On June 5, 2012, science fiction author Ray Bradbury passed away at his home in Los Angeles. One of the greatest science fiction authors of the 20th century, Bradbury was a prolific author whose bibliography counted over 50 books and approximately 600 short stories, in addition to the plays, screenplays and essays that he wrote.
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Born Aug. 22, 1920, Bradbury grew up in a time of major changes in the United States. From an early age, his imagination was captured with the stories his mother read to him, including L. Frank Baum’s Oz novels, the fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm and science fiction magazines that he discovered at his grandparents’ home in Waukegan, Ill.
Edgar Allan Poe was also an early influence, introduced to Bradbury by his aunt, Neva Bradbury, and he soon turned to comic strips such as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon and authors such as Edgar Rice Burroughs. In 1932, a talk with a carnival magician convinced him to turn to a life of writing at the age of 12. Moving to Los Angeles in 1934 with his family, he would attend Los Angeles High School, graduating in 1938. Unable to afford a college education, Bradbury went to the library, which he would later claim was the best education that he ever had, reading everything that he could get his hands on.
At 18, Bradbury began publishing short stories in local fanzines and joined the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society at the invitation of early science fiction fan Forrest Ackerman. His first professionally published story was “Pendulum,” which appeared in the magazine Super Science Stories in 1941. In 1942, Bradbury would become a full-time author, publishing numerous stories in a wide range of locations, ranging from the pulp magazine to upscale publications.
Bradbury’s major notable period was 1947 to 1953, starting with the publication of his first collection, Dark Carnival, which was followed in 1950 with his episodic novel The Martian Chronicles, in which humanity has reached Mars, confronting an aboriginal race of Martians and witnessing the destruction of Earth. The Illustrated Man, a collection of connected short stories, was published in 1951, and his major dystopian science fiction novel, Fahrenheit 451, was published in 1953, inspired by Bradbury’s disdain for television and despair at the loss of knowledge in a society, which he continued to decry well into the internet age.
Through the rest of the 1950s and into the 1960s, Bradbury would expand his repertoire into the film, stage and radio, in addition to publishing novels such as Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes and I Sing the Body Electric!, eventually publishing hundreds of separate works over the course of his career.
In 1989, Bradbury was named Science Fiction Grand Master by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, joining notable authors Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, among others, for his lifetime of achievements in the science fiction genre. He was also awarded the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the National Medal of Arts Award and a citation in 2007 from the Pulitzer Committee “for his distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy.”
More than just a science fiction writer, Bradbury avoided such labels, publishing to a wide range of genres. At his core, he was a master storyteller, one who inspired millions of readers and writers to tell stories of their own.