Quotes for Writers – Ray Bradbury
“I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me.”
Ray Bradbury, WD
Ray Douglas Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012) was an Americanfantasy, science fiction, horror and mystery fiction writer. Best known for hisdystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 (1953) and for the science fiction and horror stories gathered together as The Martian Chronicles (1950) and The Illustrated Man (1951), Bradbury was one of the most celebrated 20th-century American writers. Many of Bradbury’s works have been adapted into comic books, television shows and films.
Bradbury was born on August 22, 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois, to Esther (Moberg) Bradbury, a Swedish immigrant, and Leonard Spaulding Bradbury, a power and telephone lineman of English descent.He was given the middle name “Douglas,” after the actor Douglas Fairbanks.
Ray Bradbury was surrounded by a loving extended family during his early childhood and formative years in Waukegan. This period provided foundations for both the author and his stories. In Bradbury’s works of fiction, 1920s Waukegan becomes “Green Town,” Illinois. In his stories, Green Town is a symbol of safety and home, which is often juxtaposed as a contrasting backdrop to tales of fantasy or menace. It serves as the setting of his modern classics Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Farewell Summer. In Green Town, Bradbury’s favorite uncle sprouts wings, traveling carnivals conceal supernatural powers, and his grandparents provide room and board to Charles Dickens. Perhaps the most definitive usage of the pseudonym for his hometown, in Summer Morning, Summer Night, a collection of short stories and vignettes exclusively about Green Town, Bradbury returns to the signature locale as a look back at the rapidly disappearing small-town world of the American heartland, which was the foundation of his roots.
Between 1926 and 1933, the Bradbury family moved back and forth between Waukegan and Tucson, Arizona. In 1931, at age eleven, young Ray began writing his own stories. The country was going through the Great Depression, and sometimes Bradbury wrote on butcher paper.
Bradbury was related to the American Shakespeare scholar Douglas Spaulding. He was also descended from Mary Bradbury, who was tried at one of the Salem witch trials in 1692. She was married to Captain Thomas Bradbury of Salisbury, Massachusetts.
The Bradbury family lived in Tucson, Arizona, in 1926–1927 and 1932–1933 as the father pursued employment, each time returning to Waukegan, but eventually settled in Los Angeles in 1934, when Bradbury was 14. The family arrived with only 40 dollars, which paid for rent and food until his father finally found a job making wire at a cable company for $14 a week. This meant they could stay and Bradbury, who was in love with Hollywood, was ecstatic.
The family lived about four blocks from the Uptown Theater on Western Avenue in Los Angeles, the flagship theater for MGMand Fox. There, Bradbury learned how to sneak in and watched previews almost every week. He roller-skated there as well as all over town, as he put it “hell-bent on getting autographs from glamorous stars. It was glorious.” Among stars the young Bradbury was thrilled to encounter were Norma Shearer, Laurel and Hardy, and Ronald Colman. Sometimes he would spend all day in front of Paramount Pictures or Columbia Pictures and then skate to the Brown Derby to watch the stars who came and went for meals. He recounted seeing Cary Grant, Marlene Dietrich and Mae West, who he would learn made a regular appearance every Friday night, bodyguard in tow.
Bradbury was a reader and writer throughout his youth.He knew as a young boy that he was “going into one of the arts.”
In 1932, one of Bradbury’s earliest influences was Edgar Allan Poe. At age twelve, Bradbury began writing traditional horror stories and said he tried to imitate Poe until he was about eighteen. At the time, his favorites were also Edgar Rice Burroughsand John Carter, as well as comic books. He listened to the radio show Chandu the Magician, and when the show went off the air every night he would sit and write the entire script from memory.
In his youth, he spent much time in the Carnegie library in Waukegan, reading such authors as H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan of the Apes. He loved Burroughs’ The Warlord of Mars so much that at the age of 12 he wrote his own sequel. The young Bradbury was also a cartoonist and loved to illustrate. He wrote about Tarzan and drew his own Sunday panels.
When he was seventeen, Bradbury read stories published in Astounding Science Fiction, and said he read everything byRobert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and the early writings of Theodore Sturgeon and A. E. van Vogt, but cited H. G. Wells and Jules Verne as his big science fiction influences. Bradbury identified with Verne, saying, “He believes the human being is in a strange situation in a very strange world, and he believes that we can triumph by behaving morally.”
Bradbury admitted he stopped reading genre books in his twenties and embraced a broad field of literature that includedAlexander Pope and poet John Donne.
