The announcement on Wednesday morning of Ray Bradbury's death has been a big story in Los Angeles and beyond all day. (My updated original post, and Denise Hamilton's personal piece for Native Intelligence from 2006.) Here's a smattering of some of the reflections and tributes, with more certainly to come.
Bradbury the Angeleno, by Scott Timberg
Bradbury, who died Tuesday at the age of 91, was not, of course, a typical Angeleno. But he was, in his way, an exemplary one.
It was the fields and front-porches of the Midwest that gave Bradbury much of his inner landscape, and a carnival magician back in Illinois who gave his imagination its early, crucial spark. But his teenage years and young adulthood in Los Angeles—he didn’t leave his parents’ house until his late 20s—were crucial to the kind of writer he became.
And while many of his early works—the novel 'Dandelion Wine,' the stories in 'The October Country' and 'The Illustrated Man'—were set either on other planets or in a small-town or pastoral setting abstracted from the writer’s early years, his most poetic and important book, 'The Martian Chronicles,' was as essentially the work of a Los Angeles writer as 'The Long Goodbye' or 'Ask the Dust.'
In his disdain for noise, automation and much of contemporary life—he insisted on using a typewriter, for instance—Bradbury remained in some ways one of the village Midwestern Protestants (Louis Adamic called them the “Folks”) who gave Southern California much of its character in the first half of the 20th century.
But when he moved with his family to L.A. at 14—his father was seeking work in the depths of the Depression, and eventually found it as a lineman—the Southland hit Bradbury hard, and never let go. At times he wished it would.
David Ulin on how Bradbury belonged to Los Angeles:
Bradbury developed as a writer here, partly because of the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society, a phenomenal group that counted among its members Robert Heinlein and Forrest J. Ackerman and met at Clifton's Cafeteria downtown. His love of literature blended well with a healthy fascination with pop culture, and that led him to imagine a style of science fiction not particularly weighted down with science, in which ordinary men and women went about the struggles of their lives.
But you can argue that one of the most important influences on him started when he entered into a lifelong relationship with the Los Angeles Public Library — and libraries in general, which he regarded, in a very real sense, as society's soul.
"Libraries raised me," he said in a 2009 interview while trying to raise money for a library in Ventura County. "I don't believe in colleges and universities.… 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."
An appraisal from Michiko Kakutani, Up From the Depths of Pulp and Into the Mainstream
Over a 70-year career, he used his fecund storytelling talents to fashion tales that have captivated legions of young people and inspired a host of imitators. His work informed the imagination of writers and filmmakers like Stephen King, Steven Spielberg and James Cameron, and helped transport science fiction out of the pulp magazine ghetto and into the mainstream.
Thanks to its lurid subject matter and its often easy-to-decipher morals, Mr. Bradbury’s work is often taught in middle school. He’s often one of the first writers who awaken students to the enthralling possibilities of storytelling and the use of fantastical metaphors to describe everyday human life. His finest tales have become classics not only because of their accessibility but also because of their exuberant “Twilight Zone” inventiveness, their social resonance, their prescient vision of a dystopian future, which he dreamed up with astonishing ingenuity and flair. Not surprisingly he had a magpie’s love of all sorts of literature — Poe, Shakespeare and Sherwood Anderson (whose “Winesburg, Ohio” reportedly inspired “The Martian Chronicles”) as well as H. G. Wells and L. Frank Baum — and borrowed devices and conventions from the classics and from various genres. “Something Wicked This Way Comes” would win acclaim as a groundbreaking work of horror and fantasy.
“Fahrenheit 451” (1953) — Mr. Bradbury’s famous novel-turned-movie about a futuristic world in which books are verboten — is at once a parable about McCarthyism and Stalinism, and a kind of fable about the perils of political correctness and the dangers of television and other technology. “The Martian Chronicles” (1950), a melancholy series of overlapping stories about the colonization of Mars, can be read as an allegory about the settling of the United States or seen as a mirror of postwar American life.
Patt Morrison on her idol and friend
That’s what I called him. It was, he had told me, what an Irish cabbie had called him, back when Ray Bradbury was still rather a lad of a writer, albeit an acclaimed one, and had gone off to Ireland to work on the screenplay for the 1956 movie "Moby Dick."...
If you are a lover of books and living in Los Angeles, you probably ran across Ray Bradbury. He admired newspapers -- he'd stood on street corners and hawked L.A.'s many newspapers as a boy -- but he was even more a devotee of books, of book lovers and of libraries.
If the only thing he'd ever written had been "Fahrenheit 451," about the soul's longing for literature, he would be justly renowned. Ray wrote "Fahrenheit 451" on typewriters he rented at UCLA, the kind you used to be able to drop coins in for an hour's use of them; the going rate may have been two bits for 60 minutes. But his writing spanned the globe, in myriad languages, and explored time and space and the interiors of the mind and the heart.
Statement from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Vilaraigosa
“Today, Los Angeles mourns the passing of Ray Bradbury, a beloved Angeleno and one of our most celebrated modern authors.
"Mr. Bradbury created fantasies, mysteries, and short stories that brought science fiction into the mainstream. With more than 27 novels and 600 short stories to his name, he left an impressive legacy.
"He was cherished by his fans, peers, and fellow Angelenos. His literary legend will surely live on in his work and our memories.
"My thoughts are with Mr. Bradbury’s friends and family at this difficult time."
Message from Clifton's Cafeteria
"The world has lost one of its most incisive creative minds with the passing of Ray Bradbury -- and Clifton’s has lost a dear friend and advocate, “ said Andrew Meieran owner of Clifton’s Cafeteria.
“We at Clifton’s wish to thank Ray for his support when the Cafeteria itself became the one in need of nurturing, and for allowing Clifton's to be part of his astonishing legacy. We thank him for helping create a future of fantasy, fiction and possibility. Our condolences go out to his family and friends, with whom we all share the loss and wonder of this great individual.”
As a struggling writer, Bradbury joined the Science Fiction Society founded in the 1930’s and met every Thursday at Clifton’s on Broadway, in part because Clifton’s nurtured those down on their luck with a Depression Era policy of “Pay What You Can, Dine Free Unless Delighted.” Members were also inspired by the whimsical architecture of fantasy and imagination that eventually helped inspire another cultural icon, Walt Disney, to create Disneyland. Bradbury, having not yet sold any of his work, needed such nurturing and thrived in the explosively creative atmosphere. He went on to become one of the most iconic writers in history and an integral part of Clifton’s cultural legacy.