Ray Bradbury

1920 - 2012

American writer

Ray Bradbury is a beloved author whose career has touched on science fiction, fantasy, horror, and beyond, from classics such as The Martian Chronicles (1950) and Fahrenheit 451 (1951), to the screenplay for Moby Dick in 1956.

Bradbury discovered science fiction fandom in the 1930s, publishing a fanzine, Futuria Fantasia, and eventually meeting Ray Harryhausen, Forrest J. Ackerman and Henry Kuttner. Bradbury made his first professional sale in 1941, and within two years his style began to coalesce: poetic, evocative, and consciously symbolic, it features strong nostalgic and occasionally macabre elements.

The Martian Chronicles (dramatized as a TV miniseries in 1980) earned Bradbury a fine reputation. Its closely interwoven stories, linked by recurrent images and themes, tell of the repeated attempts by humans to colonize Mars, of the way they bring their old prejudices with them, and of their repeated, ambiguous meetings with the shape-changing Martians. Despite the science fiction scenario, there is no hard technology. The mood is of loneliness and nostalgia, and a pensive regret suffuses the book.

Based upon the success of the Chronicles, Bradbury found a new market for short stories in the "slicks," magazines such as Esquire, Saturday Evening Post, McCall's and Collier's Weekly. Of the more than 300 stories he published thereafter, only a handful originally appeared in science fiction magazines. This was one of the most significant breakthroughs into the general market made by any genre-science fiction writer.

Bradbury followed Chronicles with his first novel, Fahrenheit 451 (adapted for film by Francois Truffaut in 1966). A tale of a dystopian future in which books are burned because ideas are dangerous, it charts the painful spiritual growth of its renegade hero, a book-burning "fireman" and secret reader.

Bradbury's prolific subsequent writing ranged from novels to poetry, from theater to screenplays. His work has appeared in well over 800 anthologies, and has continually inspired others, an example of which is the anthology of stories in Bradbury settings, The Bradbury Chronicles: Stories in Honor of Ray Bradbury (1991). He won the Nebula Grand Master Award in 1989.

Selected Bibliography:
Dark Carnival (1947)
The Martian Chronicles (1950)
The Illustrated Man (1951)
Fahrenheit 451 (1951)

Film/TV Adaptations:
The Martian Chronicles (1980), Ray Bradbury Theatre (1985-1992), The Halloween Tree (1993), A Sound of Thunder (2004), Fahrenheit 451 (2005)

Courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Copyright © John Clute and Peter Nicholls 1993, 1999, published by Orbit, an imprint of the Time Warner Book Group UK.