10 Things You Didn’t Know About Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury, the man who penned numerous fantasy and science fiction classics of American literature, like ‘Fahrenheit 451’ and ‘The Martian Chronicles,’ died June 5th, 2012, in Los Angeles at the age of 91.
Bradbury was a master of the written word. His wonderful imagination seemed to hold no bounds. He wrote more than two-dozen novels in his lifetime, and helped cement science fiction as a true literary genre. His lyrical prose, combined with his provocative storylines, captivated the hearts and minds of his readers.
Bradbury was born in 1920, and saw many of the things he’d envisioned come to life. He was born before radio, but lived to witness the birth of the internet (although he wasn’t a big fan) and space exploration. Was he surprised by any of these world-changing events? Perhaps, but for a man as forward looking as him, he couldn’t have been caught off guard by many. Is it any wonder that his ‘The Martian Chronicles’ has been translated into more than 30 languages? He liked to think about things to come, and how they related to things that have already passed. For those of you mourning the loss of such a great writer, here are some interesting tidbits you might not have known about the man.
1. Ray Bradbury Didn’t Consider Himself a Science Fiction Writer
Even though Bradbury was credited with raising the genre of science fiction to new levels, and giving it legitimacy, he did not consider himself a science fiction writer at all. He believed that most of his works fell under the "fantasy" umbrella. For him, the difference between the two genres was that one (science fiction) described the real, while the other (fantasy) described the unreal. He only considered his book ‘Fahrenheit 451’ true science fiction.
2. Even Though He Wrote About the Fantastic, He Loved the Rural Life
Bradbury’s works stretched across the solar system, and the human imagination. Yet his writing was often rooted in the details of country and small town living. He dreamed of rural Illinois on many occasions, and the loss of a more innocent kind of life. This is evident in works like ‘Dandelion Wine,’ where the simple pleasures, and trials of small town living are set against a backdrop of imposing new technologies.
3. He Wrote Every Day, But Never Went to College
Ray Bradbury believed that a person should write every single day of his or her life. This was a habit that he developed when he was very young. Throughout his life, he tried to write at least 1,000 words a day. Bradbury loved libraries, books, and obviously the written word. The hard work eventually paid off when he sold his first story in 1941 while just barely in his twenties. After high school, Bradbury got his "formal" education by reading voraciously, and writing tons. There was just no need to attend class at a university. He sold papers to make enough to eat, and spent most of his free time reading.
4. He Never Learned How to Drive a Car
As a child, Ray witnessed a horrible car accident with fatalities. That experience marked him significantly, and he never learned how to drive a car. In fact, for a man who spent a good amount of his 91 years in Los Angeles (where life can be pretty hard without wheels), Bradbury never even owned an automobile. He also had a terrible fear of flying, and only stepped onto an airplane for the first time in 1982. Maybe now, without any earthly restraints to tie him down, he’s setting foot on Mars at last.
5. He Wrote His Book, ‘From the Dust Returned’ Over a 55 Year Period
Ray started 'From The Dust Returned’ in 1945. The book was a fantasy novel, composed of numerous short stories about ghosts and strange creatures living in Illinois. The original tale in the series was entitled ‘Homecoming,’ and from there, the life of the Elliot family and the supernatural beings surrounding them only grew. ‘From The Dust Returned’ was put into print at last in 2001, uniting all of the Elliot family tales.
6. Michael Moore Angered Bradbury By Appropriating the Title of His Book
Michael Moore took ‘Fahrenheit 451’ and changed it to ‘Fahrenheit 9/11' for his controversial documentary about 9/11 and the aftermath. Mr. Bradbury was none too pleased with this, and let his feelings be known. Bradbury called Moore a variety of names that can’t be mentioned here, as well as a “horrible human being.” He said it had nothing to do with politics. Michael Moore simply stole his book’s title, and that irked him to no end.
7. Bradbury Was a Descendant of a Salem Witch Sentenced to Hang
Mary Perkins Bradbury was tried and sentenced to hang for being a witch. Back in the day, when witchcraft was still considered a crime, you had to be very careful of the company you kept. Ray Bradbury happened to be a descendant of Mary Bradbury. Don’t worry -- it turned out all right for Mary in the end, at least for a while. Her husband broke her out of jail, and they ran off, but sadly she died a couple of years later. Perhaps some of Mr. Bradbury’s affinity for the beautiful, but creepy writing of Edgar Allen Poe comes from his family roots?
8. Ray Was a Strong Skeptic of the Internet and E-Books
Bradbury was never a fan of e-books and internet technology. He held out for a long time against allowing Fahrenheit 451 to be published in a digital format. He believed the Internet was a “big distraction,” and he even told Yahoo to go to hell when they tried to put his book online. Later in life, his stance against this new kind of reading technology softened some, but still, our guess is that he probably won’t be logging onto that great server in the sky and checking his celestial emails. He’d probably rather spend his time with his nose in a good, paperbound book.
9. 'Fahrenheit 451' Was First Published (as a series) In Playboy Magazine
‘Fahrenheit 451,’ Bradbury’s 1953 novel about a fireman who sets fires in order to burn books in a future dystopia, first appeared in print in Playboy magazine. Ray started with a short story, entitled ‘The Fireman,’ which he published in a science fiction magazine. After that, he began adding to the work, increasing it in size, until the iconic novel ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ now renamed, was ready for the public.
10. A Moon Crater and an Asteroid Were Named In His Honor
Even though Bradbury shied away from the title of science fiction writer, people who love science have read him widely, and they will probably do so for a long time to come. So much so, in fact, that the crew of Apollo 15 named a moon crater ‘Dandelion Crater’ after the title of his book, ‘Dandelion Wine. ’ That’s a pretty big (literally) deal. An asteroid was also named in his honor, asteroid "9766 Bradbury." Considering his many works of fiction, and his name upon heavenly bodies, the legendary writer’s legacy is bound to live on.