R.I.P., Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury, author of classic science fiction like Starship Troopers, Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles and Something Wicked This Way Comes, died yesterday at age 91 after a long illness. The cause of death was not specified, but the Sci-Fi Grandmaster suffered a stroke in 1999 that left him using a wheelchair.

The white-haired, bespectled author was born in Waukegan, Ill., on Aug. 22, 1920, and was the last surviving member of the triumvirate known as “the ABCs of Science Fiction: (Isaac) Asimov, Bradbury and (Arthur C.) Clarke. He wrote novels, he wrote short stories, he wrote commentaries, he wrote screenplays, teleplays and plays; he wrote it all. His work appeared everywhere from niche sci-fi magazines to The Saturday Evening Post. He wrote for The Twilight Zone and (not surprisingly) Ray Bradbury Theater. He loved movies and he loved comic books. He loved creating, and he loved life.

His impressive body of work was especially influential on young minds, just as Edgar Rice Burroughs had earlier captured the same sense of wonder. Bradbury recruited generations of children for spaceflight with R Is for Rocket and Starship Troopers.

Bradbury was so popular that he managed the rare feat of actually being well-known outside the SF community. (In fact, he was often one of the only SF authors the average person could name, along with Asimov and Clarke).

His influence was so pervasive, the official White House blog posted a statement from President Barack Obama himself:

“For many Americans, the news of Ray Bradbury’s death immediately brought to mind images from his work, imprinted in our minds, often from a young age. His gift for storytelling reshaped our culture and expanded our world. But Ray also understood that our imaginations could be used as a tool for better understanding, a vehicle for change, and an expression of our most cherished values. There is no doubt that Ray will continue to inspire many more generations with his writing, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”

And, though President George W. Bush was never much fancy book learnin’, he awarded Bradbury the National Medal of Arts in 2004. (Perhaps Bush knew that Bradbury never attended college — but, then again, Bradbury educated himself by constantly reading every book he could lay hands on.)

Bradbury (whose wife of 56, Marguerite, died in 2003) is survived by four daughters, more than 500 published works, and countless fans.

I’ll remember him for many pithy quotes, such as these:

“You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.”

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”

Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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