From Missouri to Infinity

UC Riverside scholars available to comment on the life and work of science fiction icon Ray Bradbury.

UC Riverside has the largest catalogued collection of science fiction and fantasy in the Eaton Collection

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Science fiction icon Ray Bradbury, perhaps the best-known author of the genre, was a master story-teller known for his poetic style and love of libraries. His death on June 5 creates a void in the constellation of American writers who imagined life on planets far away and technologies that often emerged decades later.

Bradbury spoke at the UC Riverside Eaton Science Fiction Conference in May 2008, when he was presented The J. Lloyd Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award in Science Fiction. In his remarks, the author of “The Martian Chronicles” told more than 500 science fiction scholars and fans that after his death he wanted his ashes to be sent to Mars. “I want to be the first dead person on Mars,” he said. “One way or another, I’ll get there.”

UC Riverside scholars are available to discuss Bradbury’s contributions to American literature, particularly science fiction.

Melissa Conway, Head of Special Collections, UCR Libraries
(951) 827-3233

“Ray Bradbury was a great writer, whatever the topic, and a great man. He changed the way people looked at science fiction. He was charming and engaging, and had a special affection for libraries. He didn’t get to go to college. He was self-taught, and libraries were where he learned. He wrote ‘Fahrenheit 451’ in the basement of the UCLA library.”

George Slusser, Professor Emeritus, Comparative Literature and Languages

“Ray Bradbury was probably respected more outside the U.S. as an icon of fantastic literature, a great poet of science fiction literature. He was really an American writer. There was not much difference between Sherwood Anderson and ‘Winesburg, Ohio’ and Ray Bradbury and ‘The Martian Chronicles.’ There was not much difference in the atmosphere.”

Many science fiction writers of Bradbury’s generation were from the Midwest, “the cauldron of science fiction,” and “probably closer to the roots of American literature than modern literature,” Slussers says. “From Missouri to infinity.” Bradbury was very different from other writers with science backgrounds, Slusser says. “He had a sense of the future, and a sense of the past.”

Rob Latham, Professor of English
(951) 827-5301

“Ray Bradbury was the poet of the Space Age,” Latham says. “He gave a human face and heart to the vast technological changes of the postwar period. His lyrical style and sharp, ironic eye brought a sophistication to a genre still mired in pulp cliches. No one did more to make science fiction a respectable form of literature. The explosive growth of the field over the past five decades owes him an enormous debt.”

Text of J. Lloyd Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award in Science Fiction:

Ray Bradbury signing book for fan

Ray Bradbury signs a book for a fan at the 2008 Eaton Conference.

Through many short stories (including such classics as “A Sound of Thunder” and “The Million-Year Picnic”), books (including such influential award-winners as The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451), memorable screenplays (including Moby Dick and The Picasso Summer), many films based upon various writings (such as Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Halloween Tree), and consulting work with the Disney Corporation on Disneyland and Walt Disney World, Ray Bradbury has served as an inspiration to audiences and artists in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Through imaginative and expansive writing and visual production, Ray Bradbury has helped to create a public climate favorable to the adventure of scientific thought and exploration and has secured admiration and respect for the humane and questing imagination. His great love of literature, particularly American literature, so evident in his work, has strengthened and advanced not only the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, but American arts and letters generally. Bradbury the writer has demonstrated, in his work, the continuity of American literature. Writing in the tradition of Sherwood Anderson, he has shown there is no gap between small town America and the cosmic frontier, from dandelion wine to Mars and beyond. His work draws inspiration from the great American 19th century writers Hawthorne, Emerson, Melville, and Poe, projecting their dark carnival to the social frontiers of the future. More than any twentieth century writer, Ray Bradbury has proven that science fiction and “dark fantasy” are American literature in the most profound sense.

In recognition of the author’s many contributions to the development and evolution of science fiction, now, therefore be it resolved, to all and to each to whom this notice may come, that the J. Lloyd Eaton Science Fiction Conference of the University of California, Riverside hereby confers upon Ray Bradbury its first Award for Lifetime Achievement in Science Fiction.

Be it further resolved, that a copy of this resolution be presented to Ray Bradbury on the occasion of the 2008 J. Lloyd Eaton Science Fiction Conference, “Chronicling Mars.” We have caused this award to be issued from the internationally renowned J. Lloyd Eaton Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Utopian Literature of the University of California, Riverside Libraries, where a copy of this award will be displayed for all to see. To these ends, the University of California, Riverside and we representatives of this University have hereunder subscribed our names on this day, Saturday, May 17, 2008.


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