American writer and national treasure (1920-2012). He was born on August 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Illinois. He graduated from high school in Los Angeles in 1938 and, after several years of spending late nights typing stories at a typewriter in a public library, became a full-time writer in 1943. Since that time, he published more than 30 books and almost 600 short stories. He also wrote poems, plays, essays, and the script for John Huston's version of "Moby Dick". He is best known for writing science fiction, fantasy, and horror, though some of his best stories have no fantastic elements in them at all.
He died on June 6, 2012. I will miss him dearly.
Bradbury is not considered a very hip writer, mostly because his writing is not cynical enough for modern sci-fi fans, not predictable enough for modern fantasy fans, not brutal enough for modern horror fans. Many of his stories are about children (like Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked this Way Comes) or the loss of innocence ("The Veldt," "The Small Assassin," "The Dwarf," and others). He also likes to write about small towns in Mexico, Ireland, and the American Midwest.
His writing and his words are deliciously descriptive, and I cannot read any of his stories without feeling (A) like I've been beaten over the head with solid proof of my own inadequacies as a writer and (B) like he knew that I personally was going to read his books and so he wrote them expressly for me. The ability to wow an audience with pure writing talent while simultaneously winning them over with a pure love of writing and story -- that's a gift that few can manage.
As far as I'm concerned, he was one of the best American writers in any genre. Hell, as far as I'm concerned, he was one of the best friends I ever had, though I've never met him outside of the pages of his books. He's helped me see the excitement of new sneakers and the happiness of vanilla ice cream in Dandelion Wine. He's led me through the pride of memorizing books in Fahrenheit 451. He's carried me on merry-go-round trips to Hell in Something Wicked This Way Comes. He's led me safely through Samhain and the Day of the Dead in The Halloween Tree. He's shown me a new world in a handful of red dust in The Martian Chronicles. He's introduced me to the family I always wished I had in "Homecoming" and From the Dust Returned. He's demonstrated new ways to write in Zen in the Art of Writing. He's taken me through prehistory into strange worlds in "A Sound of Thunder." He's shown me doomed courtship rituals in "The Fog Horn" and true love in "The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair." He's reminded me of science fiction's once-shameless love of good old-fashioned optimistic rockets in "R is for Rocket" and taken me through a lonely death in space in "Kaleidoscope." He's shown me the downside of babies in "The Small Assassin," the upside of luddites in "The Murderer," and the aftermath of the Apocalypse in "There Shall Come Soft Rains." He's led me through awkward high school reunions in "I Wonder What's Become of Sally." He's shared a final gift with forgotten favorite writers in "Last Rites" and demonstrated the benefits of taking the next exit in "The Other Highway." He's given me the pros and cons of eternal youth in "Hail and Farewell."
I never had the opportunity to meet Ray Bradbury, but I still considered him one of my dearest friends. He gave me a near-endless supply of stories and magic and imagination and happiness, and for that, he has my gratitude and love, forever and ever and ever.