Geeks and bookworms are mourning the loss of author Ray Bradbury -- the iconic science-fiction scribe behind such influential books as Farenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles -- who passed away last night at the age of 91.
Although the quirky scribe reportedly loathed such a mantle (and even hated the term science fiction), Bradbury was considered to be a literary giant in the genre along with his contemporaries Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Harlan Ellison.
Long before he influenced millions with his imaginative tales, Bradbury began his literary career by publishing stories in various sci-fi fanzines in 1938 before getting his works into pulp magazines such as Super Science Stories and later The Saturday Evening Post. Bradbury's first book The Martian Chronicles, an anthology of loosely connected stories, came out in 1950.
Despite never having gone to college, his tales and tomes were filled with evocative imagery describing fantastical creatures, far-flung worlds, and life on other planets in our solar system. In a way, its sort of oddly fitting that the author who created such tales as "All Summer in a Day" (a short story about life on Venus) passed into the great beyond on the same day that the planet was making a rare transit across the sun.
Not all of his works were concerned with the cosmos, as Bradbury also penned such renowned and remarkable books as Something Wicked This Way Comes (about a pair of teenage boys being stalked by killer clowns and evil carnival folk) and Dandelion Wine (concerning the joys of a simple life in a rural town).
Per the New York Times, more than 8 million copies of Bradbury's books were sold during his lifetime. Such an impressive figure is trumped by the countless millions he influenced by his words.
Its been stated that he helped bring science fiction to the forefront of pop culture and also helped pave the way for sci-fi movies and such anthology television programs as The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits (both of which used his stories in various episodes), as well as his own show The Ray Bradbury theatre.
For his part, Bradbury shirked fame, abhorred technology (even refusing to use computers or drive cars), and believed that the motives behind his stories have been misinterpreted over the years, including Fahrenheit 451. In 1999, he stated the following in an interview:
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.
Bradbury, who extolled the virtues of human connection, also reportedly said that Fahrenheit 451 wasn't so much about a totalitarian government torching books, but rather a metaphor for the death of print at the hand of technology. The wiseacres at The Onion played up this fact today with a satirical story with the headline "Following Ray Bradbury's Death, Thousands of People Buy Kindle Version of Book About Demise of Paper Books."
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And although he'd probably hate all the attention (particularly stuff posted online), numerous authors and celebrities have paid tribute to Bradbury in the hours after news of his death broke, including actors Simon Pegg (who started in cult BBC sci-fi show Spaced), Elijah Wood (a.k.a. Frodo Baggins), and even musicians like Deadmau5 and Moby.
Fantasy/horror author Neil Gaiman also posted a paean to Bradbury on his website earlier today, stating that the author "was kind, and gentle, and always filled with enthusiasm, and that the landscape of the world we live in would have been diminished if we had not had him in our world."