In 1941, Ray Bradbury earned $15 for his first paid short story — a noiry little piece called “Pendulum,” co-authored with Henry Hasse, and published in the pulp magazine Super Science. By the age of 30 he had already begun to establish his reputation with the imaginative and literally otherworldly Martian Chronicles, a collection of thematically linked sci-fi short stories. But that was only the beginning, and over the next several decades the world would be witness to the publication of such seminal works as the dystopian Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and The Illustrated Man, another short story collection. In the words of Stephen King, who posted this message on his website, “Ray Bradbury wrote three great novels and three hundred great stories. One of the latter was called ‘A Sound of Thunder.’ The sound I hear today is the thunder of a giant’s footsteps fading away. But the novels and stories remain, in all their resonance and strange beauty.”
Ray Bradbury died on January 5th in his home in Los Angeles after a long and hard battle with illness. He was 91 years old. According to his obituary in The New York Times, no other writer could claim greater credit for launching science fiction and fantasy into the main stream (though the author himself preferred the fantasy designation, telling one interviewer that “Fantasies are things that can’t happen, and science fiction is about things that can happen”). His influence in film and literature resonate to this day, and beyond.
In the issue released just the day before the author’s death, The New Yorker released an autobiographical essay by the author in which he relates his youthful hunger for writing, life, and fantasy:
“While I remained earthbound, I would time-travel, listening to the grownups, who on warm nights gathered outside on the lawns and porches to talk and reminisce…Even at that age, I was beginning to perceive the endings of things, like this lovely paper light. I had already lost my grandfather, who went away for good when I was five. I remember him so well: the two of us on the lawn in front of the porch, with twenty relatives for an audience, and the paper balloon held between us for a final moment, filled with warm exhalations, ready to go.”
Rest in peace, Mr. Bradbury. You will be missed.