American writer and national treasure (1920-2012). He was born on August 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Illinois. He graduated from high school in Los Angeles in 1938 and, after several years of spending late nights typing stories at a typewriter in a public library, became a full-time writer in 1943. Since that time, he published more than 30 books and almost 600 short stories. He also wrote poems, plays, essays, and the script for John Huston's version of "Moby Dick". He is best known for writing science fiction, fantasy, and horror, though some of his best stories have no fantastic elements in them at all.

He died on June 6, 2012. I will miss him dearly.

Bradbury is not considered a very hip writer, mostly because his writing is not cynical enough for modern sci-fi fans, not predictable enough for modern fantasy fans, not brutal enough for modern horror fans. Many of his stories are about children (like Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked this Way Comes) or the loss of innocence ("The Veldt," "The Small Assassin," "The Dwarf," and others). He also likes to write about small towns in Mexico, Ireland, and the American Midwest.

His writing and his words are deliciously descriptive, and I cannot read any of his stories without feeling (A) like I've been beaten over the head with solid proof of my own inadequacies as a writer and (B) like he knew that I personally was going to read his books and so he wrote them expressly for me. The ability to wow an audience with pure writing talent while simultaneously winning them over with a pure love of writing and story -- that's a gift that few can manage.

As far as I'm concerned, he was one of the best American writers in any genre. Hell, as far as I'm concerned, he was one of the best friends I ever had, though I've never met him outside of the pages of his books. He's helped me see the excitement of new sneakers and the happiness of vanilla ice cream in Dandelion Wine. He's led me through the pride of memorizing books in Fahrenheit 451. He's carried me on merry-go-round trips to Hell in Something Wicked This Way Comes. He's led me safely through Samhain and the Day of the Dead in The Halloween Tree. He's shown me a new world in a handful of red dust in The Martian Chronicles. He's introduced me to the family I always wished I had in "Homecoming" and From the Dust Returned. He's demonstrated new ways to write in Zen in the Art of Writing. He's taken me through prehistory into strange worlds in "A Sound of Thunder." He's shown me doomed courtship rituals in "The Fog Horn" and true love in "The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair." He's reminded me of science fiction's once-shameless love of good old-fashioned optimistic rockets in "R is for Rocket" and taken me through a lonely death in space in "Kaleidoscope." He's shown me the downside of babies in "The Small Assassin," the upside of luddites in "The Murderer," and the aftermath of the Apocalypse in "There Shall Come Soft Rains." He's led me through awkward high school reunions in "I Wonder What's Become of Sally." He's shared a final gift with forgotten favorite writers in "Last Rites" and demonstrated the benefits of taking the next exit in "The Other Highway." He's given me the pros and cons of eternal youth in "Hail and Farewell."

I never had the opportunity to meet Ray Bradbury, but I still considered him one of my dearest friends. He gave me a near-endless supply of stories and magic and imagination and happiness, and for that, he has my gratitude and love, forever and ever and ever.

The Man behind the Science Fiction

Ray Bradbury writes books. Upon opening one of these books the reader is greeted with Martian landscapes or the rainy planet of Venus where the sun never shines. In some books the reader can become a boy whose father’s space ship falls into the sun or a fireman who starts fires, or merely a boy in the summer of 1926 who helps his grandfather make wine out of flowering weeds. These books contain the secrets of life creatively hidden between the plots of science fiction stories. To finish one of his books is to finish a stage in the life of one of his characters. He brings them through a specific cycle. The cycle usually includes some great catharsis. Usually it is a stage in which the protagonist realizes that they are alive. The realization that life is precious and beautiful. That the little things in life that we take for granted in fact, form the sweetest things. Dandelion wine, a drink that I have never tasted, is described by Bradbury as a drink that he made out of memories. The pieces of his childhood summers represented by each dandelion picked for the wine, which will ferment in the cellar of his house to be opened on a cold winter’s day as a release of the memories and the warmth of summer. As I read one of these great works I often wonder "who is the man behind the science fiction?" Now, I have merely decided to find out.

