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Bradbury, Ray (Douglas)

BRADBURY, Ray (Douglas)

Nationality: American. Born: Waukegan, Illinois, 22 August 1920. Education: Los Angeles High School, graduated 1938. Family: Married Marguerite Susan McClure in 1947; four daughters. Career: Full-time writer, from 1943. President, Science-Fantasy Writers of America, 1951-53. Member of the Board of Directors, Screen Writers Guild of America, 1957-61. Lives in Los Angeles. Awards: O. Henry prize, 1947, 1948; Benjamin Franklin award, 1954; American Academy award, 1954; Boys' Clubs of America Junior Book award, 1956; Golden Eagle award, for screenplay, 1957; Ann Radcliffe award, 1965, 1971; Writers Guild award, 1974; Aviation and Space Writers award, for television documentary, 1979; Gandalf award, 1980. D.Litt.: Whittier College, California, 1979.

Publications

Short Stories

Dark Carnival. 1947; abridged edition, 1948; abridged edition, asThe Small Assassin, 1962.

The Martian Chronicles. 1950; as The Silver Locusts, 1951.

The Illustrated Man. 1951.

The Golden Apples of the Sun. 1953.

The October Country. 1955.

Sun and Shadow. 1957.

A Medicine for Melancholy. 1959; as The Day It Rained Forever, 1959.

The Pedestrian. 1962.

The Machineries of Joy. 1964.

The Vintage Bradbury. 1965.

The Autumn People. 1965.

Tomorrow Midnight. 1966.

Twice Twenty Two (selection). 1966.

I Sing the Body Electric! 1969.

Bloch and Bradbury, with Robert Bloch. 1969; as Fever Dreams and Other Fantasies, 1970.

(Selected Stories), edited by Anthony Adams. 1975.

Long after Midnight. 1976.

The Best of Bradbury. 5 vols., 1976.

To Sing Strange Songs. 1979.

The Aqueduct. 1979.

The Stories of Bradbury. 1980.

The Last Circus, and The Electrocution. 1980.

The Love Affair (includes verse). 1982.

Dinosaur Tales. 1983.

A Memory of Murder. 1984.

Fever Dream. 1987.

The Other Foot. 1987.

The Veldt. 1987.

The Fog Horn. 1987.

The April Witch. 1987.

The Dragon. 1988.

The Toynbee Convector. 1988.

There Will Come Soft Rains. 1989.

The Smile. 1991.

Novels

Fahrenheit 451. 1953.

Dandelion Wine. 1957.

Something Wicked This Way Comes. 1962.

Death Is a Lonely Business. 1985.

A Graveyard for Lunatics: Another Tale of Two Cities. 1990.

Green Shadows, White Whale. 1992.

Plays

The Meadow, in Best One-Act Plays of 1947-48, edited by Margaret Mayorga. 1948.

The Anthem Sprinters and Other Antics (produced 1968). 1963.

The World of Bradbury (produced 1964).

The Wonderful Ice-Cream Suit (produced 1965; musical version, music by Jose Feliciano, produced 1990). Included in The Wonderful Ice-Cream Suit and Other Plays, 1972.

The Day It Rained Forever, music by Bill Whitefield (produced1988). 1966.

Christus Apollo, music by Jerry Goldsmith (produced 1969).

The Wonderful Ice-Cream Suit and Other Plays (includes The Veldt and To the Chicago Abyss). 1972.

Leviathan 99 (produced 1972).

Pillar of Fire and Other Plays for Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond Tomorrow (includes Kaleidoscope and The Foghorn). 1975.

The Foghorn (produced 1977). Included in Pillar of Fire and Other Plays, 1975.

That Ghost, That Bride of Time: Excerpts from a Play-in-Progress. 1976.

Forever and the Earth (radio play). 1984.

Flying Machine. 1986.

A Device Out of Time. 1986.

The Martian Chronicles, adaptation of his own stories (produced1977). 1986.

Fahrenheit 451, adaptation of his own novel (produced 1979). 1986.

Dandelion Wine, adaptation of his own story (produced 1977). 1988.

Falling Upward (produced 1988). 1988.

Bradbury on Stage. 1991.

Screenplays:

It Came from Outer Space, with David Schwartz, 1952; Moby-Dick, with John Huston, 1956; Icarus Montgolfier Wright, with George C. Johnston, 1961; Picasso Summer (as Douglas Spaulding), with Edwin Booth, 1972; Something Wicked this Way Comes, 1983.

