Ray(mond Douglas) Bradbury Biography
Ray Bradbury comments:
Nationality: American. Born: Waukegan, Illinois, 1920. Education: Los Angeles High School, graduated 1938. Career: Since 1943 full-time writer. President, Science-Fantasy Writers of America, 1951-53. Member of the Board of Directors, Screen Writers Guild of America, 1957-61. Lives in Los Angeles. Awards: O. Henry prize, 1947, 1948; Benjamin Franklin award, 1954; American Academy award, 1954; Boys' Clubs of America Junior Book award, 1956; Golden Eagle award, for screenplay, 1957; Ann Radcliffe award, 1965, 1971; Writers Guild award, 1974; Aviation and Space Writers award, for television documentary, 1979; Gandalf award, 1980. D. Litt.: Whittier College, California, 1979. Agent: Harold Matson Company, 276 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10001.
Fahrenheit 451. New York, Ballantine, 1953; London, Hart Davis, 1954; with a new foreword by the author, Thorndike, Maine, G. K. Hall, 1997.
Something Wicked This Way Comes. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1962; London, Hart Davis, 1963.
Death Is a Lonely Business. New York, Knopf, 1985; London, Grafton, 1986.
A Graveyard for Lunatics: Another Tale of Two Cities. New York, Knopf, and London, Grafton, 1990.
The Smile. Mankato, Minnesota, Creative Education, 1991.
Green Shadows, White Whale. New York, Knopf, and London, HarperCollins, 1992.
Quicker Than the Eye. New York, Avon Books, 1996.
Driving Blind. New York, Avon Books, 1997.
With Cat for Comforter, illustrated by Louise Reinoehl Max. SaltLake City, Utah, Gibbs Smith, 1997.
Dogs Think That Every Day Is Christmas, illustrated by LouiseReinoehl Max. Salt Lake City, Utah, Gibbs Smith, 1997.
Ahmed and the Oblivion Machines: A Fable, illustrated by ChrisLane. New York, Avon Books, 1998.
Dark Carnival. Sauk City, Wisconsin, Arkham House, 1947; abridged edition, London, Hamish Hamilton, 1948; abridged edition, as The Small Assassin, London, New English Library, 1962.
The Martian Chronicles. New York, Doubleday, 1950; as The Silver Locusts, London, Hart Davis, 1951.
The Illustrated Man. New York, Doubleday, 1951; London, HartDavis, 1952; New York, Avon Books, 1997.
The Golden Apples of the Sun. New York, Doubleday, and London, Hart Davis, 1953.
The October Country. New York, Ballantine, 1955; London, HartDavis, 1956; with a new introduction by the author. New York, Ballantine Books, 1996.
Dandelion Wine. New York, Doubleday, and London, Hart Davis, 1957; New York, Avon Books, 1999.
A Medicine for Melancholy. New York, Doubleday, 1959.
The Day It Rained Forever. London, Hart Davis, 1959.
The Machineries of Joy. New York, Simon and Schuster, and London, Hart Davis, 1964.
The Vintage Bradbury. New York, Random House, 1965.
The Autumn People. New York, Ballantine, 1965.
Tomorrow Midnight. New York, Ballantine, 1966.
Twice Twenty Two (selection). New York, Doubleday, 1966.
I Sing the Body Electric! New York, Knopf, 1969; London, HartDavis, 1970; published as I Sing the Body Electric and Other Stories, New York, Avon Books, 1998.
Bloch and Bradbury, with Robert Bloch. New York, Tower, 1969; asFever Dreams and Other Fantasies, London, Sphere, 1970.
(Selected Stories), edited by Anthony Adams. London, Harrap, 1975.
Long after Midnight. New York, Knopf, 1976; London, Hart DavisMacGibbon, 1977.
The Best of Bradbury. New York, Bantam, 1976.
To Sing Strange Songs. Exeter, Devon, Wheaton, 1979.
The Stories of Ray Bradbury. New York, Knopf, and London, Granada, 1980.
The Last Circus, and The Electrocution. Northridge, California, LordJohn Press, 1980.
Dinosaur Tales. New York, Bantam, 1983.
A Memory of Murder. New York, Dell, 1984.
