Ray Douglas Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012) was an American fantasy, horror, science fiction, and mystery writer. He is best known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 (1953) and for the science fiction stories gathered together as The Martian Chronicles (1950) and The Illustrated Man (1951).
"What I have always been is a hybrid author," Bradbury said in 2009. "I am completely in love with movies, and I am completely in love with theater, and I am completely in love with libraries."
Bradbury eventually came to understand that writing when the Muse is muted did not necessarily involve slanting to the genre or slick markets — a proposition that he loathed throughout his career. But his ability to generate impressive story drafts in a matter of hours would often play out against uncertainty as he moved through the more rational process of revising a story, or as he attempted to sustain longer forms of fiction.
Wary of technology — he famously refused to drive a car or fly — Bradbury nonetheless had a "cockeyed optimism" about the future, even if Martians were secretly trying to subvert landings there, or his fascist firemen in Fahrenheit 451 were nervously burning all books and the fanciful characters within.
"I didn't write Fahrenheit 451 to predict the future," Bradbury once said. "I wrote it to prevent the future."
Bradbury returned to Waukegan [his hometown] in 1990 for the dedication of Ray Bradbury Park, 99 North Park Avenue. He also returned in 1996 for the Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine Waukegan Fine Arts Festival. And every year the Waukegan Public Library holds an annual Ray Bradbury writing contest.
In Bradbury's works of fiction, 1920s Waukegan becomes "Greentown," Illinois. Greentown is a symbol of safety and home, and often provides a contrasting backdrop to tales of fantasy or menace. In Greentown, Bradbury's favorite uncle sprouts wings, traveling carnivals conceal supernatural powers, and his grandparents provide room and board to Charles Dickens.
Bradbury was always aware that man might one day reach Mars. Men have dreamt about Mars and other planets for centuries, and science is at last allowing us to confront Mars as it actually is. But scientific data will never be all there is to the Martian experience. The dreams, expectations, and hopes of humankind will go to Mars with every rocket, and our dreams and the scientific information from Mars will interact and color one another. In a way, "The Martian Chronicles" is an extended metaphor for this interaction, and through it, Bradbury is expressing his view of the ways in which dreams and reality coexist in our lives.
Many of Ray's stories have a message or warning. "The Veldt" warns of the dangers of technology. "The Martian Chronicles" highlights the destructive nature of humans. Ray also had a way of transferring daily happenings or observations into fantasy, as he did in "The Foghorn."
His stories were multi-layered and ambitious. Bradbury was far less concerned with mechanics—how many tanks of fuel it took to get to Mars and with what rocket—than what happened once the crew landed there, or what they would impose on their environment. "He had this flair for getting to really major issues," said Paul Alkon, emeritus professor of English and American literature at USC.
"He wasn't interested in current doctrines of political correctness or particular forms of society. Not what was wrong in '58 or 2001 but the kinds of issues that are with us every year."
He also scripted the 1956 film version of "Moby Dick'' and wrote for "The Twilight Zone.''
Bradbury's series of stories in "The Martian Chronicles'' was a Cold War morality tale in which events on another planet served as a commentary on life on this planet. It has been published in more than 30 languages.
Author of more than 27 novels and story collections—most famously "The Martian Chronicles," "Fahrenheit 451," "Dandelion Wine" and "Something Wicked This Way Comes"—and more than 600 short stories, Bradbury has frequently been credited with elevating the often-maligned reputation of science fiction. Some say he singlehandedly helped to move the genre into the realm of literature.