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Science Fiction Writer Ray Bradbury Dead At 91

  • RFE/RL

Ray Bradbury attends the Miami Book Fair International in November 1990.

Ray Bradbury attends the Miami Book Fair International in November 1990.

Celebrated American science fiction author Ray Bradbury has died at the age of 91 in Los Angeles after a long illness.

Bradbury is best known for writing the futuristic classic novel "Fahrenheit 451," which depicted a totalitarian society and foretold developments at least 50 years in the future, including wall-sized interactive televisions, iPods, earpiece communication systems, and televised police pursuits.

Written in 1953 in the early days of the Cold War, the narrative is of nuclear war aboard and ennui at home, where firefighters are assigned to burn offensive books instead of put out real fires. The title refers to the temperature at which paper ignites.

At a news conference at the annual Comic-Con convention in San Diego in 2007, Bradbury explained why he wrote his seminal work.

"The reason I wrote 'Fahrenheit [451]' is because I'm a library person, and I'm in danger, I thought, of someday writing something that people might not like and they might like to burn," Bradbury said.

"So it was only natural at the age of 26 that I sat down and wrote 'Fahrenheit 451,' and thank God that I did."

"Fahrenheit 451" was made into a movie by French director Francois Truffaut.

Bradbury's other famous works include "The Martian Chronicles," a tale of Earthlings fleeing a troubled planet and their conflicts with residents on Mars that satirizes capitalism, racism, and superpower tensions, and "Something Wicked This Way Comes."

Bradbury was widely translated and read in the Soviet Union, unlike his fellow dystopian author, George Orwell, who wrote "1984" and was banned.

WATCH: A short film for the National Endowment for the arts feature Ray Bradbury as he discusses his life, literary loves and Fahrenheit 451.


News of Bradbury's death quickly became the top trending story on Russian Twitter. June 6 is also Aleksandr Pushkin's birthday and Russian Language Day, and many Russians had been tweeting their favorite Pushkin verses under #Пушкин (Pushkin) before they learned the news.

Interfax reports that the hash tags, #Брэдберии and #Bradbury knocked Pushkin from first place.

RFE/RL Russian Service commentator Igor Pomeranzev, himself an author, said the themes in "Fahrenheit 451" struck a chord with many people in the Soviet Union.

"The novel was translated and published in Russian in 1956. Bradbury was in effect lucky to supersede all of the classics of dystopia -- such as [Yevgeny] Zamyatin, who did not exist in the Soviet Union, and [George] Orwell, who was a persona non grata," Pomeranzev says, "because ['Fahrenheit 451'] was a novel that dealt with the most sensitive subject for the Soviet intelligentsia: the subject of the book, the destruction of the book, the destruction of privacy, and the destruction of the individual."

Imagining A Future To Prevent

Bradbury was born in Illinois and moved to Los Angeles as a teenager during the Great Depression. As a child, he was strongly influenced by the science fiction works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, who created "Tarzan," the story of a boy raised by wild animals in the jungle.

Rather than attend college, Bradbury chose to educate himself by spending hours reading in libraries.

Years after he found success as a science fiction writer, he told "The New York Times": "In science fiction, we dream. 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."

Even though he was known as a futurist, Bradbury insisted that he did not want to predict the future. He said sometimes he wanted to prevent it, though.

Later in life, he expressed disdain for the Internet, which he believed was a scam perpetrated by computer companies, ATMs, and video games, which in his opinion were "a waste of time for men with nothing else to do."

In 2010, he told "The Los Angeles Times": "We have too many cell phones. We've got too many Internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now."

He said he had refused several offers from online companies to make his books available on electronic reading devices. "I said to Yahoo, 'Prick up your ears and go to hell.'"

In 2004 U.S. President George W. Bush presented Bradbury with the National Medal of Arts.

Bradbury, who suffered a stroke in 1999, and his wife, Maggie, who died in 2003, had four children.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, "The Atlantic," and Interfax

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