In sad news for geeks everywhere, award-winning Science Fiction and Fantasy author Ray Bradbury passed away today in California. He was 91 years old. Though known best for his novels like Fahrenheit 451, and The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury was also a prolific writer of plays (stage and screen), non-fiction, and over 400 short stories and novellas during his six decade career in writing. Throughout his life Ray Bradbury challenged readers to look at social, political and technological issues through the lens of his vivid imagination, using the fantastic to teach lessons about the mundane.
Bradbury began writing short stories in 1938, after his bad eyesight kept him from joining the Military. His first stories were published in fanzines, (nontraditional Science-Fiction magazines created by fans with limited runs,) but they gained him enough notoriety to get him an invitation to the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, where he met with Sci Fi writers and fans. Soon Ray had started his own Fanzine, Futuria Fantasia (containing mostly his stories,) all the while continuing to submit stories to the Pulp and Science Fiction publications of his day.
By the end of 1942 Ray Bradbury was a full time writer, and he'd continue to write well into the 2000's. Though best known as a writer of Science Fiction, Bradbury himself discouraged that title for much of his career, preferring the more broad title of "Fantasy" author. Later in life he explained to the Paris Review why he so often avoided the label. Science Fiction Writers were not held in high esteem when he started writing (they were the bloggers of their day):
“It took a long time for people simply to allow us out in the open and stop making fun of us. When I was a young writer if you went to a party and told somebody you were a science-fiction writer you would be insulted. They would call you Flash Gordon all evening, or Buck Rogers.”
But a steady stream of novels, short fiction collections, essays and television shows over the next 60+ years quelled any doubts about the value of Bradbury’s stories. He kept writing well into his 80’s, though a stroke in 1999 and the passing of his wife Marguerite in 2003 considerably slowed his output. Eventually, he grew to embrace the title of Science Fiction author, saying:
“Science fiction is the fiction of ideas. Ideas excite me, and as soon as I get excited, the adrenaline gets going and the next thing I know I’m borrowing energy from the ideas themselves. Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world you are writing science fiction.
It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible.”
Ray Bradbury, (August 22, 1920 — June 6, 2012) Rest in Peace.