Ray Bradbury

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Ray Bradbury in 1975. Photo by Alan Light.

Ray Douglas Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012) decided at the age of 12 that he was going to be a writer. He became one of the most honored American authors in the genres of fantasy, horror, science fiction, and mystery.

He won almost every major fantasy fiction award in existence, this extensive list includes a Grand Master Nebula Award in 1988. His short stories, novels, and poems are full of thought provoking "what if" ideas that often relate to the extremes of human behavior. He received high acclaim for his short stories titled, The Martian Chronicles, which were later published in novel form in 1950. Bradbury's most powerful and compelling novel is considered to be Fahrenheit 451, which parodies the consequences of a totalitarian government's dictates that the written word must be banned from existence.

Many of his stories deal with his interpretations of the social and technological realms of the modern world, and his style is to take his criticisms of these two things and add a touch of fantasy. When people asked about the purpose of his novels, Bradbury responded, "I don't try to describe the future. I try to prevent it." Although Bradbury's writings are full of adventure, intrigue, deception, the fantastic, and often the disturbingly horrific, his personal life was the exact opposite. He lived a quiet, calm, respectful life in Los Angeles with his wife, daughters, and beloved cats for most of his writing career.


Contents

Life

Ray Douglas Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois, the third son to Spaulding Bradbury and Esther Marie Moberg Bradbury. His father worked as a power and telephone lineman and his mother was an immigrant from Sweden. [1]

His childhood included two moves to Tucson, Arizona (1926-1927 and 1932-1933) as his father looked for work, but both times the family returned to Waukegan. It was the influence of this small town and Bradbury's extended family that gave Bradbury many stories for his future novels. Waukegan is the small Illinois town that is depicted as "Green Town" in his two semi-autobiographical novels, Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes. In 1934, the Bradburys made a final move to Los Angeles, California where Ray would spend much of his time roller skating through Hollywood in search of the many celebrities who lived there. Bradbury received his first pay as a writer when he wrote one of the jokes for George Burns' radio show.

Ray Bradbury was born into a family of men interested in the written word. Both his paternal grandfather and great-grandfather were newspaper publishers. Bradbury began writing stories on spare pieces of butcher paper when he was 11. By the age of 12, he knew he wanted to be a writer. Bradbury never deterred from this dream, and when asked what kept him so young and alert, he answered that he owed it all to doing something he loves every single day. At the age of 15, Bradbury read Jack Woodford's book on writing, Trial and Error and it had a major impact on him. He also attributed his lifelong daily writing habit to a day in 1932 when a carnival entertainer, "Mr. Electrico," touched him with an electrified sword, made his hair stand on end, and shouted, "Live forever!"[2]

Bradbury attended Los Angeles High School, where he was influenced greatly by two of his teachers. Snow Longley Housh taught Ray to love poetry and Jeannet Johnson taught him how to write a short story. He joined the Poetry Club, and outside of school, he joined the Los Angeles Science Fiction Club. In 1938, Bradbury graduated from High School. That was the end of any formal education. He did not see the need for college when he already knew what he wanted to do with his life. Instead, he began writing everyday and haunting the local library to read every evening.

While still in High School in 1936 his poem In Memory of Will Rogers marked his first appearance in print when it appeared in the Waukegan News-Sun. His first story to be published was "Hollerbochen's Dilemma," (1938). Bradbury also tried his hand at publishing his own magazine, Futuria Fantasia, for which he wrote most of the content, but he tired of all of the work and stopped the magazine after the fourth issue. To provide a living for himself he sold newspapers on various street corners, including the corner of South Norton Avenue and Olympic Boulevard. He did this until 1942.

As Ray Bradbury became serious about his writing, he claims that many people and characters inspired him. He loved the science fiction heroes Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. His knowledge of these characters helped him create his own memorable characters and in 1941, his first paid story, "Pendulum," was published in Super Science Stories. In 1942, he gave up his job selling newspapers and devoted his time entirely to writing. Dark Carnival was his first book, a collection of short works he complied together to be published in 1947 by Arkham House.

The year 1947 also marked another milestone in his life when he married Marguerite "Maggie" McClure. It was a match made in heaven, Bradbury commented. Maggie was a clerk at one of Ray's favorite book stores and she came from a family who were the founders of McClure's Magazine. They fell in love and were married on September 27, with Ray Harryhausen, (special effects guru) serving as the best man. Together they had four daughters: Susan (1949), Ramona (1951), Bettina (1955), and Alexandra (1958). Ray Bradbury had a very happy marriage and remained devoted to his wife throughout their marriage. Marguerite passed away in 2003.

