Ray Bradbury (1920-2012)

My father introduced us to C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien when we were young, reading a chapter a night. Ray Bradbury, on the other hand, was the first author of fantasy and science fiction that I discovered on my own, that I would search the library for and devour every book I could find as a teenager>, including Fahrenheit 451, followed by The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and The Illustrated Man. I haven’t actually picked up these books in over 30 years, but I can describe them vividly. A week of rain, such as we’ve had lately, calls to mind “The Long Rain”, a tale of stranded astronauts on Venus, driven to madness by a perpetual downpour. I recall the first time I read “A Sound of Thunder” in the basement of our house in Pittsburgh, PA — a cautionary tale of dinosaurs, butterflies and time travel.

And on a comical note, Bradbury’s short story ‘The Fire Balloons’ — concerning a missionary expedition of priests to Mars, anticipating the conversion of the alien population, only to discover they had left their material bodies behind them in a gnostic bid for salvation —- provoked one of the earliest (of many) theological discussions I had with my father.

Rest in peace, Ray Bradbury. I look forward to the day when my sons learn to read, and I can share with them the wonders of your imagination.


Ray Bradbury, August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012.

Ray Bradbury: Memories and Tributes

  • Brought Mars to Earth With a Lyrical Mastery (The New York Times) Ray Bradbury, a master of science fiction whose imaginative and lyrical evocations of the future reflected both the optimism and the anxieties of his own postwar America, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 91.
  • Ray Bradbury dies at 91; author lifted fantasy to literary heights, by Lynell George (Los Angeles Times). Ray Bradbury’s more than 27 novels and 600 short stories helped give stylistic heft to fantasy and science fiction. In ‘The Martian Chronicles’ and other works, the L.A.-based Bradbury mixed small-town familiarity with otherworldly settings. [See also: Full Coverage: The Los Angeles Times on Ray Bradbury, one of their own).
  • Photographs of Ray Bradburyfrom The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times)
  • Ray Bradbury: Requiescat in Pace Don McLarey (The American Catholic) shares his favorite passage from Something Wicked…. “May God deal gently with his ink-stained soul.”
  • Ray Bradbury Loved Reagan, Called Clinton a ‘Sh*thead’ — The author once declared all politicians to be fools, but had a soft spot for Ronald Reagan.
  • Ray Bradbury, Enemy of the State, by Charles C. Johnson (Reason.com):

    Bradbury, who died this week at the age of 91, was a man of the right, a detail sadly airbrushed out of most obituaries this week. Like the best science fiction writers, he imagined worlds and realms outside the grasp of government, where the focus was always on the people that populated them, not on the gizmos in their pockets.

  • Censoring Ray Bradbury, by David Boaz (Cato@Liberty):

    Like most libertarians — which in this case probably includes a lot of liberals and conservatives — I’m a great fan of the anti-censorship novel Fahrenheit 451. But a story that doesn’t get much attention — it’s not in the Times obituary — is how Fahrenheit 451 itself was censored by people who no doubt thought they had the best of intentions.

    When Bradbury discovered what had been done, he wrote this Coda to the 1979 Del Rey edition. It’s worth reading today. What he said then is still true: “There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people run­ning about with lit matches.”

  • Ray Bradbury Reads Moving Poem on the Eve of NASA’s 1971 Mars Mission:

    On Nov. 12, 1971, on the eve of Mariner 9 going into orbit at Mars, Bradbury took part in a symposium at Caltech with Arthur C. Clarke, journalist Walter Sullivan, and scientists Carl Sagan and Bruce Murray. In this excerpt, Bradbury reads his poem, “If Only We Had Taller Been.”

  • The Nonagenarian Whiz Kid, by Stefan Kanfer (City Journal):

    I was astounded to learn, over the next several lunches and dinners, that the Los Angeleno had never learned to operate a car, and that the writer of so many intergalactic tales had never been on an airplane. For all the wildness of his imagination, Ray was still, at heart, a toothy, wide-eyed kid from Waukegan, Illinois.

