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Genre Legend Passes: Ray Bradbury, 91

Was one of the 20th century’s most prolific sci-fi authors

His work influenced an entire genre, from books to television to film. And even living into his 90s was not enough to curb the impact — and the sense of humor — this man had.

Ray Bradbury, author of such literary classics as “Fahrenheit 451” and “The Illustrated Man” died Tuesday. He was 91.

“He died peacefully, last night, in Los Angeles, after a lengthy illness,” his publisher, HarperCollins, announced Wednesday.

Bradbury was a true science-fiction legend. Born Aug. 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Ill., he suffered from poor eyesight, couldn’t fight for his country in World War II because of it, and thought he would only be known as a descendant of an accused witch from the Salem Witch Trials.

Yet, Bradbury defied all odds. He read voraciously and loved classic 19th century authors like Edgar Allen Poe, H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. But he also had a love for magic, and if he had not become a popular author, we could have very well been eulogizing Ray Bradbury the magician today.

Bradbury started writing for fanzines in 1938, and would later join an esteemed group of science-fiction authors — all in their early days — thanks to Forrest J. Ackerman. Bradbury would share conversations on a regular basis with the likes of Robert A. Heinlein and Henry Kuttner.

Bradbury would receive his first paid commission in 1941 for “Pendulum,” receiving $15 (or $235 today), and would become a full-time paid writer a year later.

He would go on to write novels like “Fahrenheit 451” in 1953 and “The Martian Chronicles” in 1950, both which would help him attain the designation of a science-fiction writer. However, Bradbury was not keen to be lumped in that category.

“First of all, I don’t write science-fiction,” Bradbury told Weekly Alibi back in 1999. “I’ve only done one science-fiction book, and that’s ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ based on reality. Science-fiction is a depiction of the real. Fantasy is a depiction of the unreal. So ‘Martian Chronicles’ is not science-fiction, it’s fantasy. It couldn’t happen, you see? That’s the reason it’s going to be around a long time — because it’s a Greek myth, and myths have staying power.”

In that same interview, Bradbury had an interesting take on science-fiction and fantasy fandom as well, saying, “they’re all crazy.”

“I’ve been to a lot of conventions,” he said. “They’re very funny looking. But we were funny looking, too.”

While the direct television and film adaptations of Bradbury’s work is not as numerous as many would think, there are even more films and television shows that were based loosely (or even heavily) on Bradbury’s writings, including films like “The Butterfly Effect” in 2004 and “Equilibrium” in 2002.

Bradbury’s first foray onto the big screen was “It Came From Outer Space” in 1953, based on his screenplay “Atomic Monster.” Soon after, “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” contained a scene that was based on Bradbury’s “The Fog Horn.”

Bradbury also did screenwriting of his own, adapting Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” for the big screen for John Huston and actor Gregory Peck in 1953.

“Fahrenheit 451” was turned into a film in 1966 with Oskar Werner and Julie Christie. “The Illustrated Man” came three years later Rod Steiger, Claire Bloom and Robert Drivas.

“The Martian Chronicles” was turned into an NBC miniseries with Rock Hudson in 1980, but Bradbury was not a fan of it, calling the adaptation “boring.”

Most recently, Bradbury’s short story “Chrysalis” was adapted into a film in 2008 by Roger Lay Jr.

Bradbury retired from the convention circuit in 2009 citing old age and a lack of energy, but he came straight back into the spotlight in 2010 with the release of the YouTube sensation, “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury.” The song was written and perfumed by Rachel Bloom, a self-proclaimed Bradbury fan, which at first was lambasted by other Bradbury fans.

Bradbury himself reportedly took the video in good fun, even releasing a photo of his comical startled expression when he watched it.

Bradbury is survived by four daughters: Susan Nixon, Ramona Ostergren, Bettina Karapetian and Alexandra Bradbury. He also has eight grandchildren.

His wife of 57 years, Marguerite Bradbury, died in 2003.

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