By Alan Duke, CNN
LOS ANGELES (CNN) – Science fiction author Ray Bradbury, whose imagination yielded classic books such as “Fahrenheit 451,” “The Martian Chronicles” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” has died at 91, his publisher said Wednesday.
Bradbury “died peacefully, last night, in Los Angeles, after a lengthy illness,” HarperCollins said in a written statement.
Bradbury’s books and 600 short stories predicted a variety of things, including the emergence of ATMs and live broadcasts of fugitive car chases.
“In a career spanning more than seventy years, Ray Bradbury has inspired generations of readers to dream, think, and create,” the statement said. “A prolific author of hundreds of short stories and close to fifty books, as well as numerous poems, essays, operas, plays, teleplays, and screenplays, Bradbury was one of the most celebrated writers of our time.”
Bradbury wrote the screenplay for John Huston’s classic film adaptation of “Moby Dick.” He adapted 65 of his stories for television’s “The Ray Bradbury Theater” and won an Emmy for his teleplay of “The Halloween Tree.”
“In my later years I have looked in the mirror each day and found a happy person staring back.” he wrote in a book of essays published in 2005. “Occasionally I wonder why I can be so happy. The answer is that every day of my life I’ve worked only for myself and for the joy that comes from writing and creating. The image in my mirror is not optimistic, but the result of optimal behavior.”
Bradbury’s death brought immediate reaction from his literary and film peers.
“He was my muse for the better part of my sci-fi career,” director Steven Spielberg said. “He lives on through his legion of fans. In the world of science fiction and fantasy and imagination he is immortal.”
“Ray Bradbury wrote three great novels and three hundred great stories,” author Stephen King said. “One of the latter was called ‘A Sound of Thunder.’ The sound I hear today is the thunder of a giant’s footsteps fading away. But the novels and stories remain, in all their resonance and strange beauty.”
Bradbury received the 2000 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the 2004 National Medal of Arts and a 2007 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation.
Bradbury had lived in Los Angeles since his family moved there from his native Waukegan, Illinois, to look for work during the Great Depression.
He is survived by his four daughters, Susan Nixon, Ramona Ostergren, Bettina Karapetian and Alexandra Bradbury, and eight grandchildren. His wife of 57 years, Marguerite, died in 2003.
The biography released by his publisher quoted a story in which Bradbury recounted meeting a carnival magician, Mr. Electrico, in 1932. Electrico touched the 12-year-old Bradbury with his sword and commanded, “Live forever!”
“I decided that was the greatest idea I had ever heard,” Bradbury said. “I started writing every day. I never stopped.”
Sam Weller, Bradbury’s biographer and friend, said in a posting on his website Wednesday, “I’ll never see you again. I’ll never see you again. I’ll never see you again.
“The problem with death, you once said to me, is that ‘it is so damned permanent,’ ” Weller’s statement said.
Weller, in one of his books about Bradbury, quoted him as saying he would sometimes open one of his books late at night and cry out thanks to God.
“I sit there and cry because I haven’t done any of this,” he told Weller. “It’s a God-given thing, and I’m so grateful, so, so grateful. The best description of my career as a writer is, ‘At play in the fields of the Lord.’ “
He discussed how many of his best friends were no longer around.
“My personal telephone book is a book of the dead now,” Bradbury told Weller in his book of interviews. “I’m so old. Almost all of my friends have died, and I don’t have the guts to take their names out of the book.”
CNN’s Carolyn Sung contributed to this report.