Legendary author Ray Bradbury has died.
He was the unquestioned poet of American science fiction. Early geeks sometimes criticized his work because his stories turned on heartbreaking twists of emotional logic rather than explaining how the rockets worked. Half of his work wasn’t science fiction at all, but he never resisted the label “science fiction writer”, instead wearing it proudly, an honored statesman of a culture he’d helped invent as a boy. And now he’s dead.
Ray Bradbury has, according to his daughter Alexandra, died. He was 91.
Bradbury continued to write his entire life. Not one of those authors who have a brief vogue and then vanish, he was an institution. In the minds of millions, his books had sort of always been there. They weren’t something you got marketed to you, they were something you discovered, something you happened across via a friend or a library or a reverential reference from another author. I myself remember finding a 1970s paperback edition of The Illustrated Man at the age of ten, and slipping uncontrollably into the worlds of Bradbury’s imagination.
Bradbury, even before he was an author, was part of the very first generation of science fiction fandom. He and Julius Schwartz and Forrest J Ackerman and a bunch of other nerdy little boys were the ones who went mad for Hugo Gernsback’s “scientifiction” and began corresponding, forming fan clubs, building a culture based on nothing more than a passionate, naïve belief in the magic power of the future.
The photo at the top of this post is from Gearfuse.com, and shows Bradbury’s reaction to watching the music video “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury”, a gloriously filthy tribute to him and his work. Some would consider this inappropriate for an obituary post, but Bradbury himself often said that his career was based on the 12-year-old boy inside him. That boy was not yet a writer, just a kid who wanted to see the future, and that picture is of a kid who has successfully lived to see the future. We should all achieve our dreams so completely.