Ray Bradbury, 1920-2012
On Tuesday, legendary writer Ray Bradbury died at the age of 91. James Gunn, writer, scholar, and founder of KU’s Center for the Study of Science Fiction, has memorialized Bradbury as being “[…] a bridge between the two cultures – not [C. P.] Snow’s science and literature but science fiction and literature.” KU Libraries holds close to one hundred editions Bradbury’s work, including thirty-five volumes housed the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. We are also fortunate enough to hold a smattering of letters by Bradbury in several of our science fiction collections, including in the papers of editor and publisher Donald A. Wollheim, writer and critic P. Schuyler Miller, and writer Theodore Sturgeon.
Ray Bradbury’s letters to Ted Sturgeon are a particular delight: playful, comic, and frank, with plenty of talk of writing and sex. He opens one missive with the salutation, “Dear Word-That-Rhymes-With-Virgin.” Indeed that letter, written in April of 1947, captures Bradbury at a particularly significant moment in his career. His first book, Dark Carnival (1947), was just about to be published, but Bradbury was too caught up in the process of proofing to boast. “It’s a swell book,” he writes to Sturgeon, “but, Christ, the ennui, the vertigo, the inertia that overcomes one after hours of reading stuff you don’t want to read anymore.”
Indeed, as the letter shows, Bradbury navigated his early successes with a good deal of self-effacing wit. When Sturgeon congratulated him on the literary coup of publishing a story, “The Man Upstairs,” in the March 1947 issue of Harper’s, Bradbury joked about his new-found ego: “Since my sale to Harper’s I’m not speaking to anybody. Especially my grocer, my cleaner, my clothier, my radio man; to all of whom I owe money […].” Now, sixty-five years later, it’s hard to imagine that Bradbury’s place in the annals of American storytelling was ever anything but assured.
To celebrate this influential author’s life and writings, we share below three covers from Bradbury volumes in the Spencer Library’s collections (click images to enlarge). Rest in peace, Mr. Bradbury.
Clockwise: The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1950 (Book Club Edition). ASF C194; The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1951 (First Edition). ASF C55; I Sing the Body Electric, by Ray Bradbury. New York: Knopf, 1969 (First Edition). ASF C790.
Special Collections Librarian