Lighthouse Spotlight: Ray Douglas Bradbury

Ray D. Bradbury died on June 5th, 2012 at the age of 91, living a long life as an icon in the science fiction literary world. He was one of the key writers that brought modern science fiction into the mainstream of the world.
Los Angeles Times wrote in an obituary:

Bradbury had 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.

Washington Post wrote of how is visions of the future became reality, such as the idea of ATM banking, earbud and Bluetooth headsets from his book Fahrenheit 451, (1953) and concepts of artificial intelligence in Sing the Body Electric (1969), which was the 100th episode of the TV series The Twilight Zone.

He influenced so many artists, writers, teachers, scientists, and it’s always really touching and comforting to hear their stories.

Author, Stephen King paid tribute to the author crediting Bradbury with influencing him on his website:

Ray Bradbury wrote three great novels and three hundred great stories. One of the latter was called ‘A Sound of Thunder’. The sound I hear today is the thunder of a giant’s footsteps fading away. But the novel and stories remain, in all their resonance and strange beauty.

Steven Spielberg, a legend in his own right, stated that Bradbury was his

Muse for the better part of his sci-fi career … On the world of science fiction and fantasy and imagination he is immortal.

Bradbury wrote 27 novels and over 600 short stories with more than eight million copies of his works published in 36 languages being sold all over the globe.
In 1949, the year of my birth, Bradbury published his first book The Martian Chronicles whose title was suggested by the Doubleday editor, Walter Bradbury, not related. The story was ideas he jotted down in some notes beginning in 1944 intending to create a series of books about Mars. After the editor accepted it, Bradbury received a check for $750. The short stories in the series were connected into one book length and has become a science-fiction classic that was later the theme in a film.
Ray was born Ray Douglas Bradbury on August 22nd1920 in Waukegan, Illinois. His mother was a Swedish immigrant who married an American telephone lineman of English descent. The actor Douglas Fairbanks, for whom his mother was a fan, inspired his middle name, Douglas. His childhood experiences provided a backdrop for many of his fictitious works later. In his early stories mentions “Green Town” it is a symbol of his home life in Waukegan.
Between 1926 and 1933, the Bradbury family moved back and forth between Waukegan and Tucson, Arizona, experiencing the economic disaster of the Great Depression. In 1931, at age eleven, he began writing stories. In 1934, the Bradbury family moved to Los Angeles, California. According to Wikipedia entry, Bradbury was related to the American Shakespeare scholar, Douglas Spaulding and descended from Mary Bradbury, tried at one of the Salem witch trials of 1692, but was not hanged as the others. [Becoming Ray Bradbury, p. 202] Mary Bradbury was married to Captain Thomas Bradbury of Salisbury, Massachusetts.
When the Bradbury family arrived in Los Angeles they only had $40, but after renting a place to stay, Ray’s father found a job and it looked as if they were there to stay – much to the thrill of young Ray. He went to the Uptown Theater in Los Angeles, whenever he could sneak in to watch previews once per week. The young Bradbury encountered stars like Norma Shearer, Laurel and Hardy, Cary Grant, Marlene Dietrich, and Mae West accompanied by her bodyguard. [Playboy Interview]
Literature was Ray Bradbury’s forté throughout his youth both reading and writing. He was interested in “the arts” – drawing, acting, and writing. His earliest influence was Edgar Allan Poe.
At age twelve he began writing traditional horror stories, trying to imitate Poe until he was about 18. He had been reading comic books and enjoyed stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs and the adventures of his character, John Carter. Ray listened to the radio show Chandu the Magician, and would write each show’s entire script from memory after it was off the air. He spent much time in the Carnegie Library in Waukegan when he was younger, reading books by H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Later, in his twenties he broadened his reading literatureto include authors like poets Alexander Pope and John Donne.
Although he had been tagged as a “science fiction” writer, he disagreed in an interview and proclaimed himself not a science fiction writer, but instead a “fantasy” writer stating:

I am not a science fiction writer, I am a fantasy writer. But the label got put on me and stuck.

Ray attended the Los Angeles High School where he took poetry classes with Snow Longley Housh, as well as short-story writing courses taught by Jeannet Johnson. The teachers recognized his talent and encouraged him to further himself. [American Writers, MacMillan Library Reference, 1996]
Despite that encouragement, Bradbury did not attend college, instead, he sold newspapers and spent a lot of time at the library. Bradbury recalled:

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 ten years.

