Ray Bradbury, a boundlessly imaginative novelist who wrote some of the most popular science-fiction books of all time, including “Fahrenheit 451” and “The Martian Chronicles,” and who transformed the genre of flying saucers and little green men into literature exploring childhood terrors, colonialism and the erosion of individual thought, died June 5 in Los Angeles. He was 91.
His agent, Michael Congdon, confirmed the death but declined to disclose the cause.
Mr. Bradbury, who began his career in the 1930s contributing stories to pulp-fiction magazines, received a special Pulitzer Prize citation in 2007 “for his distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy.”
His body of works, which continued to appear through recent years to terrific reviews, encompassed more than 500 titles, including novels, plays (“Dandelion Wine,” adapted from his 1957 semi-autobiographical novel), children’s books and short stories. His tales were often made into films, including the futuristic story of a book-burning society (director Francois Truffaut’s “Fahrenheit 451” in 1966), a suspense story about childhood fears (“Something Wicked This Way Comes” in 1983) and the more straightforward alien-attack story (“It Came From Outer Space” in 1953).
He helped write filmmaker John Huston’s 1956 movie adaptation of Herman Melville’s novel “Moby-Dick” and contributed scripts to the TV anthology programs “The Twilight Zone” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” Mr. Bradbury hosted his own science-fiction anthology program, “The Ray Bradbury Theater,” from 1985 to 1992 on the HBO and USA cable networks.
“Bradbury took the conventions of the science-fiction genre — time travel, robots, space exploration — and made them signify beyond themselves, giving them a broader and more nuanced emotional appeal to general readers,” said William F. Touponce, a founder and former director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
“His stories expanded the range of the genre by mixing in with science-fiction themes more traditional elements of romance, together with humor and satire, and even myth and fairy tales, which no doubt contributed to their appeal to a wider audience,” Touponce said.
Having grown up steeped in horror films and pulp magazines such as Amazing Stories, Mr. Bradbury was well-versed in the conventions of science fiction. But the author took those motifs to another level, Touponce said, by using them to comment on broader human themes.
“The Martian Chronicles,” released to wide acclaim in 1950, used the guide of science fiction to explore colonialism, nuclear war and the transformative power of one’s environment.
The book sealed his reputation as a science-fiction writer, but Mr. Bradbury frequently eschewed the label.
“People say, ‘Are you a fantasy writer?’ No,” Mr. Bradbury told the Charlotte Observer in 1997. “ ‘Are you a science-fiction writer?’ No. I’m a magician.”
He explained: “Science fiction is the art of the possible, not the art of the impossible. As soon as you deal with things that can’t happen, you are writing fantasy.”