It’s been a sad few weeks in the literary world—following the passings of Maurice Sendak and Carlos Fuentes last month, we begin June by mourning the passing of poet, short story author, screenwriter, novelist and general sci-fi giant/master of the alien and sinister, Ray Bradbury, who passed away yesterday at the age of 91.
Bradbury left an indelible mark on the literary and entertainment worlds thanks to his vivid imagination, eerie ability to predict the future and long, varied and prolific career. Here are just a few of the myriad examples of how Bradbury’s works have lived on off the page, on the big screen, small screen and in song.
Several adaptations and iterations exist of Bradbury’s most important (and frequently challenged in schools) novel, Fahrenheit 451, the author’s spinning of a dystopian future in which dissent is virtually nonexistent and books are burned en masse. The most iconic of these is François Truffaut’s 1966 adaptation, the only film the French New Wave legend ever made in English. It won several awards, and the general approval of the author.
The novel was later rearticulated as Michael Moore’s firebrand 2004 documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, a much-discussed and provocative look at America during the beginnings of the War on Terror. The tagline, lifted directly from the one for Bradbury’s novel, was "The Temperature at Which Freedom Burns."
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Walt Disney adapted the haunted-carnival story and Halloween staple into a 1983 film starring Jonathan Pryce and Jason Robards. It flopped at the box office but was up for many major sci-fi awards, not to mention providing a whole lot of nightmare fuel for a generation of American children.
In the novel, two teenage boys have a run-in with an alluring but terrifying traveling carnival that turns the town upside down. In the South Park episode "Something Wall-Mart This Way Comes," a certain sinister department store assumes the role.
The Shakespearean title of the work appears in a number of album titles and songs, ranging from heavy metal to Britrock and acid jazz. It appears as the chorus on this track from 2Pac’s debut album, 2Pacalypse Now.
The Martian Chronicles
Bradbury’s alien-encounter epic series was turned into a three-part miniseries in 1980 and sported an all-star cast, including Roddy McDowell, Rock Hudson and Bernadette Peters. The script deviated quite a bit from the novel, but more importantly, we had no idea Mars looked so much like a Hollywood soundstage littered with leftover props from the Stonehenge scene from This Is Spinal Tap.
Giant-head wearing master of the turntables Deadmau5 crafted his single, "The Veldt," based on a Bradbury short story of the same name. In the story, two parents who build their children a freakish nursery replicated after the African savannah, complete with robotic lions, end up becoming victims of their own creation. You probably would not have guessed that had you just listened to the deadmau5 track, though.
If any band would be major fans of Ray Bradbury, it pretty much had to be Rush, now, didn’t it? In 1984, the Canadian prog-rockers released "The Body Electric," which borrows its name from a Bradbury short story, "I Sing The Body Electric" (which in turn, borrows its name from a Walt Whitman poem… how meta) as well as some thematic elements (the plot about humanoid robots).
One of Elton John’s greatest hits, "Rocket Man (And I Think It’s Going To Be a Long, Long Time)" echoes the plot of Bradbury’s short story, The Rocket Man, in which an astronaut experiences a case of the "grass is always greener" syndrome and misses his wife and family while in space.
The Man and His Life
For a bonus entry, here is Rachel Bloom’s 90th birthday tribute to the man and his literature: "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury." This hilarious—but NSFW—tribute includes couplets like, "You write about Earthlings going to Mars / I write about blowing you in my car." Whoa.