Ray Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois on August 22, 1920. His family volleyed from Illinois to Arizona several times before finally settling in Los Angeles, California in 1932. Bradbury’s childhood greatly affected his decision to write. He learned early on (in about 5th grade) that you can’t listen to all those "damn fools" in your life. This was when he began to write. (Jepsen, 1)

He published his first story, “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma,” at the age of 18 in a fan magazine called Imagination! He also published four issues of his own magazine, Futuria Fantasia, which he contributed to mostly himself. His first paid publication was Pendulum in 1941. In each of his stories Bradbury tends to pay great detail to the cities. He has a strange and admirable affection for cities. In an interview with Robert Couteau he can be quoted as saying:

"When I was eight years old and saw the covers of science fiction magazines [I] became intrigued by cities. They’re all architectural. We love science fiction because it’s architectural. All of the big science fiction films of the last 20 years are architectural. 2001, when you see the rocket ship flying through the air, it’s a city it’s a big city up there. And in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, when the mother ship descends, it’s not a ship, it’s a city. It’s so beautiful. And when the aliens come out of the ship, you want to go back with them; and go away forever. And when one of the characters does, your heart goes with them." (Couteau, 39)
Bradbury does more than just write stories. He lives them. He awakes in the morning and the stories are already there. He says that the "voices in his head" start talking the moment he wakes up. He does have his limits; however, he only writes for four hours a day, at most. (Jepsen, 3) He refuses to use computers. It seems he has always had an aversion to technology. He is perfectly happy to write on his electric typewriter and get information from the library. These reservations are self-evident in his stories.

Bradbury graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1938. After graduation he began to teach himself. He used the archaic building which we call a library. In Bradbury’s case it was much more; it was the place where dreams were born. Though Bradbury does not believe that a writer can write on dreams alone he can imagine things that we have never believed could exist.

Once he saw the remains of an old roller coaster near a beach. He turned to his wife and asked her what a dinosaur was doing there. His wife did not answer. She must’ve realized that an idea was being formed and she wanted to watch it grow. In the middle of the night Bradbury awoke knowing why the "dinosaur" was there. In the background a foghorn cried out its lonely call. The idea had become the short story: The Fog Horn. The plot: A foghorn sounds it’s desperate call and a creature that has been asleep for a billion years responds to the cry. (Bradbury, 5-13)

Bradbury has quite an imagination and a pretty decent sense of humor. This compliments his incredible desire to encourage people to read and heed the warnings that his writings hold. When asked where he got his imagination Bradbury laments: "God, here and there, makes madness a calling." (Johnston, 1)

Bradbury writes about the future for basically two reasons. He tries to warn people of the dangers of the future and to give them hope for a happier ending.

"People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it. Better yet, build it. Predicting the future is much too easy, anyway. You look at the people around you, the street you stand on, the visible air you breathe, and predict more of the same. To hell with more. I want better." (Johnston, 2)
Bradbury just wants to show us all that we rely too much on the future and often forget the here and now. He shows us examples of this in his writing. Fahrenheit 451 is a prime example of his soapbox writing. He uses historical events from communism in Russia to create a future society in which books are burned instead of read. Ironically events occurred that included having his book banned and rewritten by the publishers. In the coda of the more recent edition of the book he addresses these issues.
"I discovered that, over the years, some cubby-hole editors at Ballantine Books, fearful of contaminating the young, had, bit by bit, censored some 75 separate sections from Fahrenheit 451. Students, reading the novel which, after all, deals with censorship and book-burning in the future, wrote to tell me of this exquisite irony. (Bradbury, Coda)
The most important thing that I’ve wondered about Ray Bradbury is how he does it? He has written books, stories, poems, manuscripts, and screenplays. He has his own TV show. Everything he writes is on an old electric typewriter. All his ideas seem new and fresh to me. Each page of his stories is unexpected and full of wisdom. He compares himself to a pomegranate. He says that he is so full of ideas that he is just bursting and that the ideas spill out from there. (Johnston, 4) My favorite description of how he comes up with stories goes like this:
"My stories run up and bite me in the leg-I respond by writing down everything that goes on during that bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs off." (Johnston, 4)
A friend of Bradbury’s , Cal McNelly, smiles as he describes his friend as a “consummate liar.” As evident in the following anecdote Bradbury has the tendency to overembellish. Each time he tells a story he adds more detail and more exaggeration. In 1952 while telling a story about his childhood which encouraged him to become a writer he describes a carnival man one way. A few years later while describing the same story he had added details and changed the ending. The basic idea was still there but it was disguised with Bradbury’s metaphors. The ending held the same result but with more of a romantic appeal (Jepsen, 2). (I have chosen not to go into more detail here so as not to bore the reader with the same story twice.)

