Ray Bradbury: Biography, Books & Stories

Instructor: Megan Pryor

Megan has tutored extensively and has a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Fiction.

In this lesson, we will learn about the prolific science fiction and fantasy author, Ray Bradbury. His life, his influences and his most prominent novel will be examined. Then we'll finish with an overview of a few of his most famous short stories. A short quiz will follow.

Introduction

Best known for his novel Farenheit 451, a science fiction tale, Ray Bradbury was a prolific 20th-century American science fiction and fantasy writer. He was influenced by close family ties, a long-lasting marriage, a myriad of literary influences, the Great Depression and World War II.

Ray Bradbury, Prolific Science Fiction Author
Photograph of Ray Bradbury

Biography

Born in 1920, Ray Bradbury grew up at an influential time in American history. His close-knit family primarily lived in the small town of Waukegan, Illinois, although they moved around a lot as his father looked for work during the Great Depression. Ray Bradbury started writing stories as a child. Waukegan features in many of his stories under the alias 'Green Town, Illinois.'

When he was fourteen, Ray Bradbury and his family moved to Los Angeles, California. His father found a job working for a cable company. Bradbury loved living in California. He was obsessed with movie stars and films. He also loved writing and books, though.

Ray Bradbury attended Los Angeles High School, but when it came time to go to college, he opted not to go. He said he could not afford college, but he also believed strongly that people couldn't learn to write in school. He chose instead to educate himself by going to the library and reading everything he could. He loved all the arts, especially writing, but also magic, acting, comic books, and radio.

While most people associate Ray Bradbury with science fiction, he claims that the only science fiction novel he ever wrote was Fahrenheit 451. Instead, Bradbury considers himself a fantasy writer. His literary influences were vast. He was a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe, H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter, Robert A. Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke, in addition to many non-genre writers, such as Shakespeare, John Steinbeck, Robert Frost, Aldous Huxley, Thomas Wolfe, and John Donne. Bradbury also read a lot of poetry, which he credits for the lyrical nature of his prose.

Ray Bradbury can be best summed up by the anecdote often told about how he wrote Fahrenheit 451. It began as a short story, which was expanded twice, but he wrote the whole thing in a library at UCLA on a typewriter that he paid ten cents per half hour to use. He claimed that he experienced writer's block until he had the pressure of having paid for the use of the typewriter.

In addition to his writing influences, Bradbury was significantly influenced by his marriage to Marguerite McClure. They were married for 56 years before her death in 2003. He died nine years later, in 2012, at the age of 91.

Books

Ray Bradbury's most famous novel is the slender volume, Farneheit 451, which he notoriously wrote in the basement of the UCLA library on a rented typewriter. The novel details a future society where firemen burn books instead of putting out fires. It was influenced by the Nazi book-burning practices that occurred during World War II.

In addition to Farenheit 451, Bradbury also wrote as many as eleven other novels. The exact number depends on how his books are classified. Some of them are short story collections he retooled into novels. His books are as follows: The Martian Chronicles (1950), Fahrenheit 451 (1953), Dandelion Wine (1957), Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962), The Halloween Tree (1972), Death Is a Lonely Business (1985), A Graveyard for Lunatics (1990), Green Shadows, White Whale (1992), From the Dust Returned (2001), Let's All Kill Constance (2002), Farewell Summer (2006).

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