the same book in 1982. Fahrenheit 451 was even adapted to an off-Broadway play. Bradbury said he did not like the similarity of Michael Moore's title for the documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, a film critical of the George W. Bush administration, to his novel about book burning.

The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451 and The Illustrated Man have been a staple of reading in U.S. education. In an interview with Fox News in 2004, Bradbury talked about changes in reading that occurred in education since his generation of science fiction started their careers: "When I started writing that book [The Martian Chronicles] 53 years ago, science fiction was not being taught in the schools. Now every school in the country has a course in science fiction. So we have more power, more influence, more imagination than ever before. Millions of students now, in all the schools of America, are reading science fiction and especially, thank God, The Martian Chronicles."

What Bradbury books have you read, and how have they influenced you?

The name of his play Dandelion Wine was used as an honor when it was used to name a crater on the moon. An asteroid, known as 9766 Bradbury, was named after him. At the turn of the century, his body of work was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Book Award committee in 2000, U.S. National Medal of Arts in 2004, and later a Pulitzer Prize citation in 2007.

The author's grandson Danny Karapetian said, "His legacy lives on in his monumental body of books, film, television and theatre, 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."