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

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant 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 Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

Country-pop singer, Lizzie Sider sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to perform songs from her new album, “Butterfly,” and to talk about her anti-bullying tour.