Bradbury, Ray (Vol. 53)
Ray Bradbury 1920-2012
(Also wrote under the pseudonyms of Douglas Spaulding and Leonard Spaulding) American short story writer, novelist, scriptwriter, poet, playwright, essayist, and author of children's books.
See also Ray Bradbury Criticism (Volume 1), and Volumes 3, 10, 15, 53.
Regarded as an important figure in the development of science fiction, Bradbury is noted as one of the first authors to employ a cerebral, elevated writing style—rather than the more common sensational style—in works dealing with science fiction concepts. Often described as economical yet poetic, Bradbury's fiction conveys a vivid sense of place in which everyday events are transformed into unusual, sometimes sinister situations. In a career that has spanned more than fifty years, Bradbury has written fantasies, crime and mystery stories, supernatural tales, and mainstream literature, as well as science fiction. In all of his work, Bradbury emphasizes basic human values and cautions against unthinking acceptance of technological progress. It has been noted, however, that Bradbury, perceives life, even at its most mundane, with a childlike wonder and awe that charges his work with a fervent affirmation of humanity.
Bradbury was born on August 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Illinois, a small town that frequently emerges as the setting in his stories. In the mid-1930s, Bradbury's family moved to southern California, where he graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1938. Determined to become a writer, he created his own science fiction magazine called Futuria Fantasia, although he produced only four volumes. Bradbury worked as a newsboy in Los Angeles from 1940 to 1943 to support his writing. His first published story, “Pendulum” (with Henry Hasse), surfaced in Super Science Stories in 1941. Shortly thereafter, his macabre tales regularly appeared in such pulp magazines as Black Mask Amazing Stories, and Weird Tales. Weird Tales served to showcase the works of such fantasy writers as H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and August Derleth. Derleth, who founded Arkham House, a publishing house specializing in fantasy literature, accepted one of Bradbury's stories for Who Knocks?, an anthology published by his firm. Derleth subsequently suggested that Bradbury compile a volume of his stories; the resulting book, Dark Carnival (1947), collects Bradbury's early fantasy tales. Due to the success of this first collection, his stories were soon published in such mainstream periodicals as Collier's, The Saturday Evening Post, and The New Yorker; in these publications, his work reached a wider audience. A prolific author, Bradbury has published numerous short story collections, earning a reputation as an authority of fantasy literature in the process.
Major Works of Short Fiction
Although he has produced volumes of work in many genres, Bradbury is essentially a short fiction writer. Sometimes his works cross literary forms. For example, the novels The Martian Chronicles (1950), Fahrenheit 451 (1953), and Dandelion Wine (1957) are frequently treated by critics as short story collections, in which chapters are connected by a simple framing device. The stories in The Martian Chronicles, for example, are linked by the theme of human settlement on Mars. Another significant collection of short stories, The Illustrated Man (1951), also uses a framing device, basing the stories on the tattoos of the title character. Bradbury's earlier stories—particularly those collected in Dark Carnival, The Martian Chronicles, and The October Country (1955)—have been compared to those of Edgar Allan Poe because of their grotesque and sometimes horrific story lines. “Skeleton,” for example, is about a man who grows so repulsed by his own skeleton that he has it removed, consequently becoming “a human jellyfish.” “The Third Expedition” (first published in 1948 as “Mars Is Heaven” in Planet Stories and later collected in The Martian Chronicles) is about Americans who travel to Mars where they are reunited with their deceased relatives, who, in actuality, are hostile beings whose human faces melt away in the night as they murder the Americans in their sleep. The futuristic and sometimes morbid themes of Bradbury's early collections rarely surface in his more recent works. Driving Blind (1997), for example, only contains four traditional science fiction stories. The majority, though bizarre, are more nostalgic, optimistic, and romantic. Most of Bradbury's fiction is issue-oriented as he frequently addresses such thematic concerns as racism, censorship, religion, and technology, often infusing the text with authorial commentary.
