Ray Bradbury

Step right up! Enter the world of one of the most celebrated American writers from the 20th Century: Ray Bradbury. On the left is the interactive Martian exhibit; keep an eye on those creepy kids to your right. As you wander through his popular books and stories, biography, facts, and famous quotes, mind the path–you wouldn’t want to end up like that Eckels fellow!

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Table of contents

    Ray Bradbury, A hand holding a jar that contains a galaxy, StudySmarterA hand holding a glass jar containing a galaxy to represent Ray Bradbury harvesting a story, pexels.

    Ray Bradbury: Biography

    Ray Bradbury Silhouette of Ray Bradbury StudySmarter Silhouette of Ray Bradbury, pixabay.

    Ray Douglas Bradbury was born on August 22, 1920, and died on June 5, 2012. He spent his early childhood in Waukegan, Illinois, and later moved to Los Angeles, California, where he lived until his death.

    He grew up in a blue-collar family; knowing he would not be able to afford a college education after graduating high school, he was determined to educate himself. He spent his early adulthood selling newspapers, following a weekly routine of three ten-hour shifts reading and writing at the library. Bradbury began writing when he was a child after his imagination was sparked by a magician's performance. Preferring his typewriter over computers, Bradbury wrote every day until he was in his eighties.

    When he became physically unable to write for himself, Bradbury dictated his stories to his daughters, who recorded them for him. This dedication to his craft paid off–in addition to the over thirty books and almost six hundred short stories mentioned above, Ray Bradbury wrote essays, plays, and screenplays. Bradbury received a prestigious list of awards during his career, including a Pulitzer Prize Special Citations, the National Medal of Arts, and the Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Bradbury also won an Emmy Award for the teleplay of his novel, The Halloween Tree (1972).

    The best scientist is open to experience and begins with romance–the idea that anything is possible.

    (Ray Bradbury, 1976)1

    He was laid to rest in the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park & Mortuary in Los Angeles with a headstone that reads, "Ray Bradbury--Author of Fahrenheit 451."

    Ray Bradbury was also famous among friends and fans for encouraging others to read and write, supposedly telling them to "just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers."

    Ray Bradbury's Popular Books

    Although Ray Bradbury wrote over thirty books in a variety of genres, most commonly in Science Fiction and Fantasy, a few stand out as fan favorites.

    The book that brought Bradbury his first mainstream success was a set of loosely-connected short stories titled The Martian Chronicles (1950). Not only was The Martian Chronicles popular, but it was also widely credited with changing the Science Fiction genre. Rather than focusing on action, futuristic technology, and scientific concepts as other popular science fiction writers did at the time, Bradbury painted pictures of Martian landscapes by contorting familiar household routines and his extensive use of metaphor, which masked sharply critical social commentary.

    He followed up with the International Fantasy Award-nominated short story collection, The Illustrated Man, published in 1951. The stories are connected by a frame story about a former carnival worker who was tattooed by a time traveler. Each tattoo represents a story in the collection.

    Frame Story - a literary device that 'frames' and connects multiple internal narratives or 'stories within a story'.

    Bradbury's most widely-recognized novel is Fahrenheit 451. It was published in 1953 during the McCarthy era and immediately drew readers to its themes of oppression and censorship. Interestingly, Ray Bradbury eventually rejected this interpretation of Fahrenheit 451, and is quoted in an interview as saying it was about “how television destroys interest in reading literature.”2

    The quote "you don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them" has also been widely attributed to Bradbury. It could be said that, as books are full of the cultural and historical tidbits that authors consciously and subconsciously include, they offer readers glimpses into others' lives. Perhaps, if enough people stopped caring about books, those insights would be lost, and it wouldn't matter how scandalous a book was because it would just be sitting on a shelf collecting dust.

    Ray Bradbury, A person with a book for a head, StudySmarterA person with their face in a book representing the perfect staycation, pixabay.

    The McCarthy era refers to the late 1940s through to the mid-1950s, during which fear of communism led to a series of sometimes career-ending accusations and hearings. McCarthy, a senator from Wisconsin, spearheaded the effort, accusing notable people from various industries, including film, literature, and the military, of being communist spies, usually without solid evidence.

    The novel Something Wicked This Way Comes has spooked readers since its publication in 1962. It tells the story of two boys whose curiosity leads them to trouble when they start snooping around an odd carnival that has come to their town. Themes in Bradbury’s writing typically mirrored the current events of his day, and Something Wicked This Way Comes explores themes such as the power of love and connection, reflecting the focus on peace and acceptance blossoming in the early Sixties.