The Toynbee Convector. New York, Knopf, 1988; London, Grafton, 1989.
The Meadow, in Best One-Act Plays of 1947-48, edited by MargaretMayorga. New York, Dodd Mead, 1948.
The Anthem Sprinters and Other Antics (produced Los Angeles, 1968). New York, Dial Press, 1963.
The World of Ray Bradbury (produced Los Angeles, 1964; NewYork, 1965).
The Wonderful Ice-Cream Suit (produced Los Angeles, 1965; NewYork, 1987; musical version, music by Jose Feliciano, produced Pasadena, California, 1990). Included in The Wonderful Ice-Cream Suit and Other Plays, 1972.
The Day It Rained Forever, music by Bill Whitefield (producedEdinburgh, 1988). New York, French, 1966.
The Pedestrian. New York, French, 1966.
Christus Apollo, music by Jerry Goldsmith (produced Los Angeles, 1969).
The Wonderful Ice-Cream Suit and Other Plays (includes The Veldt and To the Chicago Abyss). New York, Bantam, 1972; London, Hart Davis, 1973.
The Veldt (produced London, 1980). Included in The Wonderful Ice-Cream Suit and Other Plays, 1972.
Leviathan 99 (produced Los Angeles, 1972).
Pillar of Fire and Other Plays for Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond Tomorrow (includes Kaleidoscope and The Foghorn). New York, Bantam, 1975.
The Foghorn (produced New York, 1977). Included in Pillar of Fire and Other Plays, 1975.
That Ghost, That Bride of Time: Excerpts from a Play-in-Progress. Glendale, California, Squires, 1976.
The Martian Chronicles, adaptation of his own stories (produced LosAngeles, 1977).
Fahrenheit 451, adaptation of his own novel (produced Los Angeles, 1979).
Dandelion Wine, adaptation of his own story (produced Los Angeles, 1980).
Forever and the Earth (radio play). Athens, Ohio, Croissant, 1984.
On Stage: A Chrestomathy of His Plays. New York, Primus, 1991.
It Came from Outer Space, with David Schwartz, 1952;Moby-Dick, with John Huston, 1956; Icarus Montgolfier Wright, with George C. Johnston, 1961; Picasso Summer (as Douglas Spaulding), with Edwin Booth, 1972.
Shopping for Death, 1956, Design for Loving, 1958, Special Delivery, 1959, The Faith of Aaron Menefee, 1962, and The Life Work of Juan Diaz, 1963 (all Alfred Hitchcock Presents series); The Marked Bullet (Jane Wyman's Fireside Theater series), 1956; The Gift (Steve Canyon series), 1958; The Tunnel to Yesterday (Trouble Shooters series), 1960; I Sing the Body Electric! (Twilight Zone series), 1962; The Jail (Alcoa Premier series), 1962; The Groom (Curiosity Shop series), 1971; The Coffin, from his own short story, 1988 (U.K.).
Old Ahab's Friend, and Friend to Noah, Speaks His Piece: A Celebration. Glendale, California, Squires, 1971.
When Elephants Last in the Dooryard Bloomed: Celebrations for Almost Any Day in the Year. New York, Knopf, 1973; London, Hart Davis MacGibbon, 1975.
That Son of Richard III: A Birth Announcement. Privately printed, 1974.
Where Robot Mice and Robot Men Run round in Robot Towns: New Poems, Both Light and Dark. New York, Knopf, 1977; London, Hart Davis MacGibbon, 1979.
Twin Hieroglyphs That Swim the River Dust. Northridge, California, Lord John Press, 1978.
The Bike Repairman. Northridge, California, Lord John Press, 1978.
The Author Considers His Resources. Northridge, California, LordJohn Press, 1979.
The Aqueduct. Glendale, California, Squires, 1979.
The Attic Where the Meadow Greens. Northridge, California, LordJohn Press, 1980.
Imagine. Northridge, California, Lord John Press, 1981.
The Haunted Computer and the Android Pope. New York, Knopf, and London, Granada, 1981.
The Complete Poems of Ray Bradbury. New York, Ballantine, 1982.
Two Poems. Northridge, California, Lord John Press, 1982.