While Bradbury's popularity is acknowledged even by his detractors, many critics find the reasons for his success difficult to pinpoint. Some critics were aggravated that Bradbury's futuristic stories, which are often labeled as science fiction, often reflect poor scientific knowledge and, at times, an aversion toward technology. Other commentators defended Bradbury's perspective, asserting that he was more interested in the consequences of technology on human beings than the technology itself. Some of his detractors have pointed to inconsistencies within Bradbury's text. More forgiving reviewers have excused any oddities in Bradbury's short stories as imaginative and inventive. Yet by far the greatest complaint of Bradbury is that his fiction is overly sentimental and didactic. Despite this charge, most critics have expressed appreciation for Bradbury's poetic prose that underscores basic human values and questions the wisdom of purely technological progress.
Dark Carnival 1947
*The Martian Chronicles 1950
The Illustrated Man 1951
*Fahrenheit 451 1953
The Golden Apples of the Sun 1953
The October Country 1955
*Dandelion Wine 1957
A Medicine for Melancholy 1959
The Meadow 1960
The Ghoul Keepers 1962
†R is for Rocket 1962
The Small Assassin 1962
The Machineries of Joy 1964
The Autumn People 1965
The Vintage Bradbury 1965
†S is for Space 1966
Tomorrow Midnight 1966
‡Twice Twenty-Two 1966
Bloch and Bradbury: Ten Masterpieces of Science Fiction [with Robert Bloch] 1969
I Sing the Body Electric! 1969
Whispers from Beyond [with Bloch] 1972
Selected Stories 1975
The Best of Bradbury 1976
Long after Midnight 1976
To Sing Strange Songs 1979
The Ghosts of Forever (story, essay, and poetry) 1980
The Stories of Ray Bradbury 1980
(The entire section is 596 words.)
SOURCE: Rosenman, John B. “The Heaven and Hell Archetype in Faulkner's ‘That Evening Sun’ and Bradbury's Dandelion Wine.” South Atlantic Bulletin 43, no. 2 (1978): 12-16.
[In the following essay, Rosenman finds parallels between Faulkner's story “That Evening Sun” and Bradbury's novella That Dandelion Wine, particularly the emphasis of heaven and hell in their work.]
Faulkner's “That Evening Sun” (1931) and Bradbury's Dandelion Wine (1957) share an archetypal pattern that Maud Bodkin described in 1934. In her pioneer study, Archetypal Patterns in Poetry, Psychological Studies of Imagination, she refers to a “pattern” of the “Heaven and Hell Archetype” in which Satan struggles “upwards from his tremendous cavern below the realm of Chaos, to waylay the flower-like Eve in her walled Paradise and make her an inmate of his Hell, even as Pluto rose from beneath the earth to carry off Proserpine from her flowery meadow.”1 As we shall see, both writers emphasize a hell (for Faulkner it is a “ditch,” for Bradbury, a “ravine”) that is inhabited by a devil figure who threatens a queenlike Eve in the warm security of her home. Considered collectively, these mythic and other correspondences between the two works reveal much about how literary minds, apparently working independently, can reshape archetypal materials in similar ways....
(The entire section is 2133 words.)
SOURCE: Valis, Noë M. “The Martian Chronicles and Jorge Luis Borges.” Extrapolation 20, no. 1 (spring 1979): 50-9.
[In the following essay, Valis discusses Jorge Luis Borges's 1955 prologue to the Argentinean translation of The Martian Chronicles and its insights into Bradbury's work.]
