A Very Sad Day: Science Fiction Author Ray Bradbury Dies at 91
[QUOTE]Ray Bradbury, the science fiction-fantasy master who transformed his childhood dreams and Cold War fears into telepathic Martians, lovesick sea monsters, and, in uncanny detail, the high-tech, book-burning future of "Fahrenheit 451," has died. He was 91.
He died Tuesday night, his daughter said Wednesday. Alexandra Bradbury did not have additional details.
Although slowed in recent years by a stroke that meant he had to use a wheelchair, Bradbury remained active into his 90s, turning out new novels, plays, screenplays and a volume of poetry. He wrote every day in the basement office of his Cheviot Hills home and appeared from time to time at bookstores, public library fundraisers and other literary events around Los Angeles.
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.
A futuristic classic often taught alongside George Orwell's "1984" and Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World," Bradbury's novel anticipated iPods, interactive television, electronic surveillance and live, sensational media events, including televised police pursuits. Francois Truffaut directed a 1966 movie version and the book's title was referenced -- without Bradbury's permission, the author complained -- for Michael Moore's documentary "Fahrenheit 9-11."
Although involved in many futuristic projects, including the New York World's Fair of 1964 and the Spaceship Earth display at Walt Disney World in Florida, Bradbury was deeply attached to the past. He refused to drive a car or fly, telling the AP that witnessing a fatal traffic accident as a child left behind a permanent fear of automobiles. In his younger years, he got around by bicycle or roller-skates.
"I'm not afraid of machines," he told Writer's Digest in 1976. "I don't think the robots are taking over. I think the men who play with toys have taken over. And if we don't take the toys out of their hands, we're fools."
Bradbury's literary style was honed in pulp magazines and influenced by Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, and he became the rare science fiction writer treated seriously by the literary world. In 2007, he received a special Pulitzer Prize citation "for his distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy." Seven years earlier, he received an honorary National Book Award medal for lifetime achievement, an honor given to Philip Roth and Arthur Miller among others.
"Everything I've done is a surprise, a wonderful surprise," Bradbury said during his acceptance speech in 2000. "I sometimes get up at night when I can't sleep and walk down into my library and open one of my books and read a paragraph and say, `My God, did I write that? Did I write that?', because it's still a surprise."
Other honors included an Academy Award nomination for an animated film, "Icarus Montgolfier Wright," and an Emmy for his teleplay of "The Halloween Tree." His fame even extended to the moon, where Apollo astronauts named a crater "Dandelion Crater," in honor of "Dandelion Wine," his beloved coming-of-age novel, and an asteroid was named 9766 Bradbury.
Born Ray Douglas Bradbury on Aug. 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Ill., the author once described himself as "that special freak, the man with the child inside who remembers all." He claimed to have total recall of his life, dating even to his final weeks in his mother's womb.
His father, Leonard, a power company lineman, was a descendant of Mary Bradbury, who was tried for witchcraft at Salem, Mass. The author's mother, Esther, read him the "Wizard of Oz." His Aunt Neva introduced him to Edgar Allan Poe and gave him a love of autumn, with its pumpkin picking and Halloween costumes.
"If I could have chosen my birthday, Halloween would be it," he said over the years.
Nightmares that plagued him as a boy also stocked his imagination, as did his youthful delight with the Buck Rogers and Tarzan comic strips, early horror films, Tom Swift adventure books and the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.
"The great thing about my life is that everything I've done is a result of what I was when I was 12 or 13," he said in 1982.
Bradbury's family moved to Los Angeles in 1934. He became a movie buff and a voracious reader. "I never went to college, so I went to the library," he explained.
He tried to write at least 1,000 words a day, and sold his first story in 1941. He submitted work to pulp magazines until he was finally accepted by such upscale publications as The New Yorker. Bradbury's first book, a short story collection called "Dark Carnival," was published in 1947.
He was so poor during those years that he didn't have an office or even a telephone. "When the phone rang in the gas station right across the alley from our house, I'd run to answer it," he said.
He wrote "Fahrenheit 451" at the UCLA library, on typewriters that rented for 10 cents a half hour. He said he carried a sack full of dimes to the library and completed the book in nine days, at a cost of $9.80.
Few writers could match the inventiveness of his plots: A boy outwits a vampire by stuffing him with silver coins; a dinosaur mistakes a fog horn for a mating call (filmed as "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms"); Ernest Hemingway is flown back to life on a time machine. In "The Illustrated Man," one of his most famous stories, a man's tattoo foretells a horrifying deed -- he will murder his wife.
A dynamic speaker with a booming, distinctive voice, he could be blunt and gruff. But Bradbury was also a gregarious and friendly man, approachable in public and often generous with his time to readers as well as fellow writers.
In 2009, at a lecture celebrating the first anniversary of a small library in Southern California's San Gabriel Valley, Bradbury exhorted his listeners to live their lives as he said he had lived his: "Do what you love and love what you do."
