October 6, 2014
Ray Bradbury’s weird art collection sells for almost $500,000
by Jacob Karpathian
Ray Bradbury’s strange and somewhat disturbing collection of sci-fi-inspired art sold at auction last week for $493,408. Bradbury, who passed in 2012, revolutionized science fiction writing and was best known for Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles. Nate D. Sanders Fine Autographs & Memorabilia auctioned off the surreal collection.
Bradbury’s phantasmagoric and uncanny art included paintings of dragon-like creatures attacking lighthouses; the original Louis Glanzman painting for the cover of The Illustrated Man; and a mixed media piece of a grinning Bradbury with a rocket taking off from his head as a sea monster curls around him.
Bradbury has played an instrumental role in the evolution of science fiction since his first book, The Martian Chronicles, was published in 1950 and his influence can be felt both immediately and remotely—in the cyberpunk lit of the 1980s, for instance. Bradbury’s most essential contribution, however, was to the development of the dystopian subgenre. His influence has been especially evident recently, as it reaches from The Hunger Games to Emily St John Mandel’s new dystopian novel Station Eleven, which was longlisted for the National Book Award late last month.
Discussing the popularity of dystopian fiction in an interview with R.L. Stine, Josh Zepps points out that dystopia is a metaphor for the existential uncertainty that underrides so much of modern life. In the 1950s, science fiction reflected the space race, in the 1980s it dreamt on the emergence of computers, and now it hypothesizes on the explosion of worldwide viral epidemics. Bradbury consistently remained ahead of these trends.
The child of Swedish immigrants, Bradbury’s family moved to California from the Midwest when Ray was 14; they arrived in Los Angeles in 1934 with only $40 to their name. Bradbury had begun writing two years earlier and would go on to become one of the most celebrated writers of the 20th century, writing novels, screenplays, and television scripts, and countless stories (and I mean countless—there are dozens of collections); he also became something of a celebrity—he had a dalliance with Bo Derek and drove the Mars Lander (though he himself could not drive), as detailed in Ray Bradbury: The Last Interview coming out this December from Melville House. Seeing this art collection for the first time further reveals the bizarre framing of this brilliant author’s mind.