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Ray Bradbury, World-Renowned Author, Dead at 91
Some very sad news for the fiction community and for the world today: Legendary author Ray Bradbury has passed away at the age of 91.
There has yet to be an official cause of death reported, but at his advanced age, we can make an educated guess that it was natural causes.
Bradbury was known largely as a science-fiction author, despite the fact that his work held more emphasis on the wonder of the impossible rather than hard science. This is likely why so much of the man’s work was able to cross over into a broader audience than that of, say, Isaac Asimov (who was no slouch himself in the cross-over department).
Also, aside from being a CC favorite all around, Bradbury also wrote a trilogy of some of the most noir novels ever written. It was a bit later in his career–1985, to be exact–that Bradbury wrote and published Death Is a Lonely Business. In that book, Bradbury channeled the classic noir voices of Hammett, Chandler, and Macdonald, and he named the private-eye character after ol’ Jimmy Crumley. The story is set in Venice, California, in the late ’40s, where Bradbury himself pecked out an existence before being catapulted into literary fame. The unnamed protagonist is a young bright-eyed writer type who doesn’t have a driver’s license, and thus clearly modeled after Bradbury himself. It’s been years since I’ve read the book, but as I recall, our hero tracks down the murderous villain and confronts him alone out of sheer love, the joy of being alive, and to stay off the lonely, lonely business of death for as long as possible. Mission accomplished.
Back in 2003, I believe it was, I saw Ray Bradbury speak at the San Diego Comic-Con. He was already a pretty old fella by then, and as I recall, he had recently suffered a stroke or some other debilitating ailment. As the hunched over form of one of the greatest living writers eased himself onto the dais with the help of a walker, I remember my throat closing up at the sight of one of my heroes so close to death. But then he began speaking, and it was like he was 21 years old. No shit, the guy had a memory that I can’t even lay claim to now. His friend, agent, and editor, Julius Schwartz, would begin a question with something like, “Ray, remember back in 1955–” and Bradbury would say, “Oh, yeah, yeah…” and then just launch into a fifty-year-old anecdote like it’d just happened that morning. The guy was truly forever young.
Before I get too sappy and sentimental here, I’d like to relate this anecdote: That day, Bradbury told us a story about how when he was 9 or 10 years old, he used to clip comic strips out of the newspaper and save them in a scrapbook–Flash Gordon and stuff like that. So proud was he of this collection that he took it to school to show it off, and a bunch of the other kids made fun of him for being such a weirdo. He was so upset that he dumped his whole comic-strip collection down the sewer. But then the next day, he realized what he’d done, and simply started all over with that week’s funny-pages. And he said, if I remember correctly, “I never let those bastards make me feel inferior again for loving what I loved.”
And he never did.