"If someone tells you to do something for money, tell them to go to hell," he shouted to raucous applause.
Until near the end of his life, Bradbury resisted one of the innovations he helped anticipate: electronic books, likening them to burnt metal and urging readers to stick to the old-fashioned pleasures of ink and paper. But in late 2011, as the rights to "Fahrenheit 451" were up for renewal, he gave in and allowed his most famous novel to come out in digital form. In return, he received a great deal of money and a special promise from Simon & Schuster: The publisher agreed to make the e-book available to libraries, the only Simon & Schuster e-book at the time that library patrons were allowed to download.
Bradbury is survived by his four daughters. Marguerite Bradbury, his wife of 56 years, died in 2003.[/QUOTE]
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.
It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
[B][URL="http://reason.com/archives/2012/06/08/ray-bradbury-enemy-of-the-state"]Ray Bradbury: Enemy of the State[/URL][/B]
[B]Remembering the late science fiction writer[/B]
[URL="http://reason.com/people/charles-c-johnson/all"]Charles C. Johnson[/URL] | June 8, 2012
Ray Bradbury won’t “live forever,” as he wished, but he may well live on as the most-read critic of the state in America’s public schools. It was in public school that I first encountered Bradbury’s magnum opus, [I]Fahrenheit 451[/I], which is required reading in the government schools he would have shuttered.
Bradbury, who died this week at the age of 91, was a man of the right, a detail sadly airbrushed out of most obituaries this week. Like the best science fiction writers, he imagined worlds and realms outside the grasp of government, where the focus was always on the people that populated them, not on the gizmos in their pockets.
Libertarians can easily see one of their own in the non-comformist nonagenarian, who, despite moving to Los Angeles in the 1930s, never bothered to learn how to drive. A consummate autodidact, he also never went to college. And good thing too! He hated affirmative action, condemned “all this political correctness that’s rampant on campuses,” and called for an immediate ban of quotas in higher education. “The whole concept of higher education is negated,” [URL="http://www.raybradbury.com/articles_playboy.html"]he told[/URL] [I]Playboy[/I] in 1996, “unless the sole criterion used to determine if students qualify is the grades they score on standardized tests.”
But Bradbury’s antipathy to formal education went deeper than passing controversies. He knew that educators, like politicians, are the natural enemies of dreamers. “Science fiction acknowledges that we don’t want to be lectured at, just shown enough so we can look it up ourselves,” he continued in that [I]Playboy[/I] interview. His can-do optimism recalled the small Illinois town his family left, ultimately finding its place in his fiction even if it was set on distant worlds, which he longed to explore and colonize. For Bradbury, it was the politicians who “have no romance in their hearts or dreams in their heads” that ultimately kept America earthbound. And Bradbury, who grew up on the romantic fiction of Hugo, had romance and love to share, penning some 27 novels and 600 short stories.
He didn’t hate all politicians, though. He called Ronald Reagan “the greatest president” and received the National Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush. He reserved his greatest criticisms for Bill Clinton, whom he dismissed as a “****head,” and for Barack Obama, who ended NASA’s manned space flight program. That was one government program Bradbury did like. He believed it was the key to humanity become a multi-planetary species.
“We should go to the moon and prepare a base to fire off to Mars and then go to Mars and colonize Mars. Then when we do that, we will live forever,” he told the [I]Los Angeles Times[/I] in 2010. Bradbury at least lived to see the successful mission of SpaceX, a private company headed by Elon Musk, a sci-fi fan who shares Bradbury’s dream of interplanetary colonization.
“I think our country is in need of a revolution,” Bradbury told the [I]L.A. Times[/I]. “There is too much government today. We’ve got to remember the government should be by the people, of the people, and for the people.” He told [I]Time[/I] a week later, “I don’t believe in government. I hate politics. I’m against it. And I hope that sometimes this fall, we can destroy part of our government, and next year destroy even more of it. The less government, the happier I will be.”
Government’s existence notwithstanding, Bradbury still found contentment. He was happiest over a typewriter, dreaming and writing his customary 1,000 words a day. There, living the joy of meaningful work, as he told [I]Playboy[/I], he “made the major discovery of my life.” Namely, “I am right and everybody else is wrong if they disagree with me. What a great thing to learn: Don’t listen to anyone else, and always go your own way.”
Not everybody saw it that way, of course, and Bradbury devoted much time to warning about the tyranny of both the majority and the minority, which “both want to control you.” His response to those attempts at control was simple:[INDENT] Whether you're a majority or minority, bug off! To hell with anybody who wants to tell me what to write. Their society breaks down into subsections of minorities who then, in effect, burn books by banning them.[/INDENT]Fortunately for the world, Ray Bradbury escaped the censors and insured that his work will live forever.
[I]Charles C. Johnson is a writer in Los Angeles and author of a forthcoming biography of Calvin Coolidge.[/I][/QUOTE]