Ray Bradbury Dies at 91

Ray Bradbury - P 2012
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Ray Bradbury - P 2012

The science fiction legend was the author of numerous classics including "Fahrenheit 451" and "The Martian Chronicles."

Ray Bradbury, who authored the novel Fahrenheit 451 and was revered for his science fiction and fantasy writings, died Tuesday night in Los Angeles. He was 91.

His daughter, Alexandra Bradbury, confirmed the author's death to The Associated Press, giving no further details.

A writer of immense energy and creative abilities, Bradbury was prolific: More than 500 of his works -- novels, plays, screenplays, TV scripts, verse -- were published or performed. Bradbury's best-regarded and popular books, in addition to Fahrenheit 451, were The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Although often categorized as a science fiction writer, Bradbury was an ebullient personality and a versatile writer. He distinguished between sci-fi and fantasy by noting that “science fiction could happen.” Never pigeonholed, Bradbury wrote whatever “seizes him,” expressing himself in such varied forms as mystery, fantasy, horror and literary. He invigorated his writings, and the genres themselves, with social satire and prescient political insights.

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Fahrenheit 451, set in a totalitarian futuristic society, centered on Montag, a fireman whose job was to burn books; ultimately, he joins a subversive group dedicated to memorizing the works.

A film version directed by Francois Truffaut was released by Universal in 1966. Most recently, writer-director Frank Darabont has adapted the work for film.

Bradbury won the National Book Foundation's 2000 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In 2004 he won the National Medal of Arts. The publication of The Martian Chronicles in 1950 catapulted his career. He penned numerous novels and short story collections in the 1950s and '60s including The Golden Apples of the Sun, Dandelion Wine, A Medicine for Melancholy and I Sing the Body Electric! He wrote Long After Midnight in 1976.

Bradbury was a highly regarded short-story writer. His story The Meteor, about aliens who landed in the Arizona desert, was filmed as It Came From Outer Space (1953) and was an inspiration to Steven Spielberg when he was creating Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

With his eclectic imaginative energies, Bradbury worked in several mediums. He wrote the screenplay for Moby Dick (1956), directed by John Huston. The Screaming Woman was made into a TV movie in 1972, and The Martian Chronicles was an NBC miniseries in 1980, starring Rock Hudson. Other Bradbury works adapted for TV include The Electric Grandmother and Any Friend of Nicholas Nicklelby's Is a Friend of Mine, both airing in 1982.

He worked with the Walt Disney Co. in creating the Disneyland Paris. He also was active in EPCOT and was a strong advocate of a Los Angeles monorail system. Ironically, for all his futuristic perception and scientific knowledge, Bradbury disliked using computers and had little time for the Internet. A man of engaging contradictions, Bradbury also did not drive. He often spoke at USC and sometimes would startle appreciative students with a request for a lift home.

When asked about technology and its abuses, he responded to Writer's Digest in 1976: “I'm not afraid of machines … 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.”

He worked in radio and drama in the 1950s, scripting or writing for such programs as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Steve Canyon, Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, Tales of Tomorrow and Suspense.

He hosted a syndicated anthology TV series, The Ray Bradbury Theater, from 1985 to 1992. During the '60s, he focused on the stage and created a number of one-act works. One-acters of The Veldt, The Pedestrian and To the Chicago Abyss played at the Coronet Theatre in 1964. Stage productions of The Martian Chronicles and Dandelion Wine have also been performed. His plays have been published by Bantam and Dial.

For children, he wrote Switch on the Night, With Cat for Comforter and Dogs Think That Every Day Is Christmas.

Ray Douglas Bradbury was born Aug. 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Illinois. His father was a power and telephone lineman. Despite poor eyesight, he was a voracious reader. A huge fan of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, he wrote his own science fiction as a teen, selling to magazines.

In 1932, his family moved to Tucson, Ariz., and Bradbury developed an interest as an amateur magician. He performed on a local radio show, reading comic strips on the air. He was paid in free tickets to a local movie house, where he developed an interest in horror movies.

The family moved to Los Angeles In 1934, and Bradbury graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1938. He decided against college, preferring to educate himself. During the three years after high school, Bradbury earned money by selling newspapers.

In 1941, Bradbury sold his first short story to Super Science Stories. The 21-year-old was inspired, writing tales of horror, the macabre and the supernatural. He churned out a story a week that year, selling three of them. In 1945, he garnered his first national sales for such publications as Colliers, Charm and Mademoiselle.

A number of his short stories, tales of horror he wrote during his teenage years, were compiled and published as his first book, Dark Carnival, in 1947. In 1950, 26 of Bradbury's stories about Martians were published by Doubleday as The Martian Chronicles. A fortuitous meeting with writer Christopher Isherwood in an L.A. bookstore occasioned Isherwood to read his work. Isherwood's book review, which declared that Bradbury was “a very great and unusual talent,” catapulted the young writer's career.

He has an asteroid named in his honor, “9766 Bradbury,” along with a crater on the moon, named after his novel Dandelion Wine. He was presented an honorary doctorate from Woodbury University in 2003.

Bradbury was married since 1947 to Marguerite Susan McClure, a former English instructor at UCLA, and they have four daughters: Susan, Ramona, Bettina and Alexandra.