An aunt read him short stories when he was a child. He used this library as a setting for much of his novel Something Wicked This Way Comes, and depicted Waukegan as “Green Town” in some of his other semi-autobiographical novels —Dandelion Wine, Farewell Summer — as well as in many of his short stories.
He attributed to two incidents his lifelong habit of writing every day. The first of these, occurring when he was three years old, was his mother’s taking him to see Lon Chaney’s performance in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The second incident occurred in 1932, when a carnival entertainer, one Mr. Electrico, touched the young man on the nose with an electrified sword, made his hair stand on end, and shouted, “Live forever!” Bradbury remarked, “I felt that something strange and wonderful had happened to me because of my encounter with Mr. Electrico…[he] gave me a future…I began to write, full-time. I have written every single day of my life since that day 69 years ago.” It was at that age that Bradbury first started to domagic, which was his first great love. If he had not discovered writing, he would have become a magician
Bradbury claimed a wide variety of influences, and described discussions he might have with his favorite poets and writers Robert Frost, William Shakespeare, John Steinbeck, Aldous Huxley, and Thomas Wolfe. From Steinbeck, he said he learned “how to write objectively and yet insert all of the insights without too much extra comment.” He studied Eudora Welty for her “remarkable ability to give you atmosphere, character, and motion in a single line.” Bradbury’s favorite writers growing up included Katherine Anne Porter, who wrote about the American South, Edith Wharton, and Jessamyn West. He often said he was a fantasy writer, not a science fiction writer, and numerous times is quoted stating “The only science fiction I’ve written is Fahrenheit 451“, elucidating “science fiction is the art of the possible.” Bradbury recounted when he came into his own as a writer, the afternoon he wrote a short story about his first encounter with death. When he was a boy, he met a young girl at the beach and she went out into the water and never came back. Years later, as he wrote about it, tears flowed from him. He recognized he had taken the leap from emulating the many writers he admired to connecting with his voice as a writer.
When later asked about the lyrical power of his prose, Bradbury replied, “From reading so much poetry every day of my life. My favorite writers have been those who’ve said things well.” He is quoted, “If you’re reluctant to weep, you won’t live a full and complete life.”
In high school, Ray Bradbury was active in both the Poetry Club and the Drama club, continuing plans to become an actor but becoming serious about his writing as his high school years progressed. Bradbury graduated from Los Angeles High School, where he took poetry classes with Snow Longley Housh, and short story writing courses taught by Jeannet Johnson, The teachers recognized his talent and furthered his interest in writing, but he did not attend college. Instead, he sold newspapers at the corner of South Norton Avenue and Olympic Boulevard. In regard to his education, Bradbury said:
Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.
He told The Paris Review, “You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do—and they don’t.”
It was in UCLA’s Powell Library, in a study room with typewriters for rent, that Bradbury wrote his classic story of a book-burning future, The Fireman, which was about 25,000 words long. It was later published at about 50,000 words under the nameFahrenheit 451, for a total cost of $9.80, due to the library’s typewriter-rental fees of ten cents per half-hour.
When the Bradbury family moved to Los Angeles, California in 1934, Bradbury attended Los Angeles High School and was active in the drama club. Bradbury often roller-skated through Hollywood in hopes of meeting celebrities. Among the creative and talented people Bradbury met this way were special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen and radio star George Burns. Bradbury’s first pay as a writer was at the age of fourteen, when Burns hired him to write for the Burns and Allen show.
In 1936, at a secondhand bookstore in Hollywood, Ray Bradbury discovered a handbill promoting meetings of the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society. Thrilled to find there were others with his interests, at the age of sixteen Bradbury joined a weekly Thursday-night conclave.
Bradbury began submitting his short stories for publication. After a rejection notice from the pulp magazine Weird Tales, Bradbury submitted to magazines. At Mademoiselle magazine, a young editorial assistant named Truman Capote spotted one of Bradbury’s short stories, “Homecoming'”. Capote picked the Bradbury manuscript from a slush pile, which led to it getting published in the magazine. Homecoming won a place in The O. Henry Prize Stories of 1947.
Bradbury had just graduated from high school when he met Robert Heinlein, then 31 years old. Bradbury recalled, “He was well known, and he wrote humanistic science fiction, which influenced me to dare to be human instead of mechanical.”
