Ray Bradbury, one of my favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, has died. Along with Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert A. Heinlein, he enlightened and entertained me in my youth.
More poetic than many of his Golden Age peers, Bradbury‘s many stories featured a mix of speculation, wonder, and hope for humanity. Here are some of my favorites of Bradbury‘s tales:
The Illustrated Man is an intoxicating collection of surreal tales, both clever and introspective. I Sing the Body Electric (and I now have the Rush song in my head) is a robot story the equal of most of Asimov’s.
Bradbury‘s Something Wicked This Way Comes was the first time I became aware of the potential for horror in Americana, with its sinister carnival. Even memories of the Disney adaptation, starring Jonathan Pryce, send shivers up my spine. Stephen King and HBO’s Carnivale would later develop that theme.
In The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury depicts a planet that’s not as exotic as Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom or as desolate as the world we know today. Instead, it’s a dusty frontier, with whispered memories of its original inhabitants and lonely explorers and homesteaders.
Fahrenheit 451 is a political “What if?” on par with 1984 or Brave New World as a cautionary tale and source of controversy. In the “real world,” paper books are threatened by electronic media, which are just as prone, of not more so, to censorship and invasions of privacy. Bradbury will be missed, but his works live on.