Ray Bradbury, 91, Master Who Took Science Fiction Mainstream

By Jonas, Gerald | International Herald Tribune, June 7, 2012 | Go to article overview

Ray Bradbury, 91, Master Who Took Science Fiction Mainstream


Jonas, Gerald, International Herald Tribune


Mr. Bradbury, a master of the genre whose lyrical evocations of the future reflected the optimism and the anxieties of his own postwar America, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Ray Bradbury, a master of science fiction whose lyrical evocations of the future reflected the optimism and the anxieties of his own postwar America, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 91.

His death was confirmed by his agent, Michael Congdon.

By many estimations Mr. Bradbury was the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream. His name would appear near the top of any list of major science- fiction writers of the 20th century, beside Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein and the Polish author Stanislaw Lem.

In Mr. Bradbury's lifetime more than eight million copies of his books were sold in 36 languages. They included the short-story collections "The Martian Chronicles," "The Illustrated Man" and "The Golden Apples of the Sun," and the novels "Fahrenheit 451" and "Something Wicked This Way Comes."

Though none won a Pulitzer Prize, Mr. Bradbury received a Pulitzer citation in 2007 "for his distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy."

Mr. Bradbury sold his first story to a magazine called Super Science Stories before his 21st birthday, and by the time he was 30 he had made his reputation with "The Martian Chronicles," published in 1950. The book celebrated the romance of space travel while condemning the social abuses that modern technology had made possible.

Mr. Bradbury was hardly the first writer to represent science and technology as blessings and abominations. The advent of the atomic bomb in 1945 left many Americans deeply ambivalent toward science, and science-fiction writers had trenchant things to say about this threat.

The audience for science fiction was small, so Mr. Bradbury looked to a larger audience: the readers of mass-circulation magazines like Mademoiselle and The Saturday Evening Post. These readers had no patience for the technical jargon of the science fiction pulps. So he eliminated the jargon. He packaged his troubling speculations about the future in an appealing blend of cozy colloquialisms and poetic metaphors.

"The Martian Chronicles" remains perhaps Mr. Bradbury's best- known work. It became a staple of high school and college English courses. Mr. Bradbury himself disdained formal education. He attributed his success as a writer to his never having gone to college.

Instead, he read everything he could get his hands on, by authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, H. …

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