    “Every single day I say ‘gee whiz’ about something,” he told me. “I wish everybody did. I guess I just never lost my sense of wonder. Never even misplaced it.” He agreed with every word of Chesterton’s line, “Personally, I know of nothing that is not a miracle.”

  • Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Steven Spielberg Pay Tribute to Ray Bradbury (Fear.net); see also Neil Gaiman’s remembrances for The Guardian:

    Last week, at dinner, a friend told me that when he was a boy of 11 or 12 he met Ray Bradbury. When Bradbury found out that he wanted to be a writer, he invited him to his office and spent half a day telling him the important stuff: if you want to be a writer, you have to write. Every day. Whether you feel like it or not. That you can’t write one book and stop. That it’s work, but the best kind of work. My friend grew up to be a writer, the kind who writes and supports himself through writing.

    Ray Bradbury was the kind of person who would give half a day to a kid who wanted to be a writer when he grew up. […]

    Some authors I read and loved as a boy disappointed me as I aged. Bradbury never did. His horror stories remained as chilling, his dark fantasies as darkly fantastic, his science fiction (he never cared about the science, only about the people, which was why the stories worked so well) as much of an exploration of the sense of wonder, as they had when I was a child.

    See also: “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury”, a short-story tribute to Ray Bradbury from Neil Gaiman.

  • Thoughts on Ray Bradbury, by Orson Scott Card (National Review June 7, 2012). One master remembers another:

    You never had to stumble or pause when reading Bradbury. It wasn’t just the smoothness of his language — it was the way he used repetition, fragmentation, breathless run-on sentences to sweep you through the tale.

    His language made even the quotidian narrative sections emotional, so when the story reached for deeper feelings, they were within easy reach.

    Not long afterward, I turned to writing fiction, and as I made my first forays I had Ray Bradbury’s permission to use cadenced language, his example to prove that prose could sing.

    Bradbury never made you stop reading to notice how cleverly he wrote. On the contrary, his music held you inside the story, as if the words had come out of your own mind and heart.

  • Sci-fi legend Ray Bradbury on God, ‘monsters and angels’, by Jon Blake (CNN.com):

    Bradbury, who turns 90 this month, says he will sometimes open one of his books late at night and cry out thanks to God.

    “I sit there and cry because I haven’t done any of this,” he told Sam Weller, his biographer and friend. “It’s a God-given thing, and I’m so grateful, so, so grateful. The best description of my career as a writer is, ‘At play in the fields of the Lord.'”

    […]

    Bradbury’s favorite book in the Bible is the Gospel of John, which is filled with references to love.

    “At the center of religion is love,” Bradbury says from his home, which is painted dandelion yellow in honor of his favorite book, “Dandelion Wine.”

    “I love you and I forgive you. I am like you and you are like me. I love all people. I love the world. I love creating. … Everything in our life should be based on love.”

  • Ray Bradbury and the dime-at-a-time typewriter of ‘Fahrenheit 451’ (Los Angeles Times) the story of how Fahrenheit 451 came to be written is as infamous as Jack Keroac’s 120 foot roll of teletype paper):

    . . . “I heard this typing,” he explained. “I went down in the basement of the UCLA library and by God there was a room with 12 typewriters in it that you could rent for 10 cents a half-hour. And there were eight or nine students in there working away like crazy.”

    So he went to the bank and returned with a bag of dimes. He plugged a dime into the machine, typed fast for 30 minutes, and then dropped another. When he took breaks, he went upstairs to the library, soaking in a book-loving ambience he was making forbidden in the fiction he was writing below. He took books off the shelves, finding quotes, then ran downstairs to write some more. Nine days — and $9.80 in dimes later — he’d written “Fahrenheit 451.” Almost.

    What he’d finished there was “The Fireman,” a short story published in Galaxy magazine in 1951. Later, he expanded the story into “Fahrenheit 451,” which was published in paperback by Ballantine.

  • Does Paper Really Burn at 451 Degrees Fahrenheit?, by Brian Palmer, Slate

  • Ray Bradbury Movies: The Five Best Adaptations Based On The Author’s Stories (Moviefone.com)
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