Television Plays:

Shopping for Death, 1956, Design for Loving, 1958, Special Delivery, 1959, The Faith of Aaron Menefee, 1962, and The Life Work of Juan Diaz, 1963 (all Alfred Hitchcock Presents series); The Marked Bullet (Jane Wyman's Fireside Theater series), 1956; The Gift (Steve Canyon series), 1958; Tunnel to Yesterday (Trouble Shooters series), 1960; I Sing the Body Electric!, 1962, and The Elevator, 1986 (both Twilight Zone series); The Jail (Alcoa Premier series), 1962; The Groom (Curiosity Shop series), 1971; Marionettes, Inc., 1985, The Playground, 1985, The Crowd, 1985, Banshee, 1986, The Screaming Woman, 1986, and The Town Where No One Got Off, 1986 (all Bradbury Theatre series); Walking on Air, 1987; The Coffin, 1988 (U.K.); The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl, 1988; Skeleton, 1988; The Emissary, 1988; Gotcha!, 1988; The Man Upstairs, 1988; The Small Assassin, 1988; Punishment without Crime, 1988; On the Orient, North, 1988; Tyrannosaurous Rex, 1988; There Was an Old Woman, 1988; And So Died Raibouchinska, 1988; The Dwarf, 1989; A Miracle of Rare Device, 1989; The Lake, 1989; The Wind, 1989; The Pedestrian, 1989; A Sound of Thunder, 1989; The Wonderful Death of Dudley Stone, 1989; The Haunting of the New, 1989; To the Chicago Abyss, 1989; Hail and Farewell, 1989; The Veldt, 1989; Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms in the Your Cellar!, 1989; Mars Is Heaven, 1990; The Murderer, 1990; Touched with Fire, 1990; The Black Ferris, 1990; Usher II, 1990; Exorcism, 1990; The Day It Rained Forever, 1990; A Touch of Petulance, 1990;—And the Moon Be Still as Bright, 1990; The Toynbee Convector, 1990; The Long Years, 1990; Here There Be Tygers, 1990; The Earth Men, 1992; Zero Hour, 1992; The Jar, 1992; Colonel Stonesteel and the "Desperate Empties," 1992; The Concrete Mixer, 1992; The Utterly Perfect Murder, 1992; Let's Play Poison, 1992; The Martian, 1992; The Lonely One, 1992; The Happiness Machine, 1992; The Long Rain, 1992; Down Wind from Gettysbury, 1992; Some Live like Lazarus, 1992; Fee Fi Fo Fum, 1992; Dora and the Great Wide World, 1992.

Poetry

Old Ahab's Friend, and Friend to Noah, Speaks His Piece: A Celebration. 1971.

When Elephants Last in the Dooryard Bloomed: Celebrations for Almost Any Day in the Year. 1973.

That Son of Richard III: A Birth Announcement. Privately printed, 1974.

Where Robot Mice and Robot Men Run round in Robot Towns: New Poems, Both Light and Dark. 1977.

Twin Hieroglyphs That Swim the River Dust. 1978.

The Attic Where the Meadow Greens. 1980.

The Haunted Computer and the Android Pope. 1981.

The Complete Poems of Bradbury. 1982.

October. 1983.

Long After Ecclesiastes. 1985.

Death Has Lost Its Charm for Me. 1987.

The Climate of Palettes. 1989.

Other

Switch on the Night (for children). 1955.

R Is for Rocket (for children). 1962.

S Is for Space (for children). 1966.

Teacher's Guide: Science Fiction, with Lewy Olfson. 1971.

The Halloween Tree (for children). 1972.

Zen and the Art of Writing, and The Joy of Writing. 1973.

The Mummies of Guanajuato, photographs by Archie Lieberman. 1978.

Beyond 1984: Remembrance of Things Future. 1979.

The Ghosts of Forever, illustrated by Aldo Sessa. 1981.

The Art of Playboy (text by Bradbury). 1985.

Zen in the Art of Writing (essays). 1990.

Yestermorrow: Obvious Answers to Impossible Futures (es-says). 1991.

Editor, Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow. 1952.

Editor, The Circus of Dr. Lao and Other Improbable Stories. 1956.

*

Bibliography:

in The Bradbury Companion by William F. Nolan, 1975; Bradbury edited by Joseph D. Olander and Martin H. Greenberg, 1980.

Critical Studies:

introduction by Gilbert Highet to The Vintage Bradbury, 1965; "The Revival of Fantasy" by Russell Kirk, in Triumph, May 1968; The Bradbury Companion (includes bibliography) by William F. Nolan, 1975; The Bradbury Chronicles by George Edgar Slusser, 1977; Bradbury (includes bibliography) edited by Joseph D. Olander and Martin H. Greenberg, 1980; Bradbury by Wayne L. Johnson, 1980; Bradbury and the Poetics of Reverie: Fantasy, Science Fiction, and the Reader by William F. Toupence, 1984; Bradbury by David Mogen, 1986.

* * *

Ray Bradbury is one of the most compelling and idiosyncratic voices in contemporary American literature. In a long and prolific career he has written novels, plays, poetry, and stories for children, but his reputation was established with his short fiction. Among that vast body of work are many of his most effective ideas and some of the finest examples of his craftsmanship.

Although Bradbury's writing shows influences—particularly in his early work—of Poe, Wells, Kipling, and Burroughs, his style is entirely his own. His prose has an arresting suddenness, a compelling urgency, and a sense of breathless wonder touched with melancholy. Bradbury uses the glittering language of romanticism, rich in simile and metaphor. For example, an old chandelier found in an attic ("A Scent of Sarsaparilla") is described as containing "rainbows and mornings and noons as bright as new rivers flowing endlessly back through Time."

