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American fantasy, horror, science fiction, and mystery writer Ray Douglas Bradbury passed away at the age of 91. He was best known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 (1953) and for the science fiction stories gathered together as The Martian Chronicles (1950) and The Illustrated Man (1951). Bradbury was one of the most celebrated among 20th century American writers of speculative fiction.
Bradbury’s journey as a writer started when he was a boy. As a child, an aunt read him short stories and throughout his youth, Bradbury was an avid reader and writer who spent much of his time in the Carnegie library in Waukegan, Illinois, reading such authors as H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and his favorite author, Edgar Rice Burroughs, who wrote novels such as Tarzan of the Apes and The Warlord of Mars. He loved Warlord of Mars so much that at the age of twelve he wrote his own sequel. Bradbury was also influenced by the writings of Edgar Allen Poe. What impressed Bradbury most about Poe was his ability to draw readers into his stories and poems.
Bradbury’s love of the library and books can be seen in many of his works. He used this library as a setting for much of his novel Something Wicked This Way Comes, and depicted Waukegan as “Green Town” in some of his other semi-autobiographical novels such as Dandelion Wine, and Farewell Summer as well as in many of his short stories. As he grew older, libraries continued to play an important part in Bradbury’s life. When he graduated from high school, Bradbury did not attend college and sold newspapers instead. In discussing his education, in a 2009 interview with the New York Times Bradbury stated,
“Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”
The writer’s lifelong habit of writing every day can be attributed to two incidents during his childhood in which he wrote about in a column on his website titled ‘In His Own Words’ in 2009 and 2012. The first of incident occurred as a three year old when his mother took him to see Lon Chaney‘s performance in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The second incident occurred in 1932, when a carnival entertainer, called Mr. Electrico, touched the young man on the nose with an electrified sword, that made his hair stand on end, and shouted, “Live forever!” Bradbury remarked, “I felt that something strange and wonderful had happened to me because of my encounter with Mr. Electrico…[he] gave me a future…I began to write, full-time. I have written every single day of my life since that day 69 years ago.”
Writing every day proved to be extremely productive for Bradbury as he is credited with writing 27 novels and over 600 short stories. More than eight million copies of his works, published in over 36 languages, have been sold around the world and many of Bradbury’s works have been adapted into television shows or films. Bradbury’s legacy will continue to live on in the many writers, artists, teachers, scientists, comic book readers, sci-fi lovers, and in all people who were influenced and continue to be influenced by him and his work.