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In Memoriam:
Ray Bradbury

June 5, 2012


You always know that sooner later your favourite actor or writer will die but sometimes it seems that you think of them as people who are destined to live forever. Unfortuantely that is not the case but they will live in the body of their work...forever.

Ray Douglas Bradbury (August 22, 1920 June 5, 2012) was an American fantasy, science fiction, horror and mystery fiction writer. Best known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 (1953) and for the science fiction and horror stories gathered together as The Martian Chronicles (1950) and The Illustrated Man (1951), Bradbury was one of the most celebrated 20th-century American writers. Many of Bradbury's works have been adapted into television shows or films.

Bradbury was born in 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois, to Esther (Moberg) Bradbury, a Swedish immigrant, and Leonard Spaulding Bradbury,[6] a power and telephone lineman. He was given the middle name "Douglas," after the actor, Douglas Fairbanks.

He attributed to two incidents his lifelong habit of writing every day. The first of these, occurring when he was three years old, was his mother's taking him to see Lon Chaney's performance in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The second incident occurred in 1932, when a carnival entertainer, one Mr. Electrico, touched the young man on the nose with an electrified sword, made his hair stand on end, and shouted, "Live forever!" Bradbury remarked, "I felt that something strange and wonderful had happened to me because of my encounter with Mr. Electrico...[he] gave me a future...I began to write, full-time. I have written every single day of my life since that day 69 years ago." It was at that age that Bradbury first started to do magic, which was his first great love. If he had not discovered writing, he would have become a magician.

"I'm so blessed to be in the position I am, to be the first person to be right here and to be the first person in the world who will ever be right here, this is truly breathtaking,'' said Wallenda who was wearing a microphone.

''This is what dreams are made of people, pursue your dreams.''

Wallenda, dressed in red and black and holding a long pole horizontally for balance, appeared soaked from the raging waters below.

Bradbury sold his first story, "The Lake", for $13.75 at the age of twenty-two. He became a full-time writer by the end of 1942. His first collection of short stories, Dark Carnival, was published in 1947 by Arkham House, a small press in Sauk City, Wisconsin, owned by writer August Derleth.

Once described as a "Midwest surrealist", he is generally labeled a science fiction writer. Bradbury resisted that categorization, however:

First of all, I don't write science fiction. I've only done one science fiction book and that's Fahrenheit 451, based on reality. It was named so to represent the temperature at which paper ignites. Science fiction is a depiction of the real. Fantasy is a depiction of the unreal. So Martian Chronicles is not science fiction, it's fantasy. It couldn't happen, you see? That's the reason it's going to be around a long time because it's a Greek myth, and myths have staying power.[37]

On another occasion, Bradbury observed that the novel touches on the alienation of people by media:

In writing the short novel Fahrenheit 451 I thought I was describing a world that might evolve in four or five decades. But only a few weeks ago, in Beverly Hills one night, a husband and wife passed me, walking their dog. I stood staring after them, absolutely stunned. The woman held in one hand a small cigarette-package-sized radio, its antenna quivering. From this sprang tiny copper wires which ended in a dainty cone plugged into her right ear. There she was, oblivious to man and dog, listening to far winds and whispers and soap opera cries, sleep walking, helped up and down curbs by a husband who might just as well not have been there. This was not fiction.

Besides his fiction work, Bradbury wrote many short essays on the arts and culture, attracting the attention of critics in this field. Bradbury also hosted "The Ray Bradbury Theater" which was based on his short stories. Bradbury was a consultant for the American Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair and the original exhibit housed in Epcot's Spaceship Earth geosphere at Walt Disney World.[39][40][41] In the 1980s, Bradbury concentrated on detective fiction.

Several comic book writers have adapted Bradbury's stories. Particularly noted among these were EC Comics' line of horror and science-fiction comics, which often featured Bradbury's name on the cover announcing that one story in that issue would be an adaptation of his work. The comics featuring Bradbury's stories included Tales from the Crypt, Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, Crime Suspenstories, Haunt of Fear and others.

Ray Bradbury was married to Marguerite McClure (January 16, 1922 November 24, 2003) from 1947 until her death; they had four daughters: Susan, Ramona, Bettina and Alexandra.[44] Bradbury never obtained a driver's license.[45] Maggie, as his wife of fifty-six years was affectionately called, was the only woman Bradbury ever dated.