The Love Affair. Northridge, California, Lord John Press, 1983.
Switch on the Night (for children). New York, Pantheon, and London, Hart Davis, 1955.
R Is for Rocket (for children). New York, Doubleday, 1962; London, Hart Davis, 1968.
S Is for Space (for children). New York, Doubleday, 1966; London, Hart Davis, 1968.
Teacher's Guide: Science Fiction, with Lewy Olfson. New York, Bantam, 1968.
The Halloween Tree (for children). New York, Knopf, 1972; London, Hart Davis MacGibbon, 1973.
Mars and the Mind of Man. New York, Harper, 1973.
Zen and the Art of Writing, and The Joy of Writing. Santa Barbara, California, Capra Press, 1973.
The Mummies of Guanajuato, photographs by Archie Lieberman. New York, Abrams, 1978.
Beyond 1984: Remembrance of Things Future. New York, Targ, 1979.
About Norman Corwin. Northridge, California, Santa Susana Press, 1979.
The Ghosts of Forever, illustrated by Aldo Sessa. New York, Rizzoli, 1981.
Los Angeles, photographs by West Light. Port Washington, NewYork, Skyline Press, 1984.
Orange County, photographs by Bill Ross and others. Port Washington, New York, Skyline Press, 1985.
The Art of Playboy (text by Bradbury). New York, van der MarckEditions, 1985.
Zen in the Art of Writing (essays). Santa Barbara, California, CapraPress, 1990.
Yestermorrow: Obvious Answers to Impossible Futures (essays).Santa Barbara, California, Capra Press, 1991.
Editor, Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow. New York, Bantam, 1952.
Editor, The Circus of Dr. Lao and Other Improbable Stories. NewYork, Bantam, 1956.
Bowling Green State University, Ohio.
Critical Studies: Interview in
Show (New York), December 1964; introduction by Gilbert Highet to The Vintage Bradbury, 1965; "The Revival of Fantasy" by Russell Kirk, in Triumph (Washington, D.C.), May 1968; "Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine: Themes, Sources, and Style" by Marvin E. Mengeling, in English Journal (Champaign, Illinois), October 1971; The Ray Bradbury Companion (includes bibliography) by William F. Nolan, Detroit, Gale, 1975; The Drama of Ray Bradbury by Benjamin P. Indick, Baltimore, T-K Graphics, 1977; The Bradbury Chronicles by George Edgar Slusser, San Bernardino, California, Borgo Press, 1977; Ray Bradbury (includes bibliography) edited by Joseph D. Olander and Martin H. Greenberg, New York, Taplinger, and Edinburgh, Harris, 1980; Ray Bradbury by Wayne L. Johnson, New York, Ungar, 1980; Ray Bradbury and the Poetics of Reverie: Fantasy, Science Fiction, and the Reader by William F. Toupence, Ann Arbor, Michigan, UMI Research Press, 1984; Ray Bradbury by David Mogen, Boston, Twayne, 1986; Ray Bradbury: An American Icon (video cassette), Great Northern Productions, 1996; Ray Bradbury and the Poetics of Reverie by William F. Touponce, San Bernardino, California, Borgo Press, 1998; American Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers by Claire L. Datnow, Springfield, New Jersey, Enslow Publishers, 1999; Ray Bradbury: A Critical Companion by Robin Anne Reid, Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 2000; Ray Bradbury, edited by Harold Bloom, Philadelphia, Chelsea House, 2000.
I am not so much a science-fiction writer as I am a magician, an illusionist. From my beginnings as a boy conjurer I grew up frightening myself so as to frighten others so as to cure the midnight in our souls. I have grown into a writer of the History of Ideas, I guess you might say. Any idea, no matter how large or small, that is busy growing itself alive, starting from nowhere and at last dominating a town, a culture, or a world, is of interest. Man the problem solver is the writer of my tales. Science fiction becoming science fact. The machineries of our world putting away and keeping our facts for us so they can be used and learned from. Machines as humanist teachers. Ideas of men built into those machines in order to help us survive and survive well. That's my broad and fascinating field, in which I will wander for a lifetime, writing past science fictions one day, future ones another. And all of it a wonder and a lark and a great love. I can't imagine writing any other way.
