Ray Bradbury is one of those rare individuals whose writing has changed the way people think. His more than 500 published works -- short stories, novels, plays, screenplays, television scripts, and verse -- exemplify the American imagination at its most creative.
Once read, his words are never forgotten. His best-known and most beloved books -- The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Fahrenheit 451, and Something Wicked This Way Comes -- are masterworks that readers carry with them over a lifetime. His timeless, constant appeal to audiences young and old has proven him to be one of the truly classic authors of the 20th Century -- and the 21st.
Ray Bradbury's work has been included in several Best American Short Story collections. He has been awarded the O. Henry Memorial Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award, the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America, and the PEN Center USA West Lifetime Achievement Award, among others. In recognition of his stature in the world of literature and the impact he has had on so many for so many years, Bradbury was awarded the National Book Foundation's 2000 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters and the National Medal of Arts in 2004.
On the occasion of his 80th birthday in August 2000, Bradbury said, "The great fun in my life has been getting up every morning and rushing to the typewriter because some new idea has hit me. The feeling I have every day is very much the same as it was when I was twelve. In any event, here I am, eighty years old, feeling no different, full of a great sense of joy, and glad for the long life that has been allowed me. I have good plans for the next ten or twenty years, and I hope you'll come along."
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In our exclusive interview with Bradbury, he shared some fascinating facts with us:
"I spent three years standing on a street corner, selling newspapers, making ten dollars a week. I did that job every day for three hours and the rest of the time I wrote because I was in love with writing. The answer to all writing, to any career for that matter, is love."
"I have been inspired by libraries and the magic they contain and the people that they represent."
"I hate all politics. I don't like either political party. One should not belong to them -- one should be an individual, standing in the middle. Anyone that belongs to a party stops thinking."
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In the summer of 2003, Ray Bradbury took some time out to talk to us about his favorite books, authors, and interests.
What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer -- and why?
The John Carter, Warlord of Mars books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, which entered my life when I was ten and caused me to go out on the lawns of summer, put up my hands, and ask for Mars to take me home. Within a short time I began to write and have continued that process ever since, all because of Mr. Burroughs.
What are your favorite books, and what makes them special to you?The collected essays of George Bernard Shaw, which contain all of the intelligence of humanity during the last hundred years and perhaps more.
The collected poetry of Alexander Pope, who is perhaps the greatest poet outside of Shakespeare.
The collected plays of Shakespeare, which influenced me during my life.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Quite obviously its impact on my life has lasted for more than fifty years.
The books of Loren Eisley, who is our greatest poet/essayist of the last forty years.
The short stories of Eudora Welty, the short stories of Edith Wharton, the short stories of Willa Cather, and the short stories of Jessamyn West. All of these women influenced me because they taught me the special, tender, feminine side of humanity.
What are some of your favorite films, and what makes them unforgettable to you?The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Lon Chaney, which I saw when I was three. The film convinced me that there was a little bit of The Hunchback in me at an early age.
The Phantom of the Opera with Lon Chaney, which terrified me but sent me on the road to becoming the great lover of Chaney's films. When he died when I was ten, I figured no one was safe.
The Mummy, 1932, with Boris Karloff. It is a sensitive, simple, and wondrously frightening film, one of the best of its kind.
King Kong, 1933. Of all the monster films ever made, this is the greatest. It has a grandeur about it and an element of unrequited love between Beauty and The Beast. It remains one of the greatest films ever made.
H.G. Wells's Things to Come, 1936, because at the end it told me about outer space and of travels to the Moon. When I staggered out of the movie I decided that I would spend the rest of my life trying to do something about going to the Moon and Mars.
Lawrence of Arabia. There is no way to even begin to comment on this film. It is grand in every direction you want to take it.
As Good as it Gets, with Jack Nicholson. This film has an incredible screenplay, incredible cast, and incredible direction. It's one of the most perfect films of its kind ever made.
The Haunting, 1962, directed by Robert Wise. This is the finest horror film of its kind ever made because it terrifies you without showing you anything; it's all light and shadows.
What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you're writing?
Mainly the Russian composers: Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, Mussorsky, They were all taught by the great master, Berlioz. If you want to find the source of much of the music of modern day Russia, you will find it in the incredible compositions of that crazed lunatic Berlioz.
What are your favorite kinds of books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
I look to the person that I'm giving the book to and then I judge what to give them.
Do you have any special writing rituals? For example, what do you have on your desk when you're writing?
Every day at 9:00 a.m., for two hours, I begin a new short story, sometimes finishing it, or write an essay or poem. This routine has continued for sixty-five years.
I have my favorite cat, who is my paperweight, on my desk while I am writing.
Many writers are hardly "overnight success" stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?
It took me roughly 30 years. It was a long, slow process with a thousand rejections. I'm still getting rejected this late in time. The important thing is to continue writing and continue being in love with books, authors, and libraries.
What tips or advice do you have for writers still looking to be discovered?
Fall in love and stay in love. Do what you love and nothing else. Don't look at the market, look into your heart and find what is there and put it down.
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|Ray Bradbury Home
Good to Know
|Dark Carnival, 1947|
|Martian Chronicles, 1950|
|The Illustrated Man, 1951|
|Fahrenheit 451, 1953|
|Golden Apples of the Sun ; R Is for Rocket, 1953|
|The October Country, 1955|
|Switch on the Night, 1955|
|Dandelion Wine, 1957|
|A Medicine for Melancholy & Other Stories, 1959|
|Something Wicked This Way Comes, 1962|
|Machineries of Joy, 1964|
|Autumn People, 1965|
|The Vintage Bradbury: Ray Bradbury's Own Selection of His Best Stories, 1965|
|Wonderful Ice Cream Suit: Playbook, 1965|
|Pedestrian (play), 1966|
|Twice Twenty-Two, 1966|
|I Sing the Body Electric! And Other Stories, 1969|
|Christus Apollo (play), 1969|
|The Halloween Tree, 1972|
|When Elephants Last in the Dooryard Bloomed (poems), 1973|
|Zen and the Art of Writing, 1973|
|Long After Midnight, 1976|
|Where Robot Mice and Robot Men Run Round in Robot Towns (poems), 1977|
|Mummies of Guanajuato, 1978|
|This Attic Where the Meadow Greens (poems), 1979|
|Ghosts of Forever, 1980|
|The Last Circus and the Electrocution, 1980|
|The Stories of Ray Bradbury, 1980|
|The Haunted Computer and the Android Pope (poems), 1981|
|Love Affair (poems), 1983|
|Forever and the Earth (poems), 1984|
|Frost and Fire, 1985|
|Death Is a Lonely Business, 1985|
|Death Has Lost Its Charm for Me (poems), 1987|
|The Toynbee Convector, 1988|
|Ahmed and the Oblivion Machines: A Fable, 1988|
|Graveyard for Lunatics: Another Tale of Two Cities, 1990|
|Yestermorrow: Obvious Answers to Impossible Futures, 1991|
|On Stage: A Chrestomathy of His Plays, 1991|
|Quicker Than the Eye, 1996|
|Driving Blind: Stories, 1997|
|From the Dust Returned, 2001|
|One More for the Road: A New Short Story Collection, 2002|
|Let's All Kill Constance, 2002|
|The Homecoming, 2006|