Author of 'Fahrenheit 451,' Ray Bradbury, Dies at 91

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By JOHN ROGERS, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ray Bradbury, the science fiction-fantasy master who transformed his childhood dreams and Cold War fears into telepathic Martians, lovesick sea monsters, and, in uncanny detail, the high-tech, book-burning future of "Fahrenheit 451," has died. He was 91.

He died Tuesday night, his daughter said Wednesday. Alexandra Bradbury did not have additional details.

Although slowed in recent years by a stroke that meant he had to use a wheelchair, Bradbury remained active into his 90s, turning out new novels, plays, screenplays and a volume of poetry. He wrote every day in the basement office of his home in the Cheviot Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles and appeared from time to time at bookstores, public library fundraisers and other literary events around Los Angeles.

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His writings ranged from horror and mystery to humor and sympathetic stories about the Irish, blacks and Mexican-Americans. Bradbury also scripted John Huston's 1956 film version of "Moby Dick" and wrote for "The Twilight Zone" and other television programs, including "The Ray Bradbury Theater," for which he adapted dozens of his works.

"What I have always been is a hybrid author," Bradbury said in 2009. "I am completely in love with movies, and I am completely in love with theater, and I am completely in love with libraries."

Bradbury broke through in 1950 with "The Martian Chronicles," a series of intertwined stories that satirized capitalism, racism and superpower tensions as it portrayed Earth colonizers destroying an idyllic Martian civilization.

Like Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End" and the Robert Wise film "The Day the Earth Stood Still," Bradbury's book was a Cold War morality tale in which imagined lives on other planets serve as commentary on human behavior on Earth. "The Martian Chronicles" has been published in more than 30 languages, was made into a TV miniseries and inspired a computer game.

"The Martian Chronicles" prophesized the banning of books, especially works of fantasy, a theme Bradbury would take on fully in the 1953 release, "Fahrenheit 451." Inspired by the Cold War, the rise of television and the author's passion for libraries, it was an apocalyptic narrative of nuclear war abroad and empty pleasure at home, with firefighters assigned to burn books instead of putting blazes out (451 degrees Fahrenheit, Bradbury had been told, was the temperature at which texts went up in flames).

It was Bradbury's only true science-fiction work, according to the author, who said all his other works should have been classified as fantasy. "It was a book based on real facts and also on my hatred for people who burn books," he told The Associated Press in 2002.

A futuristic classic often taught alongside George Orwell's "1984" and Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World," Bradbury's novel anticipated iPods, interactive television, electronic surveillance and live, sensational media events, including televised police pursuits. Francois Truffaut directed a 1966 movie version and the book's title was referenced — without Bradbury's permission, the author complained — for Michael Moore's documentary "Fahrenheit 9-11."

Although involved in many futuristic projects, including the New York World's Fair of 1964 and the Spaceship Earth display at Walt Disney World in Florida, Bradbury was deeply attached to the past. He refused to drive a car or fly, telling the AP that witnessing a fatal traffic accident as a child left behind a permanent fear of automobiles. In his younger years, he got around by bicycle or roller-skates.

"I'm not afraid of machines," he told Writer's Digest in 1976. "I don't think the robots are taking over. I think the men who play with toys have taken over. And if we don't take the toys out of their hands, we're fools."

Bradbury's literary style was honed in pulp magazines and influenced by Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, and he became the rare science fiction writer treated seriously by the literary world. In 2007, he received a special Pulitzer Prize citation "for his distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy." Seven years earlier, he received an honorary National Book Award medal for lifetime achievement, an honor given to Philip Roth and Arthur Miller among others.