* Popularized science fiction, but saw Internet as scam
* Truffaut made film of censorship novel "Fahrenheit 451"
* Melded futuristic vision and literary skill in 500 works
(Adds Obama, Spielberg quotes)
By Christine Kearney
NEW YORK, June 6 Ray Bradbury, a giant of
American literature who helped popularize science fiction with
poetic, cerebral works such as "The Martian Chronicles," died on
Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 91.
Bradbury brought not only futuristic vision but literary
sensibilities to his more than 500 works published including
"Fahrenheit 451," a classic dystopian novel about book
censorship in a future society, and other favorites such as "The
Illustrated Man" and "Something Wicked This Way Comes."
"Mr. Bradbury died peacefully, last night, in Los Angeles,
after a long illness," said a spokesman for his publisher,
HarperCollins, on Wednesday.
As a science fiction writer, Bradbury said he did not want
to predict the future -- but sometimes wanted to prevent it.
Such was the case with "Fahrenheit 451," a book published in
1953 about a totalitarian, anti-intellectual society where
banned books are burned by "firemen." The title refers to the
temperature at which paper ignites.
The novel, which Bradbury wrote on a rented typewriter at
the UCLA library, featured a world that might sound familiar to
21st century readers -- wall-sized interactive televisions,
earpiece communication systems, omnipresent advertising and
"In science fiction, we dream," he told The New York Times.
"In order to colonize in space, to rebuild our cities ... to
tackle any number of problems, we must imagine the future,
including the new technologies that are required ...
"Science fiction is also a great way to pretend you are
writing about the future when in reality you are attacking the
recent past and the present."
INTERNET A SCAM
But for a futurist, Bradbury did not always embrace
technology. He called the Internet a scam perpetrated by
computer companies, was disdainful of automatic teller machines
and denounced video games as "a waste of time for men with
nothing else to do."
He said he never learned to drive a car after witnessing an
accident that killed several people and did not travel by
airplane until much later in life.
Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois, and moved to Los
Angeles as a teenager as his father sought work during the
Depression. He roller-skated around Hollywood, chasing
celebrities for autographs, and was strongly influenced by the
science fiction works of "Tarzan" creator Edgar Rice Burroughs.
He did not go to college, instead educating himself by
spending hours reading in libraries, and began writing for pulp
magazines. In 1950 Bradbury published "The Martian Chronicles"
-- a tale of Earthlings fleeing a troubled planet and their
conflicts with residents on Mars. It was given a glowing review
by influential critic Christopher Isherwood, which Bradbury
credited with launching his career.
Isherwood was among the first to note the quality writing in
Bradbury's work, which brought him literary credibility and new
respect to the science fiction and fantasy genres.
Like "The Illustrated Man," another of his best-known works,
"The Martian Chronicles" was a collection of related stories.
In a career spanning more than seventy years, other
well-known titles include "Dandelion Wine," "I Sing the Body
Electric" and "From the Dust Returned" and he wrote hundreds of
short stories as well as numerous poems, essays, operas, plays,
teleplays and screenplays.
LECTURED AT NASA
"Fahrenheit 451" was made into a movie by French director
Francois Truffaut while Bradbury wrote the movie version of
"Something Wicked This Way Comes" and "The Martian Chronicles"
became a television mini-series. He also wrote the screenplay
for John Huston's 1956 film adaptation of "Moby Dick."
Because of his visionary thinking, NASA brought Bradbury in
to lecture astronauts, Disney consulted with him while designing
its futuristic Epcot Center in Florida and shopping mall
developers sought his input.
He was awarded the 2000 National Book Foundation Medal for
Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the 2004
National Medal of Arts and the 2007 Pulitzer Prize Special
Citation. He won an Emmy Award for his teleplay adaptation of
his 1972 novel, "The Halloween Tree."
President Barack Obama said in a statement that Bradbury's
"gift for storytelling reshaped our culture and expanded our
world" and his influence would inspire generations to come,
while film director Steven Spielberg called the writer "my muse
for the better part of my sci-fi career."
Bradbury, who suffered a stroke in 1999 and ended up using a
wheelchair, and his wife, Maggie, who died in 2003, had four
"His legacy lives on in his monumental body of books, film,
television and theater, but more importantly, in the minds and
hearts of anyone who read him, because to read him was to know
him. He was the biggest kid I know," his grandson, Danny
Karapetian, told sci-fi website io9.com.
Other tributes began pouring in from fellow authors and fans
on Twitter such as sci-fi author Paul McAuley, who said Bradbury
"scared and astonished my childhood self, and alchemised pulp SF
into literature but never forgot its roots."
Bradbury had a piece published in The New Yorker this week
in which he said he began to read sci-fi magazine when he was 7
or 8 years old.
"When I look back now, I realize what a trial I must have
been to my friends and relatives," he said. "It was one frenzy
after one elation after one enthusiasm after one hysteria after
another. I was always yelling and running somewhere, because I
was afraid life was going to be over that very afternoon."
Even in his later years he liked to write daily -- whether
it was a novel, a short story, a screenplay or a poem.
"The great fun in my life has been getting up every morning
and rushing to the typewriter because some new idea has hit me,"
he said on his 80th birthday.
For key facts on Bradury, click
For more reactions to his death, click
For a selection of his main works, click
(Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta; Writing by Bill Trott
and Christine Kearney; Editing by Anthony Boadle and M.D. Golan)