Ray Bradbury, author of many pulp science fiction short stories, teleplays and novels, including the famously dystopian“Fahrenheit 451″ died last night, June 5th at the age of 91. But his contributions and lasting effect on the film industry will remain unparalleled long after his death.
Ray Bradbury was the first sci-fi author to be able to cross over from cult to mainstream, writing such stories as “Something Wicked This Way Comes” and “The Illustrated Man,” both becoming mainstream films.
Mr. Bradbury was educated in the library and despite the lack of a college structure, he read voraciously and began writing at an early age. He wrote “Fahrenheit 451”, in a UCLA basement on a rented typewriter at a dime per thirty minutes. He reportedly came up with the number 451 by calling a random firehouse and asking someone what temperature paper burns at, never entirely sure if the guy was right or not. “Fahrenheit 451″, which takes place in a world where firefighters set fire to books, is still relevant as it warns us of the technological noosphere (sphere of human thought) of media sensationalism, paranoid outrage, and police surveillance.
Although considered sci-fi by many, including myself, Bradbury thought of most of his work to be fantasy, counting only the excellent “Martian Chronicles” to be true science-fiction. He also found success on the small screen with his television series “The Ray Bradbury Theater,” that ran for six seasons on Home Box Office (before they were HBO) and was nominated for two primetime Emmys. The show was much like “The Twilight Zone” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” which Bradbury also wrote for, featuring special guests such as Jeff Goldblum and Drew Barrymore.
I had the occasion to hear Mr. Bradbury speak a few years ago. Although he was in a wheelchair and about 87 years old at the time, he spoke with an animation and a passion for writing and storytelling that will always inspire me. During a moment of levity he said, and I am paraphrasing here: “Teachers and librarians make for the best lovers because they have the best pillow talk.”
Later on he autographed my copy of “Fahrenheit 451” and wished me luck. I read somewhere recently that scientists believe the universe is expanding. Right now it feels a little smaller. Rest in Peace Mr. Bradbury.