Ray Bradbury: Author of ‘Fahrenheit 451’ dies

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LOS ANGELES — Ray Bradbury imagined the future, and didn’t always like what he saw.

In his books, the science fiction-fantasy master conjured a dark, depressing future where the government used fire departments to burn books in order to hold its people in ignorance and where racial hatred was so pervasive that some people left Earth for other planets.

At the same time, his work, just like the author himself, could also be joyful, whimsical and nostalgic, as when he was describing the magic of a Midwestern summer or the innocence and fearlessness of a boy who befriends a houseful of ghosts.

Mr. Bradbury, who died Tuesday at age 91, said often that all of his stories, no matter how fantastic or frightening they might be, were metaphors for everyday life and everything it entailed. And they all came from his childhood.

“The great thing about my life is that everything I’ve done is a result of what I was when I was 12 or 13,” he said in 1982.

For more than 70 years, Mr. Bradbury spun tales that appeared in books and magazines, in the movie theater and on the television screen, firing the imaginations of generations of children, college kids and grown-ups across the world. Years later, the sheer volume and quality of his work would surprise even him.

“I sometimes get up at night when I can’t sleep and walk down into my library and open one of my books and read a paragraph and say: ‘My God, did I write that? Did I write that?’ Because it’s still a surprise,” he said in 2000.

In many ways, he was always that 12-year-old boy who was inspired to become a writer after a chance meeting with a carnival magician called Mr. Electrico who, to Mr. Bradbury’s delight, tapped him with his sword and said: “Live forever!”

“I decided that was the greatest idea I had ever heard,” Mr. Bradbury said later. “I started writing every day. I never stopped.”

Many of his stories were fueled by the nightmares he suffered as a child growing up poor in the Midwest during the Great Depression. At the same time, though, they were tempered by the joy he found upon arriving with his family in glitzy Los Angeles in 1934.

Decades later he would still boast of hanging out at film studios and cajoling actors to sign autographs and pose for photos, even once getting 1930s movie queen Jean Harlow to kiss him on the cheek.

“What I have always been is a hybrid author,” Mr. Bradbury explained 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.”

Much of Hollywood was also in love with him, and tributes from actors, directors and other celebrities poured in upon news of his death.

“He was my muse for the better part of my sci-fi career,” director Steven Spielberg said in a statement. “He lives on through his legion of fans. In the world of science fiction and fantasy and imagination, he is immortal.”

Although he was slowed by a stroke in 1999 that forced him to use a wheelchair, Mr. Bradbury kept up socially and professionally.

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