A well known irony in his life is that Bradbury, despite writing about spaceships and interplanetary travel and having lived in Los Angeles for most of his life, never drove a car. He attributed this to having seen a gruesome car accident when he was young. He also never flew in an airplane until the age of 62. Later, he flew on the Concorde to Paris, where he worked with Disney on the new Disneyland Park being created in France. Bradbury made regular appearances at science fiction conventions until 2009, when he retired from the circuit.

Bradbury was a strong supporter of public library systems, and helped to raise money to prevent the closure of several in California due to budgetary cuts. He exhibited skepticism with regard to modern technology by resisting the conversion of his work into e-books:

We have too many cellphones. We've got too many internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now.[3]

When the publishing rights for Fahrenheit 451 came up for renewal in December 2011, Bradbury conceded that the work could be published in an electronic form — provided that the publisher, Simon & Schuster, allowed the e-book to be digitally downloaded by any library patron.[4]

Bradbury suffered a stroke in 1999 that left him partially dependent on a wheelchair for mobility.[5] Despite this he continued to write, writing an essay on his inspiration for writing for the New Yorker published days prior to his death.[6]

Ray Bradbury died in Los Angeles, California, on June 5, 2012, at the age of 91, after a "lengthy illness."[7]

Works

Ray Bradbury in 1976.

Ray Bradbury made a name for himself with the publication of The Martian Chronicles in 1950. The book deals with man's attempt to colonize the planet Mars after a large nuclear war on planet earth. This was the first novel that truly illustrated the very distinctive "Bradbury" style. Before this time, Bradbury was inspired by the works of Henry Kuttner, Leigh Brackett, Robert Heinlein and Henry Hasse. He often borrowed from their styles and his works echoed many of their details. But with The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury, created a genre that could not be defined as strictly science fiction or fantasy. The lines between these two became hazy, as Bradbury created tales that were uniquely his own. He has said of his works:

"First of all, I don't write science fiction. I've only done one science fiction book and that's Fahrenheit 451, based on reality. Science fiction is a depiction of the real. Fantasy is a depiction of the unreal. So Martian Chronicles is not science fiction, it's fantasy. It couldn't happen, you see? That's the reason it's going to be around a long time—because it's a Greek myth, and myths have staying power." [8]

No matter how his books are classified, Bradbury has shown that he was a master storyteller. His work has won countless honors and awards. Among them are the O. Henry Memorial Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award (1954), the Aviation-Space Writer's Association Award for Best Space Article in an American Magazine (1967), the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America. He also received the honor of being included in the Best American Short Stories collections for several years. Another honor, unexpected and rare, came when an Apollo astronaut named one of the craters in the moon, Dandelion Crater, after Bradbury's famous novel, Dandelion Wine.

His method was simple, he would write many short stories and then edit them together to form a book. The result was a fast moving, plot driven style. Bradbury has also written non-fiction essays and critiques of many contemporary art and culture pieces, which gained him recognition from a more scholarly audience. Bradbury's reputation grew quickly and he was asked to participate in many events of a futuristic nature. One of the requests he received was to serve as a consultant at the 1964 New York World's Fair for one of Walt Disney's exhibits called Progress City - the 160-foot scale model for what would later become Epcot.[9] [10] [11]

2004 award recipient Ray Bradbury with President George W. Bush and his wife Laura Bush.

Ray Bradbury achieved great success in transferring his works from page to screen. Many of his stories and novels have been adapted for television and for movies. Some of the best examples of this success can be viewed on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, and the teleplay for The Halloween Tree, which won Bradbury an Emmy. The Martian Chronicles were made into a miniseries, but Bradbury felt it never quite became what he had envisioned. In 1986, Bradbury collaborated with a cable network to develop a series all his own, Ray Bradbury Theater that was aired until 1992.

On November 17, 2004, Bradbury was the recipient of the National Medal of Arts, presented by President George W. Bush and Laura Bush. Bradbury has also received the World Fantasy Award life achievement, Stoker Award life achievement, SFWA Grand Master, SF Hall of Fame Living Inductee, and First Fandom Award.

In addition to his literary awards, Ray Bradbury was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in celebration of his contributions to the motion picture industry. In 1954 he adapted Melville's Moby Dick for the John Huston film that received an Academy Award nomination.

Adaptations of his work

Many of Bradbury's stories and novels have been adapted to films, radio, television, theater and comic books. In 1953 the first movies inspired by Bradbury debuted. Jack Arnold directed It Came from Outer Space, which was inspired by Bradbury's screen treatment, "The Meteor" and Eugène Lourié directed The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, which was based on Bradbury's "The Fog Horn." More than 35 features, shorts, and TV movies have been based on Bradbury's stories or screenplays over the last 50 years.

