RIP, Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury is dead. He was 91 years old. He wrote some of the most inspiring and beautiful stories I've ever read. He fought for libraries. He changed my life with a novel called Dandelion Wine, much of which I can still quote from memory. Every time I find myself wandering a city street alone at night -- every single time -- I think of his story Drink Entire. He did some stuff that disappointed me, but I never fell out of love with the art that he made. The world is much richer for the work he made, and much poorer for his passing.

From the AP obit:

“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.

Bradbury’s family moved to Los Angeles in 1934. He became a movie buff and a voracious reader. “I never went to college, so I went to the library,” he explained.

He tried to write at least 1,000 words a day, and sold his first story in 1941. He submitted work to pulp magazines until he was finally accepted by such upscale publications as The New Yorker. Bradbury’s first book, a short story collection called “Dark Carnival,” was published in 1947.

He was so poor during those years that he didn’t have an office or even a telephone. “When the phone rang in the gas station right across the alley from our house, I’d run to answer it,” he said.

He wrote “Fahrenheit 451” at the UCLA library, on typewriters that rented for 10 cents a half hour. He said he carried a sack full of dimes to the library and completed the book in nine days, at a cost of $9.80.

Sci-fi master Ray Bradbury, author of ‘Fahrenheit 451’ ‘Martian Chronicles,’ dead at 91

One of the greatest days of my life was when Gardner Dozois reviewed my first professionally published story, "Craphound," and said of it that it had a "rich, Bradburian vein of nostalgia" running through it.

Update: Jenny Hart points out that Bradbury had a beautiful essay in The New Yorker last week.

(Image: Merry Christmas 2116 XVIII, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from seraphimc's photostream)


  1. aw man that sucks. I guess we all have to go some time. About every other fall, I read From Dust Returned to get into the halloween spirit, wonderfull book that I look forward to sharing with my children some day.

  2. Studied The Martian Chronicles as the cap to a very serious and hard to get into Science Fiction class in high school. That was back in the 1970s.

    The Transit of Venus has taken him up at last.

  3. so, so shocking. it felt like he would just always be there. martian chronicles, something wicked, dandelion wine… on and on. any word on what he died of? i’m hoping he died in his sleep, and that he got to see the transit of venus before he went to bed.

  4. What a genius.  He will be missed.  I remember being freaked out very early on by “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”  A true happy mutant…

  5. RIP Mr. Bradbury.

    New meme:  what book would you be able to recite at the end of Fahrenheit 451?

    Mine’s “1984”.

  6. A sad day …. a science-fiction writer that was half poet …. he brought the strangeness of other worlds to readers in a way that others cannot … he will be missed … Ray, please say hello to Robert, Arthur, and Isaac for us ….

  7. A long time ago, I read an opinion piece by Ray Bradbury in the Herald Tribune (he was living in Paris). 
    In it was the memorable line: “You can eat well in England.  Just have breakfast three times a day.”

  8. There’s a part in “Dandelion Wine” where he describes the feeling of a 12 year-old getting a new pair of sneakers at the beginning of summer. I remember reading that as a pretty well-read sci-fi crazy teenager in the 60’s and being amazed at how he could capture what was in my heart. It changed the way I looked at media and the way I look at life. We have lost a most beautiful voice and I can’t help but cry a little.

  9. After I saw the news reporting his death, I looked outside at a blue sky full of  fat white clouds and thought that the only thing missing was the color of October foliage.

  10. I’m stunned by this. In middle and high school I would sometimes skip class and go to the library and read a volume of the collected (up to that point) short stories of Ray Bradbury. He made me want to be a writer.

    I also remember one of my teachers speaking dismissively of science fiction. I asked, “What about Bradbury?” And he immediately brightened up and said, “Oh, yeah. Bradbury’s good!”

    That teacher and I got along really well after that, thanks to Ray Bradbury.

    1. When I was 12, I found that a slim volume of Bradbury short stories could neatly replace a thigh pad in my ratty practice football uniform. During laps I’d peel away and read behind a wall until the pack came galloping around again.

  11. Oh, no!!! That came as a total shock when scrolling down Boing Boings page… that was not a header I wanted to read. :(

    Another big master from my childhood, whose books I carried home from the library, is gone. He changed the world, he changed my world… and now the world is a bit grayer with him gone.

    Thank you for your stories, mr Bradbury!!!

  12. “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”- Ray Bradbury.  When I read the news today, my first thought was of his story, The Scythe. Thanks for that one and many more.

