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Jun 11, 2012
Ray Bradbury was probably the most widely read science fiction writer in the United States. If you were born after 1953, when Fahrenheit 451 was first published, there's a good chance you read it in school, maybe along with The Martian Chronicles. Shortly after I learned about Bradbury's death at the age of 91 in his Los Angeles home last week, I wrote about how "[he] showed us--not how to dream, exactly, but a more powerful way of dreaming than we'd previously known." And the stories continued to stay with us, not just long after they were published but long after we encountered them. "Some authors I read and loved as a boy disappointed me as I aged," Neil Gaiman wrote for the Guardian. "Bradbury never did. His horror stories remained as chilling, his dark fantasies as darkly fantastic, his science fiction... as much of an exploration of the sense of wonder, as they had when I was a child."
For Rakesh Satyal, the author of the novel Blue Boy, Bradbury's short story "All Summer in a Day" is a powerful allegory for the inner pain of gay and lesbian youth. Although the story of a young girl whose classmates cruelly deprive her of the rare joy of seeing the sun on a perpetually overcast planet is emotionally tough, Satyal also sees, in the final reactions of those children, a possibility for the hope that things might get better. As President Barack Obama reflected in an official White House statement, "His gift for storytelling reshaped our culture and expanded our world. But Ray also understood that our imaginations could be used as a tool for better understanding, a vehicle for change, and an expression of our most cherished values."
Ray Bradbury was, as Neil Gaiman puts it, "a genre on his own, and on his own terms."