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2012

Ray Bradbury, bestselling science fiction author, dies at 91

On this day in 2012, one of the preeminent science fiction authors of the 20th century, Ray Bradbury, whose books include The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes, dies at age 91 in Los Angeles. During his 70-year career, Bradbury, who also wrote works of horror, fantasy and mystery, published nearly 50 books and hundreds of short stories. He is credited with helping to move science fiction out of the realm of pulp-fiction magazines and into the mainstream, and his work, which is taught in schools, has been translated into more than 35 languages and adapted for film and television.

Ray Douglas Bradbury, the son of a lineman for an electric company, was born on August 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Illinois. In 1934 the Bradburys moved to Los Angeles, where Ray graduated from high school in 1938. His family didn’t have enough money to send him to college, so Bradbury spent extensive time in public libraries reading. By the time he was in his early 20s, he had begun selling short stories to magazines. In 1946 his story “The Homecoming,” about a boy in a family of ghouls, was selected for publication from a slush pile at Mademoiselle magazine by a young assistant named Truman Capote. “The Homecoming” won an O. Henry Award in 1947 for one of the year’s best American short stories. That same year, Bradbury’s first book of short stories, Dark Carnival, was released.

Bradbury’s breakthrough book, The Martian Chronicles, a collection of short stories about the colonization of Mars, was released in 1950 and became a bestseller. Bradbury followed The Martian Chronicles with such popular works as 1951’s The Illustrated Man, another collection of science fiction short stories, and 1953’s Fahrenheit 451, a futuristic novel about a book burning society. (Fahrenheit 451 became a 1966 film directed by Francois Truffaut, while The Illustrated Man became a 1969 film featuring Rod Steiger and The Martian Chronicles was made into a 1980 television miniseries starring Rock Hudson.) Bradbury’s well-known works also include his 1957 semi-autobiographical novel Dandelion Wine, about a boy in small-town America, and 1962’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, a horror-fantasy novel about a traveling carnival. (Something Wicked This Way Comes received a 1983 big-screen adaption featuring Jason Robards.)

In addition to his short stories and novels, Bradbury wrote poetry, plays, television scripts and screenplays, including the one for the 1956 movie Moby Dick, directed by John Huston. Additionally, he hosted Ray Bradbury Theater, a television series based on his short stories that aired in the 1980s, and was involved in projects such as planning the Spaceship Earth attraction for Disney’s Epcot Center. Despite the fact that he often dealt with the futuristic in his writing, Bradbury never learned to drive, didn’t take his first plane trip until the 1980s and disliked computers and the Internet.

In 2004 Bradbury received the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the U.S. government. Three years later, he was honored with a special citation from the Pulitzer Prize board for his “distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy.” Bradbury died on June 5, 2012.

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