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This essay discusses the life and work of famous science fiction and fantasy writer, Ray Bradbury. As one of the most iconic American authors, Bradbury’s contribution to literature cannot be ignored. This biographic essay describes how Bradbury’s childhood helped shape the kind of writer he became.
Ray Bradbury is renowned as a great science fiction and fantasy writer. He is famous for his science fiction novel Fahrenheit 451 but his other works like the fantasy novel The Martian Chronicles and the short story The Fog Horn are equally loved. He has written short stories, novellas, novels, and scripts for TV, film, radio, and theater. Ray Bradbury’s works are the product of his vast imagination, which in turn were influenced and honed by his exposure to the Dill Brothers Carnival, the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and comic books. This custom essay explores the background that shaped Ray Bradbury, understanding how his childhood experiences influenced his innovative science fiction stories that not only captivated audiences but influenced American literature.
Growing up, Ray Bradbury was afraid of the dark. Even as a child, he already had an active imagination. His imagination, however, made him afraid of the dark, and what he imagined he would find there. But what channeled his fear into writing is his experience at the Dill Brothers Carnival. When he was twelve years old, Bradbury wandered into the said carnival and met two magicians, Mr. Electrico and Blackstone (Gregersen, 2022). These two men would have a great effect on Bradbury. The young Bradbury was amazed by Mr. Electrico’s electric sword and Blackstone’s magic performance. Likewise, his encounter with the “Tattoo Man” inspired his work The Illustrated Man. The summer following Bradbury’s encounter with the carnival, its experience manifested. Ray Bradbury began writing, as well as started dabbling in magic, drama, and acting. All these formed Ray Bradbury into the writer we all came to love.
Bradbury’s love for writing and his craft was encouraged by fellow writers in the Los Angeles Science Fiction League, which he joined in 1937 after his family moved to the city (Gregersen, 2022). Proving that he is a prolific writer, his first short story “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma” was published in the league’s fanzine in 1938, then the following year he published his own fanzine titled Futuria Fantasia. By 1941, he had sold his first short story to a professional science fiction magazine Super Science Stories (Gregerson, 2022). Since then, Bradbury’s works have been a fixture in the literary world. Eventually, he was able to publish his own collection of short stories, The Martian Chronicles (1950), then The Illustrated Man (1951) (Gregersen, 2022). In 1953, he published his second and what is considered his greatest novel, Fahrenheit 451 (1953), which interestingly has been one of the books banned or censored in certain parts of the US and in Apartheid South Africa (Karolides, Bald, and Sova, 2005). Bradbury’s works have always been about worlds different from the current one, but his works have always depicted harsh truths about the human condition making them controversial and renowned at the same time.
Bradbury’s have been iconic from the time they were published until the 21st century, and are likely to stay so for a long time. His unique writing style is exuding magic and theatricality. His stories are not just stories. His writing style is simple yet captivating, filled with well-shaped similes and metaphors, that can suspend any disbelief and immediately instill a sense of wonder in its readers. He writes of things that no human knows but he describes them as if he had seen them first-hand. As a writer, he is able to weave fantastical stories out of things he does not know. What would otherwise cause fear, he turns into stories, weaving different literary genres together to form a captivating narrative. This is perhaps magic’s most prevalent influence in Ray Bradbury—instead of sleight of the hand, he uses his words to build illusions that make people believe and be amazed at a different world or reality.
Bradbury’s love for fantasy grew further from reading works like by L. Frank Baum, Edgar Allan Poe , and Edgar Rice Burroughs. As a child, his mother read him the Oz Books, then when he could read on his own, his aunt let him read Edgar Allan Poe. He was also encouraged to read Norse, Roman, and Greek mythologies (Gregersen, 2022). As a teenager, he also read comic books. From this reading list, Bradbury’s romanticism and poetic writing style make sense. Although his works are often set in a distant future, they tackle universal themes such as the conflict between human beings and machines, between the creative individual and the conforming group, and between the innocence of childhood and the corruptions of adulthood. Likewise, the way he handles these conflicts is in line with the romantics’ rootedness in emotions.
Now, as an established science fiction writer himself, Ray Bradbury has been cited by other famous writers as their inspiration and strong influence in their writing, such as Margaret Atwood and Stephen King (“Life,” n.d.). As a writer, he not only shaped entire worlds but also shaped American literature. Bradbury’s love for satire is one of the things that make him stand out in the world of literature. This is especially evident in the aforementioned controversial novel, Fahrenheit 451 . Here, the carnival is a central imagery. It is used to discuss censorship. Bradbury expanded on his experiences with the carnival as a child through the carnival’s history as a subversive form of entertainment in the past. The carnival allowed people in medieval times to shed social norms while also expressing subversive ideas against authorities in a light-hearted manner. In a way, these carnivals breathed life into these otherwise oppressed societies. This is the same effect that Bradbury’s works of fantasy have on his readers. As he expressed regularly, he wants his works to instill a sense of wonder in his readers, especially the children. He creates beautifully written, gripping stories to encourage future generations to keep reading so society can have a bright future.
Since his childhood, Ray Bradbury’s life has been filled with wonder and creativity. This imagination and sense of wonder shaped his unique style of writing and fantastic ideas. Without the influences from Bradbury’s childhood, some of our favorite literary works would not exist. All his experiences as a child led him to a life of writing fantastical and unique novels, which is what endears him to generations of readers. However, what truly distinguishes him from other science fiction writers is how he manages to offer criticisms of society in narratives that are literally out of this world. Most importantly, how his works have encouraged his readers to be critical and creative thinkers all while entertaining them.
Gregersen, E. (2022, June 1). Ray Bradbury. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ray-Bradbury
Karolides, N. J., Bald, M., and Sova, D. N. (2005). 120 Banned Books. Turtleback.
Life. (n.d.). Ray Bradbury. Retrieved July 31, 2022, from https://raybradbury.com/life/