Sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury dies at 91

MANILA, Philippines --- Despite the exhortations of Mr Electrico, a carnival sideshow act with an electrified sword who demanded that a 12-year-old Ray Bradbury "live forever!", one of the most well-loved and highly-regarded modern writers of the fantastic has died.

At 91, though, he left a body of work that might just fulfill the prophecy of that showman in Waukegan, Illinois, in 1932.

One of the most widely read authors of his generation, Bradbury published a string of titles in the early 1950s - The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, and Fahrenheit 451 - that captured the political fears of a generation and fueled renewed interest in futurist literature.

His most famous work, Fahrenheit 451, named for a proposed temperature at which books combust, imagines a golden age of war and ignorance in which "firemen" burn books instead of putting out fires. Ever since its publication in 1953, the book has been a mainstay of high school English syllabuses.

Creep, Folksy

It was Bradbury's encounter at that Labor Day carnival in his home town that set him on the path of becoming a writer, and laid the groundwork for his unique brand of sometimes creepy, sometimes folksy, often slyly subversive fantastical Americana of whispering winds, sinister circuses, fretting about modern life and how humanity copes - or not - with relocating to distant worlds.

After being told by Mr Electrico that he was the reincarnation of the showman's friend who died in France in the Great War, Bradbury ruminated on his website in 2001: "Why did he say that? I don't know. Was there something in my eagerness, my passion for life, my being ready for some sort of new activity? I don't know the answer to that. All I know is that he said, "Live forever" and gave me a future and in doing so, gave me a past many years before, when his friend died in France.

"Leaving the carnival grounds that day I stood by the carousel and watched the horses go round and round to the music of Beautiful Ohio. Standing there, the tears poured down my face, for I felt that something strange and wonderful had happened to me because of my encounter with Mr Electrico.

"I went home and the next day traveled to Arizona with my folks. When we arrived there a few days later I began to write, full-time. I have written every single day of my life since that day 69 years ago."

Bradbury was born in 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois, moving with his family to Los Angeles as a teenager. His first collection of short stories, Dark Carnival, was published in 1947. His best known books were published in the early 1950s. He has a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.

In addition to novels, Bradbury wrote screenplays and scripts for TV shows such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone.

In 1954, Bradbury received the National Institute of Arts and Letters Award. He was awarded a National Medal of Art by President George W Bush in 2004. He received the O Henry Prize twice and a National Book Foundation medal. He won an Emmy for scripting the Halloween Tree for television.

Bradbury published an essay last week in the New Yorker about what inspired him to write fiction.

He wrote: "I memorized all of John Carter and Tarzan, and sat on my grandparents' front lawn repeating the stories to anyone who would sit and listen. I would go out to that lawn on summer nights and reach up to the red light of Mars and say, 'Take me home!'

"I yearned to fly away and land there in the strange dusts that blew over dead-sea bottoms toward the ancient cities."

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