His first published story was “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma”, which appeared in the January 1938 number of Forrest J. Ackerman’s fanzine Imagination!. In July 1939, Ackerman gave nineteen-year-old Ray Bradbury the money to head to New York for theFirst World Science Fiction Convention in New York City, and funded Ray Bradbury’s fanzine, titled Futuria Fantasia.Bradbury wrote most of its four issues, each limited to under 100 copies. Between 1940 and 1947, he was a contributor to Rob Wagner’s film magazine, Script.
Ray Bradbury was free to start a career in writing when, owing to his bad eyesight, he was rejected admission into the military during World War II. Having been inspired by science fiction heroes like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, Bradbury began to publish science fiction stories in fanzines in 1938. Bradbury was invited by Forrest J. Ackermanto attend theLos Angeles Science Fiction Society, which at the time met at Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown Los Angeles. This was where he met the writers Robert A. Heinlein, Emil Petaja, Fredric Brown, Henry Kuttner, Leigh Brackett, and Jack Williamson.
In 1939, Bradbury joined Laraine Day’s Wilshire Players Guild where for two years he wrote and acted in several plays. They were, as Bradbury later described, “so incredibly bad” that he gave up playwriting for two decades. Bradbury’s first paid piece, “Pendulum,” written with Henry Hasse, was published in the pulp magazine Super Science Stories in November 1941, for which he earned $15.
Bradbury sold his first story, “The Lake”, for $13.75 at the age of twenty-two. He became a full-time writer by the end of 1942. His first collection of short stories, Dark Carnival, was published in 1947 by Arkham House, a small press in Sauk City, Wisconsin, owned by writer August Derleth. Reviewing Dark Carnival for the New York Herald Tribune, Will Cuppy proclaimed Bradbury “suitable for general consumption” and predicted that he would become a writer of the caliber of British fantasy authorJohn Collier.
A chance encounter in a Los Angeles bookstore with the British expatriate writer Christopher Isherwood gave Bradbury the opportunity to put The Martian Chronicles into the hands of a respected critic. Isherwood’s glowing reviewfollowed.
Bradbury relates the following meeting with Sergei Bondarchuk, director of soviet 1967 epic film War and Peace, at a Hollywood award ceremony in Bondarchuk’s honor: “They formed a long queue and as Bondarchuk was walking along it he recognized several people:
“Oh Mr. Ford, I like your film.” He recognized the director, Greta Garbo, and someone else. I was standing at the very end of the queue and silently watched this. Bondarchuk shouted to me; “Ray Bradbury, is that you?” He rushed up to me, embraced me, dragged me inside, grabbed a bottle of Stolichnaya, sat down at his table where his closest friends were sitting. All the famous Hollywood directors in the queue were bewildered. They stared at me and asked each other “who is this Bradbury?” And, swearing, they left, leaving me alone with Bondarchuk
Bradbury was once described as a “Midwest surrealist” and is often labeled a science fiction writer. Bradbury resisted that categorization, however:
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. It was named so to represent the temperature at which paper ignites. 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.
On another occasion, Bradbury observed that the novel touches on the alienation of people by media:
In writing the short novel Fahrenheit 451 I thought I was describing a world that might evolve in four or five decades. But only a few weeks ago, in Beverly Hills one night, a husband and wife passed me, walking their dog. I stood staring after them, absolutely stunned. The woman held in one hand a small cigarette-package-sized radio, its antenna quivering. From this sprang tiny copper wires which ended in a dainty cone plugged into her right ear. There she was, oblivious to man and dog, listening to far winds and whispers and soap opera cries,sleep walking, helped up and down curbs by a husband who might just as well not have been there. This was not fiction.
Besides his fiction work, Bradbury wrote many short essays on the arts and culture, attracting the attention of critics in this field. Bradbury also hosted “The Ray Bradbury Theater” which was based on his short stories. Bradbury was a consultant for the American Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and the original exhibit housed in Epcot’s Spaceship Earth geosphere at Walt Disney World. In the 1980s, Bradbury concentrated on detective fiction.
Several comic book writers have adapted Bradbury’s stories. Particularly noted among these were EC Comics’ line of horror and science-fiction comics. Initially, the writers plagiarized his stories, but a diplomatic letter from Bradbury about it led to the company paying him and negotiating properly licensed adaptations of his work. The comics featuring Bradbury’s stories included Tales from the Crypt, Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, Crime Suspenstories, Haunt of Fear and others.
Bradbury remained an enthusiastic playwright all his life, leaving a rich theatrical legacy as well as literary. Bradbury headed the Pandemonium Theatre Company in Los Angeles for many years and had a five-year relationship with the Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena.
