Arguably the greatest science fiction and fantasy writer of all time, and certainly one of the most important and influential creative artists of the twentieth century, Raymond Douglas Bradbury died on June 5 of this year in Los Angeles, California. It is fitting, therefore, that we have chosen Ray Bradbury as our featured author for the Fall 2012 semester Science Fiction & Fantasy Collection exhibit at Hans W. Klohn Commons.
Bradbury was born on August 22, 1920, at Waukegan, Illinois, a seemingly idyllic hometown that the author brought to vivid second life as the fictional Green Town in Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes, and again in a more fantastic way, in The Martian Chronicles. Growing up, Bradbury knew that he wanted to be a writer, and devoured the tales of the Brothers Grimm, the Oz stories, and the work of Edgar Allan Poe.
In 1934 Bradbury and his family moved to Los Angeles. It was there that Bradbury joined the Science Fiction League and first published many stories in science fiction ‘fanzines’ and in pulp fiction serials such as Weird Tales. From there Bradbury went on to write for EC Comics, inspiring generations of comic book creators to come.
Published in 1947, Bradbury’s story collection Dark Carnival contains his breakthrough story “Homecoming”, the macabre tale of a boy alienated from his family of witches, vampires, and werewolves. Discovered by Truman Capote who first published it in Mademoiselle magazine, “Homecoming” won the prestigious O Henry Award for short fiction. From 1946 to 1950 Bradbury wrote most of the stories collected in The Martian Chronicles (1950) and The Illustrated Man (1951).
In 1953 Bradbury published his most famous and widely-read novel, Fahrenheit 451, a dystopian masterpiece that compares favourably with George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The memorable title of the novel refers to the temperature at which paper ignites, book-burning being the novel’s central metaphore for a near- future authoritarian society whose leaders are intent on destroying knowledge and enlightened ideas. In 1966 legendary director Francois Truffaut made a successful film adaptation starring Julie Christie and Oskar Werner.
Bradbury published consistent masterworks throughout his long career, books that include The October Country (1955), A Medicine for Melancholy (1959), Death is a Lonely Business (1985) and From the Dust Returned: A Family Remembrance (2001).
Our collection features a marvellous coffee table book titled Bradbury, An Illustrated Life: A Journey to Far Metaphor (2002) by Jerry Weist. A compendium of magazine illustrations, posters, movie stills, scripts, paintings, photographs, letters, and comic strips related to Bradbury’s works, it features an introductory essay by Bradbury, who writes:
Here are my creatures, my visions, my symbols, my metaphors, displayed by Jerry Weist. Here is the lonely beast in love with the lighthouse and the melancholy foghorn. Here is the Tyrannosaus Samurai-Warrior striding through a lost jungle. Here are my wondrous butterflies, waiting to step on, to change history. (p.xxiii)