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 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 in the Dill Brothers Carnival, the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and comic books.
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 changed 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. 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 works are all exuding magic and theatricality. His stories are not just stories. His writing style is simple yet captivating that it 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 it 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. This is perhaps magic’s most prevalent influence in Ray Bradbury—instead of a sleight of the hand, he uses his words to make people believe and be amazed at his illusions.
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. As a teenager he also read comic books. From this reading list, Bradbury’s romanticism and poetic writing style makes sense. Although his works are often set in a distant future, they tackle universal themes such as the conflict between human beings and machine, between the creative individual and the conforming group, 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.
One more interesting influence of the carnival in Bradbury is his love for satire, which is especially evident in his famous novel Fahrenheit 451. Here, 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 the 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 has in 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. Without the influences from Bradbury’s childhood, his unique style of writing and fantastic ideas would not exist. All his experiences as a child led him to a life of writing fantastical and unique novels, which is what distinguishes him from other science fiction writers.