man whose ancestor, Mary Bradbury, had been burned at the stake during the
Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts, Ray Bradbury took from her his own
anxiety about fear-mongering, hate, and thought control. "Science
fiction is a wonderful hammer," he said. "I intend to use it when and
if necessary to bark a few shins or knock a few heads in order to make
people leave people alone." Bradbury has been barking shins and
knocking heads through his writing for more than half a century.
Born in Waukegan, Illinois, in 1920, Bradbury has gone on to write
books of science fiction, including the immensely popular
Martian Chronicles (1950) and
Fahrenheit 451 (1953). He had already begun reading Edgar Allen Poe and the Oz books
by the time he was seven years old. "My life was
drastically changed by the advent of Buck Rogers in the comic pages of our
newspaper," he said.
Through such superheroes as Buck Rogers and Tarzan,
along with those in the magazine, Amazing
Stories, he became aware of the world of the future and of
fantasy. He began collecting Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon strips.
About the same time, he received a
magic set and began learning magic tricks and putting on shows. He
once said, "I
don't know if I believe in previous lives, I'm not sure I can live forever. But that young boy [myself at twelve] believed in both, and I have let him
have his [way]. He has written all my stories and books for me."
Bradbury began sending stories to magazines such as Collier's and
Esquire while he was still in high school, but he met with little success. After high school, he
took a job selling newspapers, while writing every day
on the side. He mimeographed his stories and printed them in his own
personal magazine called Futuria Fantasia.
Finally, in 1941, he sold his first story to a magazine called
Super Science Stories. For his efforts, he received thirteen dollars and seventy-five
cents. He was thrilled. The story came out on his twenty-first birthday.
In his early career, Bradbury wrote for pulp fiction magazines such as
Astounding Science Fiction, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and
Captain Future; but he became one of the first science fiction writers
to cross over the line to mainstream publications such as American Mercury and
Harper's magazine. More than any other American writer, he is
responsible for bringing science fiction from the world of cult followers to
the world of respectability
Ray Bradbury, now in his eighties, has been writing for
more than seventy years. He has published more than 30 books and 600
short stories. A new collection of one hundred of his short stories came out
last year, called
"I don't try to describe the future," he once said. "I try to prevent it."