Bradbury is featured prominently in two documentaries related to his classic 1950s-’60s era: Jason V Brock’s Charles Beaumont: The Life of Twilight Zone’s Magic Man, which details his troubles with Rod Serling, and his friendships with writers Charles Beaumont, George Clayton Johnson, and most especially his dear friend William F. Nolan, as well as Brock’sThe AckerMonster Chronicles!, which delves into the life of former Bradbury agent, close friend, mega-fan, and Famous Monsters of Filmland editor Forrest J Ackerman.
Ray Bradbury was married to Marguerite McClure (January 16, 1922 – November 24, 2003) from 1947 until her death; they had four daughters:Susan, Ramona, Bettina and Alexandra.Though he lived in Los Angeles, Bradbury never obtained a driver’s licensebut relied on public transportation or his bicycle. He lived at home until he was twenty-seven and married. His wife of fifty-six years, Maggie, as she was affectionately called, was the only woman Bradbury ever dated.
Bradbury was a close friend of Charles Addams, and Addams illustrated the first of Bradbury’s stories about the Elliotts, a family that would resemble Addams’ own Addams Family placed in rural Illinois. Bradbury’s first story about them was “Homecoming,” published in the 1946 Halloween issue of Mademoiselle, with Addams illustrations. He and Addams planned a larger collaborative work that would tell the family’s complete history, but it never materialized, and according to a 2001 interview, they went their separate ways. In October 2001, Bradbury published all the Family stories he had written in one book with a connecting narrative, From the Dust Returned, featuring a wraparound Addams cover of the original “Homecoming” illustration.
Another close friend was animator Ray Harryhausen, who was best man at Bradbury’s wedding. During a BAFTA 2010 awards tribute in honor of Ray Harryhausen’s 90th birthday, Bradbury spoke of his first meeting Harryhausen at Forrest J Ackerman’s house when they were both 18 years old. Their shared love for science fiction,King Kong, and the King Vidor-directed film The Fountainhead, written by Ayn Rand, was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. These early influences inspired the pair to believe in themselves and affirm their career choices. Since their first meeting, they kept in touch at least once a month, spanning over 70 years of friendship.
In later years, Bradbury retained his dedication and passion despite what he described as the “devastation of illnesses and deaths of many good friends.” Among the losses that deeply grieved Bradbury was the death of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who was an intimate friend for many years. They remained close friends for nearly three decades after Roddenberry asked him to write for Star Trek, which Bradbury never did, stating he “never had the ability to adapt other people’s ideas into any sensible form.”
Bradbury suffered a stroke in 1999that left him partially dependent on a wheelchair for mobility. Despite this he continued to write, and had even written an essay on his inspiration for writing for The New Yorker published only a week prior to his death.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 iterated from his past that “libraries raised me”, and shunned colleges and universities, comparing his own lack of funds during the Depression with poor contemporary students. His opinion varied on modern technology. In 1985 Bradbury wrote, “I see nothing but good coming from computers. When they first appeared on the scene, people were saying, ‘Oh my God, I’m so afraid.’ I hate people like that—I call them the neo-Luddites”, and “In a sense [computers] are simply books. Books are all over the place, and computers will be too”. He resisted, however, the conversion of his work into e-books, stating in 2010 “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”. When the publishing rights for Fahrenheit 451 came up for renewal in December 2011, Bradbury permitted its publication in electronic form provided that the publisher, Simon & Schuster, allowed the e-book to be digitally downloaded by any library patron. The title remains the only book in the Simon & Schuster catalog where this is possible.Bradbury chose a burial place at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles with a headstone that reads “Author of Fahrenheit 451”.
Bradbury died in Los Angeles, California, on June 5, 2012, at the age of 91, after a lengthy illness.
The New York Times‘ obituary stated that Bradbury was “the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream.” The Los Angeles Times credited Bradbury with the 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”.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”.The Washington Post hallmarked several modern day technologies that Bradbury had envisioned much earlier in his writing, such as the idea of banking ATMs and earbuds and Bluetooth headsets from Fahrenheit 451, and the concepts of artificial intelligence within I Sing the Body Electric.
On June 6, 2012, in an official public statement from the White House Press Office, President Barack Obama said:
“For many Americans, the news of Ray Bradbury’s death immediately brought to mind images from his work, imprinted in our minds, often from a young age. His gift for storytelling reshaped our culture and expanded our world. But Ray also understood that our imaginations could be used as a tool for better understanding, a vehicle for change, and an expression of our most cherished values. There is no doubt that Ray will continue to inspire many more generations with his writing, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”