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Ray Bradbury | Biography

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Early Life and Influences

Ray Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois, on August 22, 1920. His great-grandfather was a printer who worked for newspapers. Bradbury's grandfather also worked in the publishing business, continuing the tradition of working with words. Bradbury's family introduced him to a love of books, especially those that portray imaginary worlds or alternate realities. His Aunt Neva gave him his first fantasy book, a collection of fairy tales. She also read to him an array of fantasy classics, including English writer Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, American author L. Frank Baum's Oz books, American author Edgar Allan Poe's stories, and the fairy tales of the German authors Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Having been raised in this literary-minded family, Bradbury knew he wanted to be a writer by age 12. Unable to afford college during the Great Depression (economic downturn of 1929–39), he read extensively in public libraries in order to educate himself. He published his first professional story, "Pendulum," in 1941.

Writing Career

In the tradition of American writer Sherwood Anderson's 1919 novel of short stories Winesburg, Ohio, Bradbury took a number of already-published short stories and fleshed them out with new stories to create his first book, Dark Carnival (1947). A few years later, a collection of stories about Mars, The Martian Chronicles (1950), became a critical and popular success, spawning a later TV miniseries, a radio show, and a stage opera.

Bradbury enjoyed a long and highly productive career, publishing some 30 books and 600 short stories along with poems, essays, and plays. The widely praised Fahrenheit 451 (1953) was his biggest seller, winning the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature (1954), the Commonwealth Club of California Gold Medal (1954), and the Prometheus Award for libertarian science fiction (1984). Two novels set in Green Town, Illinois (a fictional town based on Waukegan) were published in 1957 and 1962: Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes. The latter work was adapted for film in 1983. He also wrote for theater, television, and film, most notably screenplays for The Ray Bradbury Theater (a television series on Home Box Office, 1985–92) and the screenplay for American film director John Huston's 1956 film adaptation of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick (1851). Among his many honors are the 2000 National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contributions to American Letters and a 2007 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation.

Death and Legacy

Ray Bradbury continued publishing and overseeing new story collections until close to his death on June 5, 2012. His obituary in The New York Times predicted "his name would appear near the top of any list of major science fiction writers of the 20th century."

A number of authors, playwrights, and directors have been influenced by Ray Bradbury, whose use of imagery and figurative language evokes a strong mood and lends itself to film and television adaptations. American film directors David Lynch and Stephen Spielberg both cite Bradbury as among their influences. American producer Rod Serling's horror television series, The Twilight Zone (1959–64), was inspired in part by Bradbury's writing. American author Stephen King has been quoted as saying "Without Ray Bradbury, there is no Stephen King." English author Neil Gaiman, too, has credited Bradbury with inspiring him to write dark fiction.

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