News / Arts & Entertainment

Science Fiction Icon Ray Bradbury Dies at 91

A November 2000 file photo shows science fiction writer Ray Bradbury at the National Book Awards in New York.
A November 2000 file photo shows science fiction writer Ray Bradbury at the National Book Awards in New York.
Mike O'Sullivan
Iconic science fiction and fantasy writer Ray Bradbury died Tuesday in California at the age of 91.

Bradbury, who wrote the classic Fahrenheit 451, about a totalitarian future when books are burned, and more than two dozen other novels and 600 short stories, was probably more instrumental than any other 20th century American author in popularizing, and legitimizing, science fiction and fantasy.

Born in a small town in Illinois in 1920, he read popular publications with titles like Weird Tales, Thrilling Wonder Stories and Astounding Science Fiction.

At an early age he resolved that, lacking athletic talents, he would stop competing with his peers and instead do what gave him the most pleasure: reading and writing. He was 12 when he set himself the goal of writing at least four hours a day, a practice that stayed with him throughout his lifetime. He published his first story in Weird Tales when he was 20.

Ray Bradbury recalled in an interview that his parents were poor and he never attended college.

“But I had enough sense when I was 18-years old to start going to the library five or six nights a week," he said. "Every morning I wrote. Every afternoon I sold newspapers on the street corner, and I graduated from the library when I was 28 years old.”

That love of libraries stayed with him throughout his life, and in a 2010 interview with the U.S. State Department he said, "what I think I can teach people is that a library is more important than a college or university."

An autodidact
At first he wrote short stories, which by his own description were "unconventional tales of ghosts and haunts."

He was inspired with tales of Mars by the adventure and science fiction writer Edgar Rice Burroughs. But Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, published in 1950, was a social commentary that dealt with current issues: the threat of nuclear war, racism, pollution, censorship, and out-of-control technology.

His love of books and aversion to censorship were the basis for what became his best known work, Fahrenheit 451, a slim 1953 novel about a fireman whose job is to burn books, but who joins an underground group devoted to memorizing the classics in order to preserve them. The book was made into a movie in 1966, starring Julie Christie and Oskar Werner.

Some ideas for Bradbury's stories and poems came from his vast collection of mementos. Magazines, toys, costumes, all kinds of souvenirs going back to his childhood years cluttered the room in his home that he used as an office. In an interview with CBS news, he said he refused to throw any of them away.

"You never know where you are going to get an idea, and really these are metaphors as I look around at them, and one by one, I pick up on them," he said. "I say, 'that would make a short story.' So I begin to type, I put nouns on the paper. I describe some of these toys. Next thing you know I have a short story. So I've learned not to throw things away because that's what a writer is, a collector of objects, symbols, metaphors. Call them what you will, but you never know when something here is going to turn into another story."

Bradbury wrote for radio and television, and published collections of his poems and essays.

His advice for those who, like him, aspire to become writers: “Do what you love, and love what you do."

Genre-busting legacy
His admirers have called him an inspired and prolific voice in many genres, and literary critics have said it is misleading to call Ray Bradbury simply a science fiction writer.

Scientist and fellow author Isaac Asimov called Bradbury a writer of "social fiction," and Bradbury once described his own writings as "speculative fiction."

For all of his tales about science, technology and the future, however, Bradbury often shunned conveniences of modern-day life.

He refused to drive a car, explaining he witnessed an automobile accident as a young man that left him forever terrified of driving. And for much of his life he refused to fly in airplanes.

He also had a lingering distrust of computers. In his State Department interview, he said the information available to people on computers "is not quite the same as the information you get in a library," adding that if he had his way, "I would burn the computers and not the libraries."

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

You May Like

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”