    Themes in Ray Bradbury's Works

    Ray Bradbury was fascinated with humanity–the way that human beings thought, the things they did, and the reasons they did them. He often tried to give them a little nudge in the right direction, as he saw it, with his writing. When reading his novels and stories, you will notice that he tries to encourage people to think about their impact on planet earth. He also valued a world that moved a bit more slowly than the one developing in his day. In Bradbury's works, technology is usually represented as an enemy as, while it keeps us transfixed on new shiny objects, human connection and the everyday marvel of nature are set aside.

    Ray Bradbury's Popular Short Stories

    As Ray Bradbury wrote almost six hundred short stories, there is plenty of room for debate about which ones are his best. Which of his stories speak to you?

    People ask me to predict the Future, when all I want to do is prevent it. Better yet, build it.

    (Ray Bradbury, 1991)3

    One of his most chilling stories is 'The Veldt.' Originally published as 'The World the Children Made' in The Saturday Evening Post (September 23, 1950), it eventually found its way into The Illustrated Man. It incorporates science fiction and horror to examine the dangers of being overly reliant on technology.

    Can too much technology be dangerous? Why or why not?

    His most famous short story may be 'A Sound of Thunder,' which was first published in Colliers (June 28, 1952) and later included in his anthology, The Golden Apples of the Sun (1953). Bradbury uses time travel to explore the theme of man’s effect on the natural world. Bradbury loved his fellow humans and science, but he did not like the consequences the planet earth must pay as a result of man's influence.

    Ray Bradbury A Sound of Thunder StudySmarterA butterfly on a leaf. Bradbury was clearly a fan of "leave no trace," pixabay.

    When Bradbury was first getting started as a professional writer, the classic horror magazine, Weird Tales, published many of his short stories, including 'The Crowd' (May 1943), which later became a part of his first short story collection, Dark Carnival (1947). It was published again in The October Country (1955). An example of psychological horror, 'The Crowd' plays on the anxiety and paranoia of being lost in an urban crowd and comments on people's morbid curiosity. As a long-time resident of Los Angeles, it is easy to see where he got his inspiration.

    Ray Bradbury, A crowd filming a live performance with their smartphones, StudySmarterA crowd filming a live performance with their smartphones, pexels.

    'The Foghorn' was initially titled 'The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms' when first published in The Saturday Evening Post (June 23, 1951). However, he later included it in The Golden Apples of the Sun. This fantasy tale, about two lighthouse attendants confronted by what appears to be a dinosaur, leaves readers wrestling with ideas about the known versus the unknown world as they connect with an ancient beast through the universal feelings of loneliness and longing.

    Facts About Ray Bradbury

    • Although Bradbury despised the television, many of his books and stories were adapted to the screen. If you enjoy the classic The Twilight Zone (1983), check out a similarly styled show featuring many of Bradbury's stories, The Ray Bradbury Theater (1985-1992).
    • Ray Bradbury's fiction influenced many writers and filmmakers, including Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Steven Spielberg, and James Cameron.
    • He was the “Ideas Consultant” for the United States Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair.
    • When NASA landed the rover, Curiosity, on Mars a few months after Bradbury’s death, they named the site “Bradbury’s Landing.”
    • Ray Bradbury was not a fan of computers and stuck to writing on his typewriter.

    Ray Bradbury - Key takeaways

    • Ray Bradbury was a mid-century American author who specialized in Science Fiction and Fantasy.
    • Bradbury's books and short stories helped popularize Science Fiction through his use of literary techniques and his ability to translate everyday occurrences into fantastical and scary situations.
    • Bradbury used his writing to comment on society's positive and negative characteristics.
    • Common themes in Bradbury's works are interconnectedness, isolation, the hazards of innovation, and the power of nature.

    1 Ray Bradbury, Los Angeles Times, 9. August 1976.

    2 Amy E. Boyle Johnston, “Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 Misinterpreted.” LA Weekly, 2007.

    3 Ray Bradbury, “Beyond 1984: The People Machines.” Yestermorrow: Obvious Answers to Impossible Futures, Capra Press, 1991, p. 115.

    Frequently Asked Questions about Ray Bradbury

    Who is Ray Bradbury

    Ray Bradbury was a mid-century American author who wrote mostly Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror.

    When did Ray Bradbury die?

    Ray Bradbury died on June 5, 2012.

    What is Ray Bradbury best known for?

    Ray Bradbury is best known for changing the way Science Fiction was written. Bradbury's best-known book is Fahrenheit 451.

    What is Ray Bradbury's famous quote?

    Ray Bradbury's famous quote is, "Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers."

    What is Ray Bradbury warning us about in Fahrenheit 451?

    The text of Fahrenheit 451 suggests that Bradbury is warning us about government oppression and censorship, but he has stated that Fahrenheit 451 was written as a warning that watching television will replace reading literature.

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