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Ray Bradbury: Author's roots at L.A. high school celebrated

June 6, 2012 |  4:16 pm

Click for photos of Ray BradburyRay Bradbury was being remembered Wednesday at his alma mater, Los Angeles High School.

Bradbury graduated from Los Angeles High more than 70 years ago, but a plaque honoring him still hangs at the entrance to the school library, which staff say is appropriately named The Ray Bradbury Memorial Library.

Martha Pratt, the school librarian in her 12th year, said that the Class of 1938 alum called her directly a few years ago to discuss a plan to donate some of his work to the school’s collection.

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“He wanted somebody to come over and visit,” Pratt said. “I’m not a science fiction reader myself, so I knew the opportunity would be wasted on me.”

So a teacher and a few fanatic students went instead, armed with a video camera to document the day. The visit happened on Halloween, Pratt said, and students reported that there was a giant spider web at the author’s door to celebrate.

“He was a real jolly, personable, a love-people kind of guy,” Pratt said. “Not spooky at all.”

Bruce Corwin, 72, graduated 20 years after Bradbury in 1958, and he said that even then the writer’s alumni status was a point of pride. Corwin, a former student body president, said Bradbury was one of the very first inductees in the school’s Hall of Fame. Now the writer’s name is accompanied by the likes of Dustin Hoffman and Johnny Cochran, Corwin said.

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“He had a connection” to the school, Corwin said. “He came back frequently. He had a great loyalty to the libraries he supported.”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa described Bradley as a "beloved Angeleno and one of our most celebrated modern authors."

"Mr. Bradbury created fantasies, mysteries and short stories that brought science fiction into the mainstream. With more than 27 novels and 600 short stories to his name, he left an impressive legacy," the mayor said in a statement. "He was cherished by his fans, peers and fellow Angelenos. His literary legend will surely live on in his work and our memories. My thoughts are with Mr. Bradbury’s friends and family at this difficult time."

Bradbury died Tuesday night in Los Angeles, his agent Michael Congdon confirmed. His family said in a statement that he had suffered from a long illness. He was 91.

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Author of novels including "The Martian Chronicles," "Fahrenheit 451," "Dandelion Wine" and "Something Wicked This Way Comes,"  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.

Much of Bradbury's accessibility and ultimate popularity had to do with his gift as a stylist — his ability to write lyrically and evocatively of lands an imagination away, worlds he anchored in the here and now with a sense of visual clarity and small-town familiarity.

After a series of moves, the Bradbury family settled in Los Angeles in 1934. Ray dabbled in drama and journalism, fell in love with the movies and periodically sent jokes to the George Burns and Gracie Allen radio show. He read constantly and his writing output steadily increased and improved. While at Los Angeles High, Bradbury became involved with the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, where he met and got critiques of his work from science-fiction writers Robert Heinlein, Henry Kuttner and Jack Williamson.

Though he didn't drive, Bradbury could often be spotted out and about in Los Angeles. A familiar figure with a wind-blown mane of white hair and heavy, black-framed glasses, he'd browse the stacks of libraries and bookstores, his bicycle leaning against a store front or pole just outside.

A stroke in late 1999 slowed but didn't stop him.

He began dictating his work over the phone to one of his daughters, who helped to transcribe and edit. In 2007 he began pulling rare or unfinished pieces from his archives. "Now and Forever," a collection of "Leviathan '99" and "Somewhere a Band Is Playing," was published in 2007 and "We'll Always Have Paris Stories" in 2009.

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Photo: A man sets up a flower wreath in memory of science fiction writer Ray Bradbury at Bradbury's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Credit: Robyn Beckrobyn / AFP/Getty Images

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