Bradbury's critics have argued that his extraordinary gift for language is not matched by sufficient originality of thought; but in his finest stories he demonstrates an ability to see the fantastic in the ordinary and the outlandish in the mundane and to reassert the classic belief that there is a vital, spiritual dimension to the humdrum world of daily existence.

Even when reworking traditional themes of fantasy, horror, and the macabre, he always succeeds in transforming the most commonplace device. Thus, in "Skeleton" Bradbury takes the cadaverous image associated with any number of comic and grotesque entertainments and rattles it anew by writing about a man who, gradually and terrifyingly, becomes aware of the bones beneath his skin.

Bradbury takes the reader into the minds of his creations: a baby commits murder because it resents having been born ("The Small Assassin"); a man brings his father back from the grave to tell him that he loved him ("The Wish"); a nervous woman is literally scared to death in a Mexican village where the mummified dead are put on public display ("The Next in Line"); and a sea-monster comes from the deep to answer the siren love-call of a lighthouse ("The Fog Horn"). Repeatedly Bradbury shows the beautiful soul trapped in a twisted body and the monster lurking behind a mask of beauty.

His first stories were published in pulp fiction magazines whose taste for the sinister and sensational coincided with many of Bradbury's own youthful passions: the freaks, magicians, and exotic creatures of carnival and circus and the fiends and monsters of the movies. Among the stories reflecting these sources of inspiration are tales of the Hollywood dream-factories ("The Meadow" and "Tyrannosaurus Rex") and dark murmurings from the midway ("The Last Circus," "The Dwarf," and "The Illustrated Woman"). In "The Jar" a phony monstrosity from a sideshow—"one of those pale things drifting in alcohol plasma, forever dreaming and circling"—has its pseudo-gruesome contents replaced by the real horror of a dismembered body.

Some of Bradbury's fairground tales, like "The Black Ferris," about an attraction which, depending on whether you ride it backwards or forwards, makes you younger or older, were subsequently reworked for the novel Something Wicked This Way Comes.

A predominant Bradbury theme is a nostalgic reverie for small-town life—in Ireland (including various yarns later incorporated into the novel Green Shadows, White Whale), Mexico, and especially middle America during the 1920s and 1930s. Set in Green Town, Illinois (a fictionalized, idealized version of Bradbury's birthplace, Waukegan), these stories range from touching, slightly sentimental snapshots of childhood with its first loves and first sorrows ("One Timeless Spring"), to darker tales more akin to Bradbury's horror fantasies, as when a young boy encounters a possible vampire ("The Man Upstairs") or a man has the power to devour the summer ("The Burning Man"). (Other Green Town stories were worked into a loose novel-form as Dandelion Wine.)

Although Bradbury has written numerous space fantasies—notably in his themed collection The Martian Chronicles—it is misleading to describe him as a science-fiction writer. He simply uses the far reaches of space as one of various locations for an allegorical exploration of hopes and fears. Of the first settlers on the Red Planet, he says: "They were coming to find something or leave something or get something, to dig up something or bury something…. They were coming with small dreams or large dreams or none at all." They confront racial prejudice ("The Other Foot"), grapple with religious mysteries ("The Man" and "The Fire Balloons"), and face loneliness and alienation ("Night Call, Collect" and "The Strawberry Window").

Bradbury is most compelling in his prophetic stories, which are foreboding glimpses of times to come, when paintings are publicly destroyed ("The Smile") and books are banned ("The Exiles"). It is a world sometimes blessed, but often cursed, by science and technology. For example, in "A Sound of Thunder" a time-traveling safari goes back to a prehistoric age to hunt a dinosaur and, because someone treads on a butterfly, changes the future, subtly, but devastatingly.

The robot, the archetypal symbol of futurism, is, as constructed by Bradbury, occasionally benign but more probably malignant: a family buys an electronic grandmother ("I Sing the Body Electric"); a man invests in an android replica of himself to deceive his wife ("Marionettes, Inc."); a robot Abraham Lincoln is killed by an assassin's bullet ("Downwind from Gettysburg"); and, in one of several stories about robotic houses, a nursery with automated pictorial walls comes frighteningly alive ("The Veldt"). In "The Murderer" another mechanized home eventually drives its frantic occupier to kill it.

Throughout his writing Bradbury juggles with light and dark, holding pessimism and optimism in exquisite balance. At his darkest Bradbury can be seen working out personal phobias, such as his hatred for motor cars. This is the basis for "The Pedestrian," in which an innocent citizen of an automated city is arrested for committing the crime of "walking."

In more life-affirming stories Bradbury expresses the conviction that humankind can be taught to save civilization, or possibly be tricked into doing so. Thus the Time-Traveler in "The Toynbee Convector," despairing of the philosophy of his age ("Melancholy was the attitude. The impossibility of change was the vogue. End of the world was the slogan"), decides to fake a time-machine to convince the world that it still has a future. Of all Bradbury's stories it is, perhaps, the most autobiographical.

—Brian Sibley

See the essay on "August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains."

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