Childhood & Early Life
He was born on August 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Illinois, to Leonard Spaulding Bradbury and Ester Moberg Bradbury. His father was a lineman for telephone and power utilities.
Due to his father’s job the family stayed in Tucson, Arizona, from 1926 to 1927 and again from 1932 to 1933, and every time they returned back to Waukegan.
He was an ardent reader of adventure and fantasy fiction since childhood and spent a lot of time at ‘Carnegie library’ in Waukegan. His favourite writers included Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Jules Verne among others.
He started penning down his own stories in 1931 at eleven years of age. According to him, he imitated works of Poe till he was eighteen.
Two incidents made a mark on him as a child triggering him to take up the habit of writing daily. The first one was as a three year old when he accompaned his mother to see the performance of Lon Chaney in ‘The Hunchback of Norte Dame’ while the second one was an encounter with Mr. Electrico, a carnival entertainer in 1932’.
He was a great magic enthusiast and said if not a writer, he would have been a magician.
In 1934 the family relocated to Los Angeles where his father got a job of making wires for a cable company. He studied at ‘Los Angeles High School’ and actively participated in drama and poetry clubs.
He often used to roll-skate around Hollywood to get autographs or at least a sneak peak of famous celebrities. In this pursuit he saw Marlene Dietrich, Laurel and Hardy, Mae West and Norma Shearer among others.
This way he came across radio star George Burns who hired him as a writer for ‘Burns and Allen’ show when he was fourteen.
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In January 1938, his story ‘Hollerbochen's Dilemma’ was published in ‘Imagination!’ - a fanzine of Forrest J. Ackerman and the same year he completed his graduation. Since then Bradbury, fascinated by science fictional characters like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, began to write and publish his own science fictions in fanzines.
Ackerman funded him in July 1939 to visit New York City to attend the ‘First World Science Fiction Convention’ and also sponsored ‘Futuria Fantasia’, Bradbury’s fanzine. Four issues of the fanzine were published - restricted to 100 copies each and most of its contents were written by him.
He wrote and performed in many plays for ‘Wilshire Players Guild’ for two years beginning 1939.
His poor eyesight prohibited him from joining the army during the ‘Second World War’. He thus concentrated on his writing that saw him contributing in ‘Script’, a film magazine of Rob Wagner during 1940 to 1947.
His early earnings included $15 for ‘Pendulum’, a piece written by him and Henry Hasse and published in November 1941 in the pulp magazine, ‘Super Science Stories’.
In 1942, his first story, ‘The Lake’ was sold at $13.75.
‘Dark Carnival’, his compilation of short stories was published in ‘Arkham House’ in 1947. The same year his story ‘Homecoming’ was rejected by ‘Weird Tales’. It was then published by ‘Mademoiselle’ and earned a position in ‘The O. Henry Prize Stories’ that very year.
His first prominent work ‘The Martian Chronicles’ which he considered as fantasy and not science fiction was published in 1950. It dealt with colonization of humans in Mars and their conflict with the Martian inhabitants.
In 1953, his masterpiece ‘Fahrenheit 451’ was published. It was initially written as ‘The Fireman’ in about 25,000 words, but later expanded to around 50,000 words. Written in a study room of ‘Powell Library’ in ‘UCLA’ with the aid of a hired typewriter, the novel tells about a futuristic American society where books are prohibited and burned if found by ‘firemen’.
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He worked as a consultant for many screenplays and TV scripts, which includes ‘Moby Dick’ in 1956.
During the 1964 ‘New York World's Fair’, he served the ‘United States Pavilion’ as creative consultant.
His semi-autobiographical classics include ‘Dandelion Wine’ (1957), ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ (1962), and ‘Farewell Summer’ (2006). Many of his fictional works include ‘Green Town’, a pseudonym for his hometown Waukegan where fantasies hold no bar.
The ‘Ray Bradbury Theater’, a television series hosted by him, featured sixty five of his short stories. The first two seasons were run on ‘HBO’ (1985-86), while next four were featured on ‘USA Network’ (1988-92) and later reruns on ‘Sci Fi Channel’.
The interior metaphors at ‘Epcot's’ ‘Spaceship Earth’ in the ‘Disney World’ were created by him in 1982. He was also involved in conceptualising ‘Orbitron’ space ride at France’s Euro Disney.
Many of his stories were adapted by comic book writers. Some such comic books are ‘Weird Science’, ‘Tales from the Crypt’, ‘Weird Fantasy’ and Haunt of Fear’.
Several television anthology shows like ‘CBS Television’, ‘Star Tonight’, Light Out’ and ‘Tales of Tomorrow’ featured his stories. Science fictions like ‘Mars Is Heaven!’ and ‘The Martian Chronicles’ were adapted and broadcast as dramas in NBC radio program ‘Dimension X’ and later in ‘X Minus One’.
Some of his works that were adapted into films are ‘The Illustrated Man’ in 1969, ‘The Screaming Woman’ in 1972, ‘I Sing the Body Electric’ adapted as television movie ‘The Electric Grandmother’ in 1982 and ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ in 1983.
Personal Life & Legacy
On September 27, 1947, he married Marguerite McClure in the Church of the Good Shepherd, Episcopal in Los Angeles. The couple had four daughters, Ramona, Bettina, Susan and Alexandra.
He suffered a stroke in 1999 that made wheelchair bound.
On June 5, 2012, he died in Los Angeles, California.