Al Feldstein worked to bring 27 of Bradbury's stories to the comic book world. From 1951-1954 the stories were published in EC Comics. Sixteen of these were taken and published as books.

  • The Starlight Summer Theater and NBC's Sneak Preview aired a half-hour film adaptation of "The Merry-Go Round."
  • Bradbury's masterpiece novel, Fahrenheit 451 was adapted for film and the movie was directed first by François Truffaut in 1966, and a new version by Frank Darabont is being planned.

Controversy over titles

In 2004 a filmmaker by the name of Michael Moore produced a documentary concerning the terrorist acts in America on September 11, 2001 and the shortcomings of the administration of George W. Bush in handling the situation. Moore titled his film Fahrenheit 9/11. When Bradbury learned of this film he was extremely angered and frustrated with Moore. He felt that Moore "stole" his title from Fahrenheit 451 and used his film to allude to Bradbury's famous novel to promote his film and his politics. Bradbury responded to Moore by calling him "a horrible human being," but was clear that his resentment was not politically motivated. Bradbury made it clear that he did not approve the title, nor was he a recipient of any of the money the movie makes. He only asked Moore to change the title, but Moore claims he was unable to do so because the film's marketing was finished months before and it was too late to make any changes.[12]

Legacy

Did you know?
Ray Bradbury, author of 'Fahrenheit 451', envisioned many technological innovations in his writings

Bradbury was called "the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream."[13] 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" moved the genre into the realm of literature.[14]

Bradbury's grandson, Danny Karapetian, stated that Bradbury's works had "influenced so many artists, writers, teachers, scientists, and it's always really touching and comforting to hear their stories."[15] Bradbury envisioned many modern day technologies much earlier in his writing, such as the idea of banking ATMs, earbuds and Bluetooth headsets and large, flat-screen televisions from Fahrenheit 451, and the concepts of artificial intelligence within I Sing the Body Electric (Bradbury).[16]

Author Stephen King released a statement on his website saying, "Ray Bradbury wrote three great novels and three hundred great stories. 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."[17] Bradbury also influenced the film world greatly. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg stated that Bradbury was "[his] muse for the better part of [his] sci-fi career.... On the world of science fiction and fantasy and imagination he is immortal."[18]

Works

Novels

Short story collections

In addition to these collections, many of the stories have been published in multi-author anthologies. Almost 50 additional Bradbury stories have never been collected anywhere after their initial publication in periodicals.

Screenplays and teleplays

  • (1953) It Came from Outer Space (original story)
  • (1956) Moby Dick (1956 film)
  • Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre
  • (1956) The Bullet Trick / The Marked Bullet
  • Alfred Hitchcock Presents
  • (1956) Shopping for Death
  • (1958) Design for Loving
  • (1959) Special Delivery
  • (1962) The Faith of Aaron Menefee (from the story by Stanley Ellin)
  • Steve Canyon
  • (1959) The Gift
  • Trouble Shooters
  • (1959) The Tunnel to Yesterday
  • (1961) King of Kings (narration, uncredited)
  • The Twilight Zone
  • (1962) I Sing the Body Electric (The Twilight Zone)
  • Alcoa Premiere
  • (1962) The Jail
  • (1962) Icarus Montgolfier Wright
  • The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
  • (1964) The Life Work of Juan Diaz
  • (1969) The Picasso Summer
  • The Curiosity Shop
  • (1971) The Groon
  • (1979) Gnomes (movie)
  • (1982) The Electric Grandmother
  • (1983) Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983 film)
  • (1983) Quest (movie)
  • (1985-1992) The Ray Bradbury Theater
  • The Twilight Zone
  • (1986) The Elevator
  • (1992) Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland
  • (1993) The Halloween Tree
  • (1998) The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit

This list does not include adaptations by others of Bradbury's published stories.

Radio

  • World Security Workshop
  • (1947) The Meadow
  • Suspense
  • (1947) Riabouchinska (original story)
  • (1948) Summer Night (original story)
  • (1948) The Screaming Woman (original story)
  • (1968) Leviathan '99

This list does not include adaptations by others of Bradbury's published stories.

