Last week, noted science-fiction/fantasy author Ray Bradbury passed away at the age of 91. The Waukegan native is best known for his many literary works, including novels Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and The Martian Chronicles. But Bradbury also made numerous contributions to television, particularly in the early days of the medium.
Bradbury’s works were adapted for many live television productions, including the CBS Television Workshop, Studio 57, Lights Out, and others. Bradbury later wrote a few episodes for the anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-65), which had two stints each on CBS and NBC. In 1962, he co-wrote an episode of The Twilight Zone titled I Sing The Body Electric, in which a widower orders his children an android-like grandmother (the story was remade twenty years later as The Electric Grandmother, a made-for-TV movie.) During a panel at 2010’s Comic-Con, Bradbury noted there was some friction between him and Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling, saying he lost his vision for the show (to download and listen to the entire panel, click here.)
In 1985, Bradbury’s works was showcased on his own anthology show. Ray Bradbury Theater was one of cable TV’s earliest attempts at original programming, and featured several well-known actors including William Shatner and Robert Vaughn among others, and all episodes of the series were written by Bradbury. Throughout its six-year run, spanning 65 episodes over two networks (HBO and USA), Ray Bradbury Theater won ten Cable ACE awards (and was nominated for seven more), and also nominated for two Primetime Emmy Awards.
Bradbury also received credit on revivals of two of the programs he worked on in the 1960’s: The New Twilight Zone and The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents, with both shows also debuting in 1985.
On the big screen, both Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked were successfully adapted into theatricals, while in addition to The Electric Grandmother, his TV movie adaptions included The Screaming Woman (1972), Walking On Air (1987), and The Halloween Tree (1993). Not all of his work turned into gold: the 1980 NBC miniseries The Martian Chronicles was a critically panned ratings flop, and even Bradbury himself admitted he found the miniseries (penned by Richard Matheson) “just boring”. Despite the lukewarm reviews, Martian Chronicles became a cult favorite recalled fondly by many fans, including Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof.
Even after moving to Los Angeles, Bradbury kept his ties to Waukegan. When the city wanted to tear down the public library he visited regularly as a kid, Bradbury convinced city council members to change their minds (the building is now a landmark.) In fact, Bradbury became a strong advocate for libraries, as his love for books helped shape him into one of the world’s most noted and successful writers. According to the City of Waukegan’s website article on Bradbury, he has written over 600 short stories, plays, novels, and poems. And he wrote every day since he was three.
Bradbury was also a champion of space exploration, particularly when it came to moon research.
After Bradbury died on June 5, notable writers such as Steven Spielberg and Stephen King paid tribute and both said his works were influential on their careers. And there’s no doubt Bradbury has left a legacy many of his fans, followers, fellow writers (like yours truly) and his readers would appreciate. As a native of Chicagoland, Bradbury belongs in the same class as literary greats Studs Terkel and Carl Sandburg.
Ray Bradbury’s motto was “live forever”. Well, he didn’t exactly achieve that goal, but his works sure will.