The Associated Press reports that Ray Bradbury, sci-fi technophobe and author of such genre touchstones Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and Dandelion Wine, died last night at 91.

The LA Times:

Bradbury has frequently been credited with elevating the often maligned reputation of science fiction. Some say he singlehandedly helped to move the genre into the realm of literature.

“The only figure comparable to mention would be [Robert A.] Heinlein and then later [Arthur C.] Clarke,” said Gregory Benford, a UC Irvine physics professor and Nebula Award-winning science fiction writer. “But Bradbury, in the ‘40s and ‘50s, became the name brand.” (link)

Bradbury, the rejected member of the literary establishment who mainstreamed an entire genre, the Coors-drinking small-town romantic who wrote about worlds unknown, was never easy to pigeonhole. In January’s issue of TAC, Daniel J. Flynn takes up the task of making sense of his quirky retrofuturism. An excerpt:

For H.G. Wells and Edward Bellamy, utopia was the far future. Bradbury looks in the other direction. He sets his wayback machine to Green Town, America circa 1920. The son of a Swedish immigrant mother and a power lineman father, Bradbury cherishes a nostalgia for boyhood along Lake Michigan that would seem odd given the mama’s boy wimpiness that made him a target for his peers. His family’s poverty limited his opportunities; so hard up were the Bradburys that one older brother taken by 1918’s influenza epidemic lies in an unmarked grave, while another older brother shared a bed with Ray in the makeshift living room/bedroom well into adulthood.

This time and place is nevertheless the Eden of Bradbury’s fiction. This is perhaps most loudly pronounced in “Mars Is Heaven” (1948)—redubbed “The Third Expedition” in The Martian Chronicles (1950)—in which the red planet turning out to be heaven is overshadowed by the fact that heaven turns out to be small-town America.

The colonization of Mars is nothing new: it’s the conquest of the North American continent all over again. Martians play the role of Indians; disease wipes out the original inhabitants; St. Joseph’s, Missouri becomes a launch pad; adventurers go native; boom towns yield to ghost towns; and Earthlings go up instead of west to start anew. The Martian future is the American past. (link)