Bradbury was a close friend of Charles Addams, and Addams illustrated the first of Bradbury's stories about the Elliotts, a family that would resemble Addams' own Addams Family placed in rural Illinois. Bradbury's first story about them was "Homecoming," published in the 1946 Halloween issue of Mademoiselle, with Addams illustrations. He and Addams planned a larger collaborative work that would tell the family's complete history, but it never materialized, and according to a 2001 interview, they went their separate ways.[47] In October 2001, Bradbury published all the Family stories he had written in one book with a connecting narrative, From the Dust Returned, featuring a wraparound Addams cover of the original "Homecoming" illustration.

Another close friend was animator Ray Harryhausen. During a BAFTA 2010 awards tribute in honor of Ray Harryhausen's 90th birthday, Bradbury spoke of his first meeting Harryhausen at Forrest J Ackerman's house when they were both 18 years old. Their shared love for science fiction, King Kong, and the King Vidor-directed film The Fountainhead, written by Ayn Rand, was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. These early influences inspired the pair to believe in themselves and affirm their career choices. Since their first meeting, they kept in touch at least once a month, spanning over 70 years of friendship.

Bradbury suffered a stroke in 1999 that left him partially dependent on a wheelchair for mobility. Despite this he continued to write, and had even written an essay on his inspiration for writing for The New Yorker published only a week prior to his death. Bradbury made regular appearances at science fiction conventions until 2009, when he retired from the circuit.

Bradbury was a strong supporter of public library systems, and helped to raise money to prevent the closure of several in California due to budgetary cuts. He iterated from his past that "libraries raised me", and shunned colleges and universities, comparing his own lack of funds during the Depression with poor contemporary students. He exhibited skepticism with regard to modern technology by resisting the conversion of his work into e-books and stating that

"We have too many cellphones. We've got too many internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now."

When the publishing rights for Fahrenheit 451 came up for renewal in December 2011, Bradbury conceded that the work could be published in an electronic form provided that the publisher, Simon & Schuster, allowed the e-book to be digitally downloaded by any library patron. The title remains the only book in the Simon & Schuster catalog where this is possible.

Bradbury chose a burial place at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles with a headstone that reads "Author of Fahrenheit 451".

Bradbury died in Los Angeles, California, on June 5, 2012, at the age of 91,[58] after a "lengthy illness", coincidentally during a rare transit of Venus.

The New York Times' obituary stated that Bradbury was "the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream."[59] The Los Angeles Times credited Bradbury with the ability "to write lyrically and evocatively of lands an imagination away, worlds he anchored in the here and now with a sense of visual clarity and small-town familiarity". Bradbury's grandson, Danny Karapetian, stated that Bradbury's works had "influenced so many artists, writers, teachers, scientists, and it's always really touching and comforting to hear their stories".[44] The Washington Post hallmarked several modern day technologies that Bradbury had envisioned much earlier in his writing, such as the idea of banking ATMs and earbuds and Bluetooth headsets from Fahrenheit 451, and the concepts of artificial intelligence within I Sing the Body Electric.

Several celebrity fans of Bradbury paid tribute to the author by stating the influence of his works on their own careers and creations. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg stated that Bradbury was "[his] muse for the better part of [his] sci-fi career.... On the world of science fiction and fantasy and imagination he is immortal". Writer Neil Gaiman felt that "the landscape of the world we live in would have been diminished if we had not had him in our world". Author Stephen King released a statement on his website saying, "Ray Bradbury wrote three great novels and three hundred great stories. One of the latter was called 'A Sound of Thunder.' The sound I hear today is the thunder of a giant's footsteps fading away. But the novels and stories remain, in all their resonance and strange beauty."

On June 6, 2012, in an official public statement from the White House Press Office, President Barack Obama said: "For many Americans, the news of Ray Bradbury's death immediately brought to mind images from his work, imprinted in our minds, often from a young age. His gift for storytelling reshaped our culture and expanded our world. But Ray also understood that our imaginations could be used as a tool for better understanding, a vehicle for change, and an expression of our most cherished values. There is no doubt that Ray will continue to inspire many more generations with his writing, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends."






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