Famed futurist Ray Bradbury died last night at the age of 91 in Los Angeles, the city he grew to love even though he never learned to drive.
Bradbury captivated readers beginning in the 1940s with classic novels such as The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451. His anti-authoritarian novels shouldn’t make it surprising that he was a conservative, but many people assumed he was on the left. On the contrary. Bradbury stood with the Tea Party in his final years.
“I think our country is in need of a revolution,” Bradbury told the Los Angeles Times in 2010. “There is too much government today. We’ve got to remember the government should be by the people, of the people, and for the people.”
Bradbury didn’t start out as a conservative. Raised a staunch Democrat, he took out a full-page ad in Variety, the show-business bible, after the 1952 victory of Dwight Eisenhower. His “open letter” to Republicans warned: “Every attempt that you make to identify the Democratic Party as the party of Communism, as the ‘left-wing’ or ‘subversive’ party, I will attack with all my heart and soul.”
But Lyndon Johnson’s subsequent mishandling of the Vietnam War left him disenchanted, and he voted Republican for the first time in 1968. Although he considered himself an independent, he voted for the GOP in every presidential election save 1976, when he voted for Jimmy Carter. But as his biographer Sam Weller explains, Mr. Carter’s inept handling of the economy “pushed [Mr. Bradbury] permanently away from the Democrats.”
Other Democratic presidents haven’t fared much better with him. He once described President Clinton with a word that rhymes with “knithead.” As for President Obama, Mr. Bradbury was angered by the president’s curtailing the space program. “He should be announcing that we should go back to the moon,” he told the Times
His attitude towards filmmaker Michael Moore was even less complimentary. When in 2005, Moore appropriated the title of his seminal anti-censorship novel Fahrenheit 451 for his anti-Bush agitprop documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, Bradbury was furious that he hadn’t been asked for permission and also concerned that his book would be confused with the film. After fruitless attempts to contact Mr. Moore, the novelist went on television to demand: “Give me my title back!” Moore finally called with the news that the premiere of his film was only two weeks away and he could do nothing to change the title. But Mr. Bradbury had the last laugh. Two weeks after Bush’s reelection, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts in a White House ceremony for “his commitment to the freedom of the individual” as “the greatest living American writer of science fiction.” Let’s just say he was a great American and a wonderful writer, period.