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Fahrenheit 451 writer Ray Bradbury dies at 91
The prolific and hugely influential science fiction author died yesterday in his California home, leaving behind an impressive literary legacy.
7 June 2012, 12:00am
Film director Steven Spielberg, whose films ET and Close Encounters with the Third Kind evoke some of the tone of Bradbury's work with their mix of science fictional elements and coming-of-age angst, while also being set in small-town communities, said in fact that Bradbury was "[his] muse for the better part of [his] sci-fi career... On the world of science fiction and fantasy and imagination he is immortal".
Fellow author Stephen King said: "Ray Bradbury wrote three great novels and three hundred great stories. One of the latter was called A Sound of Thunder. The sound I hear today is the thunder of a giant's footsteps fading away. But the novels and stories remain, in all their resonance and strange beauty."
And it wasn't just storytellers who mourned the loss of one of American literature's heavyweights. Canadian DJ Deadmau5 wrote that Bradbury "touched many lives... and even a few more recently you might not have expected," perhaps a reference to the DJ himself being inspired by Bradbury's short story The Veldt for one of his tracks.
Working mainly within the science fiction and fantasy genres, Bradbury (born in 1920) penned a total of 27 novels and 600 short stories over a career which spanned from the late 30s (when Bradbury began publishing short stories in amateur science fiction magazines), right until 2010.
Apart from fictional prose, Bradbury also wrote screenplays - including an adaptation of Moby Dick for legendary director John Huston and episodes of The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents - and stage productions (both plays and musicals) as well as a plethora of essays and articles.
His work has also been adapted to the big screen several times, perhaps most famously with Francois Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451 and the Southern Gothic children's story Something Wicked This Way Comes, made into a Disney live action film in 1983, with a script by Bradbury himself.
Fahrenheit 451 is the story of a dystopian future in which a 'fireman', working on orders from the ruling totalitarian regime, is given an order to burn all books, but begins to have doubts about his mission as the story progresses.
Bradbury's first 'official' novel - The Martian Chronicles, published three years earlier in 1950, is really just a stitched-together collection of loosely connected tales about the colonisation of Mars - Fahrenheit 451 deals with themes that would resonate across most of Bradbury's work throughout his long career; namely, an unshakeable belief in the value of literature as an enriching endeavour, and a persistent optimism about life and humanity.
But it is perhaps Something Wicked This Way Comes - along with a number of his horror and fantasy short stories - that most clearly encapsulates the sense of child-like wonder that his work continues to inspire in readers.
The story of a couple of teenage boys facing up to a malicious travelling carnival in a Midwestern town combines fantasy and horror to tell a coming-of-age story tinged with nostalgia for a past gone by; an aspect Bradbury explored further in his semi-autobiographical work Dandelion Wine, as well as in his final novel, Farewell Summer, published in 2006.
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...