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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 and worked for newspapers, establishing a family tradition of working with words. Bradbury's grandfather continued the tradition, also working in the publishing business. 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: Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, L. Frank Baum's Oz books, Edgar Allan Poe's stories, and the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. With this background, 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 about Mars and fleshed them out with new stories to create The Martian Chronicles (1950). The novel 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). He also wrote for theater, television, and film, most notably screenplays for The Ray Bradbury Theater (a television series on Home Box Office) and the screenplay for American film director John Huston's film adaptation of American author Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. 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

He 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."
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