* * *
Although he has written six novels, including the classics Fahrenheit 451 (1953) and Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962), Ray Bradbury is best known as an author of short stories. His style is so economical, striking, and lyrical that it has been described as prose poetry, and he is as skillful at presenting horror and the grotesque as was Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), his primary influence. Bradbury is known as one of "the big four" of the genres of science fiction and fantasy, the others being Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Heinlein. He is deeply respected and beloved by genre fans and by students who study him in high school and college. His significance in fantasy and horror owe much to his background, his prose style, his recurrent themes, and the sense of wonder that pervades his work.
Bradbury's second story sale, "The Candle" (1941), marked the beginning of his association with Weird Tales, the legendary American pulp magazine that first appeared in 1923 and that, despite changes in editorial staff and many deaths and resurrections, keeps returning from the literary grave. This magazine published such enormously popular authors as H. P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch of Psycho fame, and Conan the Barbarian 's creator Robert E. Howard. Weird Tales led supernatural fiction out of a poorly written Gothic and ghost tradition. It is essential to grasp the primacy of Weird Tales and its large fan base to recognize Bradbury's contemporary literary milieu and the adulation he earned during the years 1941 to 1948, when he became the most distinguished contributor to that magazine.
Bradbury began publishing collections of linked stories in the 1950s with The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man (1951). Fahrenheit 451 (1953) and Dandelion Wine (1957) are fix-ups, or novels constructed of previously published short stories. Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962), Death Is a Lonely Business (1985), and A Graveyard for Lunatics (1990) are stand-alone novels.
The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man exemplify Bradbury's evolving style, motifs, and themes. Though his technique varies from the subtle to the ironic to the hair-raising, one can call The Martian Chronicles a fantasy based on science fiction motifs and The Illustrated Man, which is darker and more tainted by the supernatural, despite occasional nods to science fiction (futuristic machines, spaceships, aliens), overall a work of horror.
The Martian Chronicles tells of the emigration of humans to a Mars that is either peopled by or haunted by eerie, wistful, telepathic Martians. Humans gradually displace and replace the natives, and in 2003 (which, in the 1940s, seemed sufficiently distant to allow for terraforming technologies), the settlement of Tenth City has hardly any red dust blowing through it, so exactly is it like a small midwestern town. In 2005 Earth is destroyed by thermonuclear war (as recounted in the classic short story "There Will Come Soft Rains") and, not long after, human colonies and customs have erased all vestiges of the natives. The men now are the Martians.
This sounds like an allegory of the European colonization of the West, and read in one sitting the stories may be taken as a dirge for lost civilizations. The theme of loss runs like a sad tune throughout Bradbury's work: loss of loved ones, of friendships, of youth, of golden opportunities, of marvels trampled in a blind rush of capitalistic greed. The dictum that "you can't stand in the way of progress" is multivalent in Bradbury's fiction. Progress brings us to the stars, but dazzles us so that many other good things are left behind.
The stories in The Illustrated Man are united by a slight yet disturbing conceit: the narrator encounters a man whose skin is painted by "living" tattoos. One of these will show the death of the observer if watched long enough. After a night of viewing different tattoo stories as though films in miniature, the narrator is horrified to see his own destiny revealed—in the future, from some unimaginable need for revenge, the illustrated man will strangle him to death.
Both books testify to Bradbury's deceptively simple, sentimental, lyrical prose and to challenging themes such as revenge, insanity, loneliness, hope, and survival. Bradbury's short, straightforward sentences owe their delights and horrors to sensory descriptions (such as the aromas of cut grass or burning autumn leaves), to settings evocative of his fondly remembered hometown Waukegan, Illinois, and to pensive dialogues in which young children or old men express their sense of wonder when contemplating the star-filled night sky, the miracles of sunlight or the menace of shadows, the innocence of childhood, or the tragedies of missed meetings and lost loves.
Dandelion Wine is narrated by twelve-year-old Douglas (Bradbury's middle name) Spaulding, who is, like many of his young protagonists, loosely based on Bradbury himself. This work captures, as though in a glass of home-made wine, the recurring flavors and themes of his fiction. During the summer of 1928, Douglas gains maturity as the loss of a friend and the appearance of a murderer transform his perceptions of his world. The boy's powers of imagination, Bradbury emphasizes, both enrich and darken his life.