  13. Bradbury was an integral part of living in West Los Angeles. You could frequently see him riding his bike around town (I believe he never had a driver’s license). It’s well known that he wrote Fahrenheit 451 at the UCLA library. But probably the best local memory is a story he wrote long ago about a lonely sea monster who mistakes the foghorn of a lighthouse for the voice of its own kind: Bradbury got the idea of the sea monster from seeing the wreckage of a famous old wooden roller coaster from Pacific Ocean Park. POP (as we used to call it, oh the childhood memories I have of POP!) was a pleasure pier and amusement park that stuck into the ocean off of Los Angeles, which fell into disuse and slowly succumbed storms, fire and vandals. The remains of its signature roller coaster littered the local beaches for decades. And the unique sensibility of Ray Bradbury confabulated the old park with an old denizen of the ocean, one of the last of its kind as well. There are some who labeled Bradbury as kind of a dinosaur himself, which might have pleased him in a curmudgeonly way.

  14. I’ve been gutted all morning since I saw this on the news.  Four times I went to events where he signed my books and never managed to stammer out more than a nervous “thank you”.  

  15. He turned on a lot of young readers to good imaginative writing that he delivered in pieces the perfect length for their short attention spans, and he tackled a lot of challenging moral  issues.  I liked “The Homecoming” about a sad little boy who seems to be completely normal growing up in a family of witches, werewolves, and vampires, and even though his family and all his aunts uncles and cousins are literally monsters, they love  him. 

    1.  He finally got around to publishing an anthology of all the stories he did in that vein in 2001, with “From the Dust Returned”.

  16. I realize it’s bad form to talk ill of the recently dead. But, you brought it up Cory, and I’m curious about what stuff he did to dissapoint you.

    1. Bradbury was not a big fan of the internet, or of modern technology in general, and was not shy about expressing those views. My guess would be that’s what Cory is referring to.

    2. Well… I was a bit disappointed in how he denied he was a science fiction writer or that his writing was science fiction… but that was due to me being a sci-fi fan and feeling he was denying that he “belonged to us”. I do think he had the right to define himself as a writer and his writing in whatever way he wanted, nothing wrong there.

    3. I think he was a bit of a cantankerous old man – I heard a piece of an interview on an NPR program yesterday from 2004. He was seriously pissed at Michael Moore for Fahrenheit 9/11. The interviewer wasn’t able to get him to explain why he was so pissed other than that Moore apparently didn’t return his angry phone calls; Bradbury dodged the question about whether or not he disagrees with the politics. 

      From what I can gather based on some quick google research, I think he had some whack political views and apparently was a big supporter of Schwarzenegger as governor of CA.

      His body of work is beyond reproach, of course, unlike other sci-fi writers with whack views (e.g. Orson Scott Card). There isn’t any craziness in anything I’ve read by him, and his most obviously political statement piece (Fahrenheit 451) remains relevant and important. 

      Still, learning that someone who influences you greatly is crazy-cantankerous (as opposed to sweetly cantankerous e.g. Maurice Sendak) inevitably mars (heh) your opinion of them. 

    1. They spent an ungodly amount of money to make a pretty lousy  movie version just a couple years ago. 

  17. My favorite short story of his would probably have to be “Frost and Fire”, from R is for Rocket.  A lovely piece of science fiction.

    It’s a bit of a shame he apparently gave up on sci-fi pretty early on; much of his later work had nothing to do with it.

  18. I liked the little ink drawings in “Golden Apples Of The Sun.”

    All I’ll need to do is glance at those creepy little drawings and I’m 12 years old on the porch hammock again. 

  19. The Martian Chronicles was the first book I read that was … well, weird. It definitely turned me on to the weird. I think my favorite was Something Wicked This Way Comes.

  20. I was just thinking, yesterday, as I watched the transit of Venus, how my seemingly realistic images of the atmosphere and surface of Venus had come from a science fiction story I read as a teenager — which turns out to be “The Long Rain”, from The Illustrated Man. Bradbury was a certain source of pleasure back then, and, like danimagoo says, one of my first encounters with weirdness…rest in peace, and thank you, Mr. Bradbury.

    1. The Illustrated Man… I had totally forgotten it! Haven’t read it since I was a kid… and now I got a sudden need to read it _now_!!! 
      Thank you for mentioning it, I felt like I needed to read something from Bradbury as a tribute, and I was perusing my library yesterday and wondering what would be fitting, but yes, you solved it for me! The Illustrated Man!!! I love short stories, often more so than the full length novels from the same authors (does that make me a heretic?), and I absolutely loved (to put it mildly) the stories in that book.

  21. This sucks. His words meant so much to me as a young man. His poetry comes from another time and place. So glad he lived as long as he did and get to see so many of his dreams come to fruition. Godspeed, Mr. Bradbury.

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