A quick post to note the passing of legendary American science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury. From the Guardian:

“Ray Bradbury, who has died aged 91, was the 20th-century American short-story writer par excellence. Although he was also known for a few novels – principally the science-fiction book-burning dystopia Fahrenheit 451 (1953) and the dark fantasy Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) – as well as for children’s books, plays, screenplays and poetry, it was for his short stories that he gained his widest fame, with his best-known collection being The Martian Chronicles (1950). His tales were collected in dozens of volumes and reprinted in countless magazines and anthologies, including many school textbooks, making his name familiar to younger generations.

Born in the small town of Waukegan, Illinois, Bradbury arrived in Los Angeles with his parents, Leonard and Esther, in 1934, and lived there for the rest of his life. At the time of his graduation from Los Angeles high school in 1938, he was already publishing stories in amateur fanzines, and was an active member of the LA Science Fiction Society, where he rubbed shoulders with more senior writers such as Henry Kuttner, Leigh Brackett and Robert A Heinlein.

The best of his early stories appeared in the pulp magazine Weird Tales, edited at that time by Dorothy McIlwraith. These were moody, macabre pieces which avoided the stock ghosts and monsters of supernatural fiction. The Crowd, about a conspiracy of ghoulish spectators at traffic accidents, and The Scythe, about a farmer who involuntarily takes on the role of Death, were typical of Bradbury’s prolific output in 1943-44. These were collected, along with many similarly grotesque pieces, in his first book, Dark Carnival (1947), with some rewritten for his definitive collection of horror stories, The October Country (1955). He also contributed numerous stories to the crime and science-fiction pulps of the mid-1940s, some of them unreprinted to this day.

Ironically, however, it was in the lowly science-fiction pulps that his second – and best – book had its origins. With The Million-Year Picnic in 1946, he began a loose series about pioneer settlers on Mars and, over the next four years, these appeared primarily in the gaudiest of poorly paying pulp magazines, Planet Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories. They were gathered together as The Martian Chronicles (known in Britain as The Silver Locusts).

The Martian Chronicles was followed by The Illustrated Man (1951), The Golden Apples of the Sun (1953) and, a little later, A Medicine for Melancholy (1959; known in Britain as The Day It Rained Forever). These, along with his short novel Fahrenheit 451 (filmed by François Truffaut in 1966), remain the core Bradbury books. The best of their tales have a magical quality that endures.

Although he continued to write to the end, most of Bradbury’s work after 1960 was less successful. Death is a Lonely Business (1985) and A Graveyard for Lunatics (1990) were adequately entertaining mysteries. Green Shadows, White Whale (1992) and From the Dust Returned (2001) were latter-day attempts at “fix-up” novels, put together in the same style as Dandelion Wine. The former was based on “Irish” short stories written in the 1950s and 60s, inspired by his experience of working on location with John Huston on the 1956 film of Moby Dick (for which Bradbury wrote the screenplay); and the latter on very early fantasy stories of the 1940s. Later collections ranged from The Machineries of Joy (1964) to Driving Blind (1997), One More for the Road (2002) and We’ll Always Have Paris (2009).

Despite a 50-year decline from his peak of the 1950s, Bradbury remained a much-loved writer, his work often adapted for film and television. Never a great traveller (he preferred a bicycle to a car, and usually avoided aircraft), he lived quietly and was the recipient of many awards ranging from an O Henry prize in 1947 to a Bram Stoker lifetime achievement award in 1988 and, in 2004, a National Medal of Arts award.

Marguerite [his wife] died in 2003. Bradbury is survived by their daughters, Susan, Ramona, Bettina and Alexandra.”

Below is Ray Bradbury introducing the last performance of his Irish play, Falling Upward, in Los Angeles, 2007, a comedy based on his experiences staying in Ireland in the 1950s.

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