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Ray Bradbury, the author and sci-fi legend, died this morning in Los Angeles at the age of 91. Bradbury, who sold over eight million copies of his books, and wrote for television, film, and theater, received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation in 2000, and the National Medal of Arts in 2004.
As Victoria Bekiempis reminds us, the author may not have been a great fan of the internet or the rise in ebooks, but he sure loved reading. A few days ago, squashed on the F train, I read his essay Take Me Home, about discovering the fictional character of Buck Rogers, and the work of Tarzan-creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, when he was a boy in Illinois. It was a wonderful reminder of how pulp and the low-brow can be great. And, at their best, inspire greatness. (And silliness, too! I was delighted when my colleague Robert Sietsema pointed me toward a campy, sci-fi commercial for prunes, starring Bradbury.)
Most writers love reading, but few talk about it with as much honesty and childlike joy as Bradbury did. He wasn’t just a champion for his genre, but a believer in the pleasure and importance of all great writing. Fahrenheit 451, perhaps his most famous novel, shows us a world where complex ideas are eradicated, and books burned. Here’s a particularly moving video, where a grizzled Bradbury sits in a book-filled cranny, with a restless cat on his shoulders, and talks about his love:
And here’s Bradbury on the joy of writing:
Anything you love, you do it. It’s got to be with a great sense of fun. Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun with it….I don’t write things to benefit the world. If it happens that they do, swell. I didn’t set out to do that. I set out to have a hell of a lot of fun.
Obituary: Ray Bradbury, Master of Science Fiction, Dies at 91 [The New York Times]
Essay by Bradbury on his early influences as a writer: Take Me Home [The New Yorker]
Interview: Ray Bradbury, The Art of Fiction No. 203 [Paris Review]
A funny, sci-fi commercial for prunes starring Bradbury [Fork in the Road]
A blog post about Bradbury hating blog posts (and technology in general) [VV]
Keynote address at the Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea [Brain Pickings]