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June 7, 2012 - Ray Douglas Bradbury, who was born Aug. 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Illinois, died June 5 in Los Angeles. He was 91.
Ray Bradbury was a boundlessly imaginative novelist who wrote some of the most popular science-fiction books of all time, including “Fahrenheit 451” and “The Martian Chronicles,” and who transformed the genre of flying saucers and little green men into literature exploring childhood terrors, colonialism, and the erosion of individual thought.
Mr. Bradbury, who began his career in the 1930s contributing stories to pulp-fiction magazines, received a special Pulitzer Prize citation in 2007 “for his distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy.”
His body of works, which continued to appear through recent years to terrific reviews, encompassed more than 500 titles, including novels, plays, children’s books, and short stories. His tales were often made into films, including the futuristic story of a book-burning society (director Francois Truffaut’s “Fahrenheit 451” in 1966), a suspense story about childhood fears (“Something Wicked This Way Comes” in 1983) and the more straightforward alien-attack story (“It Came From Outer Space” in 1953).
He helped write filmmaker John Huston’s 1956 movie adaptation of Herman Melville’s novel “Moby-Dick” and contributed scripts to the TV anthology programs “The Twilight Zone” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”. Mr. Bradbury hosted his own science-fiction anthology program, “The Ray Bradbury Theater,” from 1985 to 1992 on the HBO and USA cable networks.
“The Martian Chronicles,” released to wide acclaim in 1950, used the guide of science fiction to explore colonialism, nuclear war, and the transformative power of one’s environment.
The book sealed his reputation as a science-fiction writer, but Mr. Bradbury frequently eschewed the label.
“People say, ‘Are you a fantasy writer?’ No,” Mr. Bradbury told the Charlotte Observer in 1997. “ ‘Are you a science-fiction writer?’ No. I’m a magician.”
He explained, “Science fiction is the art of the possible, not the art of the impossible. As soon as you deal with things that can’t happen, you are writing fantasy.”
Mr. Bradbury said “Fahrenheit 451,” based on a novella he called “The Fireman,” was his only work of science fiction.
The 1953 book centers on Guy Montag, a fireman of the future charged with burning books. Montag joins a rogue group seeking to save the great writings of civilization through memorization. Mr. Bradbury said the story was inspired by the Nazi book bonfires of the 1930s that he saw in movie newsreels as a young man.
Many observers linked the anti-book-burning message and that “Fahrenheit 451” was published at a peak moment of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist crusade. Mr. Bradbury said “Fahrenheit 451” was not necessarily about top-down censorship.
The real threat is not from Big Brother, but from little sister [and] all those groups, men and women, who want to impose their views from below,” he told the Times of London in 1993. “If you allow every minority to grab one book off the shelf you’ll have nothing in the library.”
He developed a love of books at an early age, with favorite authors including Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, and spent many nights at the local library. In a 1985 interview with the Los Angeles Times, he recalled that he was “fairly poor” - his father was a lineman who had trouble finding work - and that he used the scraps of paper provided by the library for reference notes to write down bits of short stories.
He was inspired to write his first story at age 12 by Mr. Electrico, a performer at a traveling carnival. The performer sent an electric current through the boy’s body, proclaiming, “Live forever!” and later said they’d known each other in one of Mr. Bradbury’s previous lives. The experience evolved into the novel “Something Wicked This Way Comes” (1962), the basis for a film of the same name starring Jonathan Pryce as a diabolical circus owner.
He scripted the 1962 animated history of flight, “Icarus Montgolfier Wright,” which received an Academy Award nomination for best short film, and won a Daytime Emmy in 1993 for writing the animated children’s program, “The Halloween Tree.”
In 2004, President George W. Bush presented Mr. Bradbury with the National Medal of Arts, the nation’s highest award given to artists.
“I can’t name a writer who’s had a more perfect life,” Mr. Bradbury told the New York Times in 1983. “My books are all in print, I’m in all the school libraries, and when I go places I get the applause at the start of my speech.”