Ray Bradbury dies aged 91
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Ray Bradbury dies aged 91

7th June 2012

The influential and prolific fantasy writer Ray Bradbury has died at the age of 91, prompting a flood of tributes from contemporaries and those he inspired.

Born in Waukegan, Illinois, in 1920, Bradbury spent much of his youth reading the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, as well as his favourite author, Edgar Rice Burroughs, who would become the greatest literary influence on his life.

Though he did not attend college or university, Bradbury spent much of his time at UCLA, where he hired a typewriter for ten cents an hour and began writing what would become his seminal work - Fahrenheit 451.

The novel, which imagines a dystopian future where books no longer exist (451 Fahrenheit is the temperature at which paper supposedly ignites), was originally a 25,000-word short story entitled The Fireman, before being fleshed out into the 50,000-word finished article in 1953.

It became one of many highly influential and prophetic Bradbury novels, with the characters in the book obsessed with TV programmes and constantly wired up to tiny devices known as 'ear thimbles' that pipe music and radio broadcasts directly into their brains.

He went on to write 26 other novels and more than 600 short stories, including The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man and Something Wicked This Way Comes, inspired by his early experiences in Waukegan.

The writer also went on to present and narrate his own TV programme, The Ray Bradbury Theatre, which featured adaptations of a number of his novels and short stories.

After suffering a stroke in 1999 that left him partially restricted to a wheelchair, Bradbury limited his public appearances, but continued to contribute to magazines and appear at science fiction conventions.

Following his death on June 5th, Bradbury was credited as bringing modern sci-fi into the mainstream, with his influence highlighted by filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

'He was my muse for the better part of my sci-fi career,' Spielberg wrote. 'On the world of science fiction and fantasy and imagination he is immortal.'

Bradbury's contribution to literature and the fantasy and sci-fi genres was perhaps best summed up by bestselling author Stephen King, who credits the writer with having a significant impact on his career.

'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.'

Bradbury is survived by his four daughters; Susan, Ramona, Bettina and Alexandra.

© W&G Foyle Ltd