Ray Bradbury (1920-2012)

Iconic SF and fantasy writer Ray Bradbury, 91, died June 6, 2012 in Los Angeles CA.

Ray Douglas Bradbury was born August 22, 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois.  He moved with his family to Los Angeles in 1934, at age 13, and in 1937 discovered the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. Through that organization he met Forrest J Ackerman, Hannes Bok, Edmond Hamilton, Ray Harryhausen, Robert A. Heinlein, Henry Kuttner, and many other friends who would go on to become SF luminaries.

In 1941 he broke into professional SF writing with “Pendulum” in Super Science Stories (November 1941), publishing enough to become a full-time writer in 1943. His first book, Dark Carnival (1947) collected some of his earliest important work, mostly from 1943-47.

Bradury is probably best known for his unique and poetic vision of Mars, as depicted in The Martian Chronicles (1950). That was his breakthrough book, and after its publication he went from writing mostly for SF magazines to publishing almost exclusively in high-end slick magazines including Collier’s Weekly, Esquire, The Saturday Evening Post, and McCall’s, publishing well over 300 stories in the course of his career.

His major collections are The Illustrated Man (1951), The Golden Apples of the Sun (1953), A Medicine for Melancholy (1959), The Day it Rained Forever (1959), The Vintage Bradbury (1965), and the retrospective The Stories of Ray Bradbury (1980).

Bradbury’s early novels are major genre classics. He wrote a classic dystopia of censorship with Fahrenheit 451 (1953; in Galaxy as “The Fireman”, 1951), and a gently magical story of small-town nostalgia in Dandelion Wine (1957; portions published from 1950-57 as short stories); a sequel, Farewell Summer, appeared in 2006. Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) is his dark classic of an evil carnival transforming the inhabitants of a small town.

Beginning in the ’60s he wrote less SF and fantasy, turning his attention increasingly toward mainstream writing, mysteries, screenplays, stage plays, and poetry.

His most significant screenplay was for Moby Dick (1956), directed by John Huston; the script was published in book form in 2008. He wrote about the experience of making the film in autobiographical novel Green Shadows, White Whale (1992).

Many of his stories were adapted for television, including for The Twilight Zone, and for his own TV series, Ray Bradbury Theater (1985-86), for which he wrote many episodes. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his animated short film Icarus Montgolfier Wright (1962), and won an Emmy Award for his TV adaptation of The Halloween Tree (1993). His stories have also been adapted for comics and radio.

He wrote non-fiction collection Zen in the Art of Writing (1990, expanded 1994) and National Book Award-winning essay collection Bradbury Speaks: Too Soon from the Cave, Too Far from the Stars (2005), among many other works of non-fiction.

There are many books devoted to Bradbury. The Bradbury Chronicles: Stories in Honor of Ray Bradbury, edited by William F. Nolan & Martin H. Greenberg (1991), featured stories inspired by his work by many of the writers who admired him. Notable non-fiction books about Bradbury’s life and work include The Ray Bradbury Companion, William F Nolan (1975), Ray Bradbury, Harold Bloom, ed. (2001), Bradbury: An Illustrated Life, Jerry Weist (2002),  The Bradbury Chronicles, Sam Weller (2005), and Becoming Ray Bradbury, Jonathan E. Eller (2005).

His many honors included a World Fantasy Award for life achievement in 1977; a SFWA Grand Master Award in 1989; a Stoker Life Achievement Award in 1989; a First Fandom award in 1996; induction into the SF Hall of Fame in 1999; a World Horror Grandmaster award in 2001; a National Medal of the Arts in 2004; a special citation from the Pulitzer prize board “for his distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy” in 2007; and the J. Lloyd Eaton Memorial Award for life achievement in 2008. In 2010 the Nebula category covering films and other dramatic works was renamed “The Ray Bradbury Award” in his honor.

Bradbury was predeceased by wife Marguerite Susan McClure (married 1947, died 2003). He is survived by four daughters and eight grandchildren.

For more details on his passing, see this post on io9. For more on Bradbury’s life and work, see his entry in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

A complete obituary and appreciations will appear in the July issue of Locus.