Poetry

  • (1975) When Elephants Last in the Dooryard Bloomed. Hart-Davis, MacGibbon, 1975. ISBN 978-0246108289
  • (1977) Where Robot Mice and Robot Men Run Round in Robot Towns. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977. ISBN 978-0394422060
  • (1981) The Haunted Computer and the Android Pope. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1981. ISBN 978-0394514444
  • (2002) They Have Not Seen the Stars: The Collected Poetry of Ray Bradbury. Stealth Press, 2002. ISBN 978-1588810380

Plays

  • (1948) The Meadow
  • (1963) The Anthem Sprinters and Other Antics
  • (1966) The Day It Rained Forever
  • (1966) The Pedestrian
  • (1972) The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit and Other Plays
  • (1975) Pillar of Fire and Other Plays
  • (1986) Fahrenheit 451
  • (1986) The Martian Chronicles
  • (1988) Dandelion Wine
  • (1988) Falling Upward
  • (1988) Bradbury on Stage: A Chrestomathy of His Plays

Children

Fable

  • (1998) Ahmed and the Oblivion Machines. New York, NY: William Morrow, 1998. ISBN 978-0380977048

Non-fiction

  • (1990) Zen in the Art of Writing. New York, NY: Bantam, 1995. ISBN 978-9995521004
  • (1991) Yestermorrow: Obvious Answers to Impossible Futures. Joshua Odell Editions, 1993. ISBN 978-1877741081
  • (2004) Conversations With Ray Bradbury. University Press of Mississippi, 2004. ISBN 978-1578066414
  • (2005) Bradbury Speaks: Too Soon from the Cave, Too Far from the Stars. Harper Perennial, 2006. ISBN 0060585692

Documentaries about Ray Bradbury

  • Bradbury's works and approach to writing are documented in Terry Sanders' film Ray Bradbury: Story of a Writer (1963).
  • Bradbury's later life was satirized in an Internet short by Invisible Engine called The Adventures of Ray Bradbury, in which Ray has two fictitious sons and a fictitious autistic daughter, as well as an African-American doppelganger who goes by the obvious name of "Black Ray Bradbury." The episode concludes with a "To Be Continued" title card, but there has yet to be a second episode.

Notes

  1. Certificate of Birth, Ray Douglas Bradbury, August 22, 1920, Lake County Clerk's Record #4750. Although he was named after Rae Williams, a cousin on his father's side, Ray Bradbury's birth certificate spelled his first name as "Ray."
  2. Ray Bradbury, In His Words (December, 2001). Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  3. Fahrenheit 451 becomes e-book despite author's feelings BBC News (November 30, 2011). Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  4. Robert Jablon, ‘Fahrenheit 451′ Author Ray Bradbury Dies at 91 TIME (June 6, 2012). Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  5. Jim Rogers, Ray Bradbury Still Writing At 81 CBS News (February 11, 2009). Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  6. Ray Bradbury, Take Me Home The New Yorker (June 4, 2012). Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  7. Alan Duke, Sci-fi legend Ray Bradbury dies CNN (June 7, 2012). Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  8. Devin D. O'Leary, An Interview with Ray Bradbury Weekly Wire (September 27, 1999). Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  9. "In 1982 he created the interior metaphors for the Spaceship Earth display at Epcot Center, Disney World." Ray Bradbury, About Ray Bradbury. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  10. "The images at Spaceship Earth in DisneyWorld's Epcot Center in Orlando? Well, they are all Bradbury's ideas." Robin Miller, Ray Bradbury - Following his passion to Mars Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  11. "He also serves as a consultant, having collaborated, for example, in the design of a pavilion in the Epcot Center at Walt Disney World." Penelope Mesic, Cosmic Ray. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  12. Sam Weller, The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury. (New York: HarperCollins, 2005, ISBN 006054581X), 330-331.
  13. Ray Bradbury, writer brought science fiction to wider public Boston Globe (June 07, 2012). Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  14. Lynell George, Ray Bradbury dies at 91; author lifted fantasy to literary heights Los Angeles Times (June 06, 2012). Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  15. Author Ray Bradbury dies, aged 91 BBC News (June 6, 2012). Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  16. Hayley Tsukayama, Dreams of Ray Bradbury: 10 predictions that came true The Washington Post (June 6, 2012). Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  17. Stephen King, Stephen Comments on the Death of Ray Bradbury. StephenKing.com (June 6th, 2012). Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  18. Steven Zeitchik, Ray Bradbury was a huge influence on the film world too Los Angeles Times (June 6, 2012). Retrieved June 9, 2012.

References

  • Eller, Jonathan R. and Touponce, William F. Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction. Kent State University Press. 2004. ISBN 0873387791
  • Nolan, William F. The Ray Bradbury Companion: A Life and Career History, Photolog, and Comprehensive Checklist of Writings. Gale Research, 1975. ISBN 0810309300
  • Weist, Jerry. Bradbury, an Illustrated Life: A Journey to Far Metaphor. William Morrow & Company, 2002. ISBN 0060011823
  • Weller, Sam. 'The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury. HarperCollins, 2005. ISBN 006054581X

External links

All links retrieved February 20, 2013.


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