Ray Bradbury is famous for his scientific fiction. He claims that everything that we think of is fiction and that anything that we do is science. So, in essence, everything is science fiction. (Johnston, 1) The more that I read about Bradbury the more I admire him and the more that I come to realize that he is not so different from me. I share his passion for writing as well as his passion for life. I understand him and feel that he is someone who I could connect to. I only wish that I could meet the man behind the science fiction so that I could shake his hand. This is a man who has been to the moon, and he has been to Mars, and he has taken us all with him even if he doesn’t know it. His books are the key. So, you see, Ray Bradbury writes books. He has even written chapters that he will never read, they are the chapters in the lives of those who read his books. They are his most important works.

Editor's note: edited for typos and formatting 29 December 2002

Bradbury is neat because he is a study in contrasts...his writing is intellectual, heady, but under that he is such an idealist. I love the way he combines science fiction with his own philosophy of life.

We live in a world full of people who are afraid to breathe too hard lest they be somehow injured, where people settle for "safe" instead of going for their dreams. We are taught when we are young that you can acheive anything...but life shows us otherwise, and by the time we have reached adulthood, most of us are too petrified at the thought of failing to reach for our dreams. We are too frozen by the "what if" to DO. I like Bradbury's idealism, even if some people are put off by it. He BELIEVES in humanity, in our ability to acheive, despite our flaws and prejudices...I think that comes across very clearly in this quote:

"If we listened to our intellect we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go in business because we'd be cynical: 'It's gonna go wrong.' Or 'She's going to hurt me.' Or, 'I've had a couple of bad love affairs, so therefore . . .' Well, that's nonsense. You're going to miss life. You've got to jump off the cliff all the time and build your wings on the way down."

--Ray Bradbury, Brown Daily Herald. March 24, 1995

Ray Bradbury, author of Farhenheit 451, correct in his assumption about the Future?
Bradbury wrote about in his book of future turmoil in the world. He is correct.

From the book of Fahrenheit 451: “Everyone I know is either shouting or dancing around like wild or beating up one another. Do you notice how people hurt each other nowadays?”-Pg.30 “Every hour so many things in the sky! How did those bombers get up there every single second of our lives! Why doesn’t someone want to talk about it! We’ve started and won two atomic wars since 1990! Is it because we’re having so much fun at home we’ve forgotten the world?”-Pg.73 “For no reason at all in the world they would have killed me.”-Pg.128

Ray Bradbury thought society today would be far too violent, and with no good reason. Quoting Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury indicates that society in the future will be like his book, containing lots of destruction. People hurt each other for reasons of entertainment or if someone simply happens to be an inconvenience. A car is speeding down an alley and would run over Montag only because he was in the way. The car swerved only to avoid sliding or having an accident had it hit Montag while he was lying down. Nobody seems to care about anyone else. Bradbury thought people would be this way around 1999. Too consumed in the desire for power to be concerned with whether or not someone gets hurt. The majority of people in the society of Fahrenheit 451 act precisely this way. They go to war all of the time.

My evidence to prove Bradbury correct is a newspaper article from The Salt Lake Tribune. The article is titled “Simply Evil.” It describes the possibility of the United States going to war with Iraq. President Bush would like Saddam Hussein to allow United Nations weapons inspectors to have access to the facilities in his nation. The facilities might be producing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. War can be averted if we find out that no such things are being produced. Is Saddam Hussein merely evil, or insane? Let the world hope he is merely evil. An evil man would do whatever necessary to save himself and his power. For Saddam, saving his own skin would be going along with the inspectors. Compliance with Security Council would be what other countries need to see to normalize relations with Iraq and get access to its oil again. Seeing as the inspectors are not being granted access, one could only assume that such weapons are indeed being created.

Ray Bradbury is correct for the most part. There are many people in the world today who are violent. Many are evil. There are wars and terrorism. It can be viewed as without good cause. “Saddam has been responsible for an untold number of deaths, in his own nation and in his brutal and pointless war with Iran. He has ordered the use of poison gas against civilian populations that displeased him. He may, indeed be linked to the worst of international terrorism. President Bush states Iraq is on the Axis of Evil.” Iraq’s war with Iran was pointless. Saddam has had many groups of people he disagrees with murdered. Just because they were different, not to Saddam’s liking, they lost their lives. It is just the same type of thing in World War 2 and the attacks of September 11th. “Inspectors were denied access to many likely facilities altogether, and were delayed in their search of others until the government had time to whitewash whole factories. This defiance, and the international embargo that resulted, led to misery and death for Iraqi civilians, while Saddam and his cadre continued to live well off their nation’s smuggled oil wealth.” Death came to Iraqi citizens and Saddam Hussein was perfectly fine. Did he even care? How selfish some people can be.

Ray Bradbury was correct about the future, mass destruction is all over the world, and people's minds are corrupt and tainted.

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