Something Wicked This Way Comes is again semi-autobiographical, but far darker—literally—than Dandelion Wine. Sunlight and sunset color Dandelion Wine, but much of Something Wicked occurs at night and in the dark places of the human psyche. Light and Dark are allegorized throughout the tale of Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, who are seduced by the arrival in Green Town, Illinois, of a carnival called Cooger and Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show. This evil carnival tempts the townsfolk with its supernatural powers to grant dreams—but also to steal souls. The merry-go-round, the Hall of Mirrors, the parade, and other carnivalesque trappings become truly creepy under Bradbury's skillful pen.
Fahrenheit 451 treats the themes of imagination and loss so powerfully that it is alluded to in discussions of governmental oppression and censorship almost as commonly as George Orwell's 1984. The protagonist, Guy Montag, has happily labored as a "fireman"—a burner of books—for ten years. As the novel opens, he meets seventeen-year-old Clarisse, who asks him unsettling questions: Does he ever think about his society instead of mouthing the socially acceptable phrases? Is he curious about the books he burns? Is he happy?
Their friendship changes his life. Montag begins to question his world, and finds fear and unhappiness everywhere. Eventually he meets a secret society of readers who preserve illegal books by memorizing them. A New York Times reviewer praised "Bradbury's account of this insane world, which bears many alarming resemblances to our own."
Bradbury's fiction developed into a more realistic (though still rhapsodic) mode during the 1960s and 1970s, and relied more on non-supernatural, if sometimes morbid, themes, such as dysfunctional marriages, the dangers of technology, fear of aging, and fear of death. This development can be observed in the collections The Machineries of Joy (1964) and I Sing the Body Electric (1969). Bradbury contributed to his favorite genres by editing anthologies and writing children's stories; he also wrote nonfiction and plays.
Not until 1985 did a new Bradbury novel appear: Death Is a Lonely Business, which is based on his years as a pulp fiction writer. The protagonist's optimism and hope of success bizarrely preserve him from the deaths that are striking down many of his contemporaries. Like Death, A Graveyard for Lunatics is a detective novel about a writer, this one working in the Hollywood of the 1950s. Hired as a science fiction film writer at a big studio, he is led to the adjoining graveyard, where he discovers a body frozen in time. Though not as famous as his earlier work, both novels continue his theme of a past that cannot stop haunting the present.
Perhaps the greatest contribution Bradbury has made to fantasy and horror lies in his creating and ever re-creating a bona fide American romantic, melancholic tradition: a nostalgia for corn fields and small towns and suburbs, replacing the previously overwhelming European nostalgia for aristocracies and castles and cathedrals.
Bradbury began writing for television in 1951 for such programs as Alfred Hitchcock and The Twilight Zone, and the highly praised USA Network television series The Bradbury Theatre (1985-1992) is based on many of his short stories. Bradbury has also written plays and filmscripts, including the Gregory Peck-starring Moby Dick (1956) and the Academy Award-nominated Icarus Montgolfier Wright (1962). Fahrenheit 451 was adapted for film (by François Truffaut) in 1966, The Illustrated Man in 1969, and Something Wicked This Way Comes in 1983, and The Martian Chronicles appeared as a television miniseries (1979). Something Wicked is the best of these adaptations.
In 1991 the extent of Bradbury's influence on later generations of writers was evidenced when William F. Nolan and Martin H. Greenberg commissioned twenty-two original stories (one by Bradbury) for The Bradbury Chronicles, published to honor his fiftieth year as a writer. The contributors included such noted names as Richard Matheson and his son Richard Christian Matheson, Charles L. Grant, F. Paul Wilson, Ed Gorman, and Chad Oliver. Horror authors Steven King and Clive Barker have also acknowledged his influence. Bradbury has earned the 1977 World Fantasy Award, the 1980 Grandmaster of Fantasy Gandalf Award, the 1989 Bram Stoker Award, and the 1988 Nebula Grand Master Award, and was inducted into the University of Kansas Center for the Study of Science Fiction's Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame (1999), all for Lifetime Achievement.
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