He said in an interview with 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 the UCLA Powell Library’s study room where typewriters could be rented that Bradbury wrote his classic manuscript The Fireman, which later was published as Fahrenheit 451, published at the cost of $9.80.
In the 1930s, he also submitted stories to the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society and pulp magazines like Weird Tales.
In a review of one of his books, he was described as a Midwest surrealist, and once again, he stated as to what genre writer he considered himself:

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 Chroniclesis not a 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.
Several comic book writers have adapted Bradbury’s stories. Particularly noted among these were EC Comics‘ line of horror and science-fiction comics, which often featured Bradbury’s name on the cover announcing that one story in that issue would be an adaptation of his work. The comics featuring Bradbury’s stories included Tales from the Crypt, Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, Crime Suspense Stories, 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.[52]

Ray Bradbury was married to Marguerite McClure (1922 to 2003) from 1947 until her death. They had four daughters. Mr. Bradbury never had a drivers’ license. He lived at home until he was twenty-seven, when he got married. Maggie, as Ray affectionately called his wife, was the only woman Bradbury ever dated. In 1946, in an Halloween issue of Mademoisellewas much about the relationship between Maggie and Ray. Charles Addams was the first to illustrate Bradbury’s stories and became close friends, collaborating on a story about the Elliott family, which resembled the illustrator’s own Addams Family. They had planned to write together the family’s complete history, but it never came to be because they went they separated. Ray Bradbury was also a close friend of the animator Ray Harryhausen, being friends since 18 years old, sharing love for science fiction and life-long friendship. Over 70 years they would keep in touch with each other at least once per month.
During his later years, Bradbury experienced a series of illnesses and the death of good friends. He was especially grieved when Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek creator, died after being friends for thirty years. Roddenberry asked Bradbury to write for Star Trek, but he stated that he never had the ability to adapt other people’s ideas into any sensible form.
In 1999, Bradbury suffered a stroke, which left him in a wheelchair. Despite this health setback, he continued to write and his last published work was an essay for The New Yorkerpublished one week prior to his death. Until 2009, Bradbury had been a regular attendant at science fiction conventions. He was a strong supporter for public libraries and helped raise money to prevent the closing of several in California because of budget cuts.
[Personal Note: California (Mexifornia) state government thought it more important to provide welfare to illegal immigrants than maintain important educational institutions like libraries]

 He exhibited skepticism with regard to modern technology by resisting the conversion of his work into e-books and stating that “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.

In December of 2011, publishing rights for Fahrenheit 451 came up for renewal and Bradbury conceded to allow the book to be transferred to e-book format and downloaded by his beloved libraries. It remains the only title book in the Simon & Schuster catalog where that is possible.
On his headstone in his burial place at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, Los Angeles it reads, simply: “Ray Bradbury, 1920 – Author of Fahrenheit 451”.
Ray Bradbury was the recipient of the 2000 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the 2004 National Medal of Arts, and the 2007 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation.
He inspired generations of readers to dream, think, and create.
His notable works were – Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. He wrote the screenplay for John Huston’s classic film adaptation of Moby Dick, nominated an Academy Award for best writer. He adapted 65 of his stories for The Ray Bradbury Theater television series and won an Emmy for his teleplay of The Halloween Tree. In 2005, Bradbury published a book of essays entitled Bradbury Speaks, in which he wrote:

In my later years I have looked in the mirror each day and found a happy person staring back. Occasionally I wonder why I can be so happy. The answer is that every day of my life I’ve worked only for myself and for the joy that comes from writing and creating. The image in my mirror is not optimistic, but the result of optimal behavior.

Bradbury liked to recall meeting a carnival magician, Mr. Electrico, in 1932 as a young lad. At the end of his performance, Electrico reached out to the 12-year-old boy and touched him with his sword, and commanded: “Live forever!”
It was when he started writing every day.
Indeed, Mr. Bradbury will live forever in the books and stories he wrote, and libraries will be his legacy and haven for future writers.
Ray Bradbury and his life story is a testimonial for the value of self-teaching and the inspiration for youth of generations to come. He remains as one of my literary heroes, and proof of the importance of knowledge through avid reading. Mr. Bradbury was part of that world of the mind.
The depth and breadth of the mind is like the universe – always expanding and endless possibilities. 
I never had the privilege of meeting or corresponding with Mr. Bradbury, but his writing certainly inspired me and fulfilled my interest in fantasy literature, just as J.R.R. Tolkien