I couldn’t let the week pass without noting the passing of Ray Bradbury, who died this week aged 91. Although I am sure it is Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes for which he will be mostly remembered in the press, it was his short stories that always captured my imagination, significantly his series The Martian Chronicles.
Ray Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois and although he graduated from high school in 1938 he never went on to college. He became a full time writer in 1943 and he wrote numerous short stories, publishing his first collection Dark Carnival in 1947. By 2010 there were a back catalogue of over seventy anthologies containing his work, including collaborations with other celebrated authors including Fever Dream and Other Fantasies published with Robert Bloch in 1970.
Like Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury’s early stories graced the pages of Weird Tales magazine and he also eschewed the clichéd ghost story and stock monsters of the time. Bradbury produced true weird fiction, thought provoking and intelligent. Not afraid to tackle sensitive issues; he wrote about bystanders rubbernecking at traffic accidents in his short story The Crowd and was not afraid to tackle racism and sport in his tale The Big Black and White Game.
Ray Bradbury was also highly successful in his writing for Radio and Television and for film adaptions of his work. Most notably the 1966 film adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 by director Francois Truffaut and starring Julie Christie. And whilst I may have fond memories of it, I understand that Bradbury himself was never happy with the 1980 TV adaptation of The Martian Chronicles which starred Rock Hudson in the lead role. Other novels and stories also have been adapted to film and television, as well as for radio, theatre and comic books. Bradbury has written episodes for Alfred Hitchcock’s TV series, as well as for many other TV productions.
Often lauded as one of the most accomplished science fiction authors of the 20th century and a prophetic visionary, he was once quoted as saying of Fahrenheit 451, “I wasn’t trying to predict the future. I was trying to prevent it.”
A digital copy of The Martian Chronicles is attached on a mini-DVD to the deck of the Mars Phoenix Lander, launched in 2007 and now sitting proudly on the red planet itself.
Ray Douglas Bradbury (1920 – 2012).