Ray Bradbury, the groundbreaking author of over 27 novels and 600 short stories, passed away on Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles after a long illness. Best known for his anti-censorship dystopian novel “Fahrenheit 451,” Bradbury’s fiction often demonstrated just how tenuous and arbitrary the line between “genre fiction” and literature really is.
Bradbury’s first breakout hit was the 1950 story collection “The Martian Chronicles,” which received critical acclaim for its quality writing in literary circles. In many ways, Bradbury is credited with giving science fiction and fantasy a more “respectable” face within the literary community. He drew his influences from a diverse collection of authors and artists, including William Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Jules Verne, and Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Despite his interest in writing about space travel and technology, Bradbury was also deeply suspicious of technological innovation. After witnessing a deadly car crash at a young age, he refused to learn to drive – and it took many years for him to feel comfortable traveling by airplane. He called the internet a “scam,” disliked using ATMs, and proclaimed that video games were “a waste of time for men with nothing else to do.” He resisted the conversion of his writing into e-book format, stating, “We have too many machines now.”
Bradbury could also be a polarizing figure. While the strong emphasis on personal liberties in his books might have appealed to progressives, his personal political leanings were more Libertarian. He spoke admiringly of Reagan and George W. Bush in the media, while publicly calling Clinton a “sh*thead” in an interview. In 2010, he told the Los Angeles Times, “There is too much government today. We’ve got to remember the government should be by the people, of the people and for the people.”
With only a high school education and a deep love for libraries, Bradbury may not have seemed a likely candidate as a NASA lecturer or a consultant for Disney’s Epcot Center. In 2004, President George W. Bush presented Bradbury with the National Medal of the Arts. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Woodbury University in 2003. He even had an asteroid named after him in 1992.
Bradbury is survived by four daughters and eight grandchildren. His wife of 57 years, Marguerite, passed away in 2003.
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