“On the world of science fiction and fantasy and imagination he is immortal.”
Those are the words of filmmaker Steven Spielberg in response to the death of his muse, Ray Bradbury. One of the finest authors of our time, Bradbury is widely credited for bringing science fiction to a universal state of credibility. His 27 novels and over 600 short stories have been an inspiration to many novelists and screenwriters–including the late Michael Crichton. More than 35 films and television programs were based on his short stories and novels.
That legacy began in the early 1950’s. Producer William Alland first brought a Bradbury story to theaters in 1953 with “It Came From Outer Space”. Director Alfred Hitchcock used several of Bradbury’s stories for his program Alfred Hitchcock Presents. “I Sing the Body Electric” provided the basis for the 100th episode of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone.
Through the years, it was a trend to turn to a Bradbury story for a hit production. The all-too-obvious culmination was The Ray Bradbury Theater (1985-1992), a syndicated anthology television series hosted by Bradbury himself. Each episode would open with a wide shot of Ray seated at this desk, perusing various artifacts from his life which he would describe as inspiration for his story. He adapted 65 of his own stories for this show as well as providing voiceovers.
Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois, a heavy reader and writer throughout his youth. His own influences were derived from Edgar Allan Poe, H.G. Wells and his personal favorite Edgar Rice Burroughs. He loved Burroughs’ “The Warlords of Mars” so much he wrote his own sequel to it.
One of Bradbury’s closest friends was Harry Harryhausen who is credited with streamlining stop-motion animation. Harryhausen developed the creature for Bradbury’s storyline for “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms”.
Bradbury never considered his work to be science fiction as such. “I’ve only done one science fiction book,” he once said. “That’s “Fahrenheit 451″, based on reality.” (So named to represent the temperature at which paper ignites). “Science fiction is a depiction of the real. Fantasy is a depiction of the unreal.”
What remains real is the profound beauty of the way he put words together. He may have succumbed to the illness that claimed his life but his words belong to eternity. As Spielberg said, he is immortal.