Sometime in my grade-school years (this was probably high school, but might have been middle school), I was required to write a paper on a favorite author. I chose Ray Bradbury.
I read, I believe, everything he had written, from short stories to novels and the thing that struck me the most, and which I wrote my paper about, was his habit of giving power to the traditionally powerless.
In one short story (forgive me, I can't recall the name), a colony of African-Americans moved to Mars and, when a spaceship full of white people fleeing the nuclear holocaust on Earth asked for refuge, the colonists initially cordoned off the back half of buses for the newcomers and designated separate drinking fountains and the like. Then the refugees arrived, full of tales of places that were gone. The hill where a colonist's grandfather had been lynched, gone. The sites of other racial atrocities, all gone. The colonists then tore down all the separation markers and accepted the refugees as equals. It was their choice, and the refugees told them they'd rather be slaves than dead... but the colonists forgave them. It was beautiful.
Of course, not all of Bradbury's stories ended so happily. I remember one where the spoiled children who lived in an automated super-house programmed their nursery-slash-virtual reality room with real lions who ate their overworked parents. Then, of course, there's the short story The Small Assassin, which should never be read by a pregnant woman. *shudder*
There were scores of other examples. My paper was called "The Rulers of Bradbury." Clever title, yes?
Ray Bradbury helped form my appreciation for science fiction as well as my views of the world. His haunting stories (like the one where everyone abandons Mars to go back to Earth and fight in the last world war... except for one guy who answers the phone one day to find that he's not the last human on the planet... and that he wouldn't marry the caller even if she IS the last woman on the planet) keep popping up in my brain at odd times. He had a perfect balance of innocence and horror--and the "innocents" inflicted the horror as often as they suffered from it.
His stories were empowering to the downtrodden... and put everyone on notice that weak does not equate harmless, that beauty can hide the beast, and that men, women, and the smallest of children can rise above fear into a bright future.
I'd say he'll be missed, but he's left so much of himself behind it doesn't seem like he can ever quite be gone.