It may, at first glance, seem somewhat incongruous to juxtapose Ray Bradbury's immensely popular Martian Chronicles (1950), with the presumably more arcane and erudite Argentinian master of the intellectual puzzle, Jorge Luis Borges. What, after all, do Ray Bradbury and Jorge Luis Borges have in common? One could, of course, remark in very general terms that both have been and are writers of fantasy, that both prefer the short-story format to any other genre, and that both are prolific, especially in penning prefaces and prologs, but having said this, one has not said too much. There is, however, one specific connection they share—a prolog that Borges wrote in 1955 for an Argentinian translation of The Martian Chronicles.1
What Borges has to say about The Martian Chronicles is, I think, interesting in its own right, but is also provides us another view of Bradbury's masterpiece, a view which, oddly enough, draws the American writer's work much closer to contemporary and even avant-garde literary preoccupations that one might expect. I refer to two...
(The entire section is 4496 words.)
SOURCE: Wolfe, Gary K. “The Frontier Myth in Ray Bradbury.” In Ray Bradbury, edited by Martin Harry Greenberg and Joseph D. Olander, pp. 33-54. New York: Taplinger Publishing Co., 1980.
[In the following essay, Wolfe links “the traditional frontier orientation of much of American literature” and Bradbury's science fiction tales.]
In an interview in 1961 Ray Bradbury described an unwritten story of his which was to be cast in the form of an American Indian legend. An old Indian tells of a trip he made years earlier to visit tribes in the East. During this trip a strange event occurs: “One night there was a smell on the wind, there was a sound coming from a great distance.” Nature seems suddenly transformed and silent, as though a great event is about to take place. Searching for the source of this portent, the Indian and his young grandson wander for days, finally coming to the edge of the sea and spotting a campfire in the distance. Beyond, in the water, are anchored three ships. Creeping closer, the Indians find that the fire is surrounded by strange-looking men who speak an unknown language, who “have huge sort of metal devices on their heads,” and carry strange mechanical weapons. The Indians return to the wilderness, vaguely aware that some great event has happened and that the wilderness will never be the same, but not at all sure what the event is or exactly what it...
(The entire section is 9902 words.)
SOURCE: Gallagher, Edward J. “The Thematic Structure of ‘The Martian Chronicle.’” In Ray Bradbury, edited by Martin Harry Greenberg and Joseph D. Olander, pp. 55-82. New York: Taplinger Publishing Co., 1980.
[In the following essay, Gallagher underscores the structural and thematic unity of the stories in The Martian Chronicles.]
The Martian Chronicles (1950) is one of those acknowledged science fiction masterpieces which has never received detailed scholarly study as a whole. Its overall theme is well known. Clifton Fadiman says that Bradbury is telling us we are gripped by a technology-mania, that “the place for space travel is in a book, that human beings are still mental and moral children who cannot be trusted with the terrifying toys they have by some tragic accident invented.”1 Richard Donovan says that Bradbury's fear is that “man's mechanical aptitudes, his incredible ability to pry into the secrets of the physical universe, may be his fatal flaw.”2 And from “we Earth Men have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things” to “science ran too far ahead of us too quickly, and the people got lost in a mechanical wilderness … emphasizing machines instead of how to run machines,” The Martian Chronicles itself provides an ample supply of clear thematic statements.3
The structural unity of the novel's twenty-six...
(The entire section is 12408 words.)
SOURCE: Dimeo, Steven. “Man and Apollo: Religion in Bradbury's Science Fiction.”1 In Ray Bradbury, edited by Martin Harry Greenberg and Joseph D. Olander, pp. 156-64. New York: Taplinger Publishing Co., 1980.
[In the following essay, Dimeo maintains that religious concerns play a significant role in Bradbury's short fiction.]
Although religious thinking in the space age has been largely dominated by Nietzschean apostasy, science fiction itself seems to be giving more and more attention to man's relationship with the divine.2 Religious themes have long been treated in the genre, but the first to give it serious—even literary—consideration was C. S. Lewis in his trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet (1938), Perelandra (1944), and That Hideous Strength (1945) which lofted the Christian mythology, complete with angels and devils, into tangible planetary realms. Since then the more notable examples of science fiction, with more innovative religious implications, have included Gore Vidal's Messiah (1954), James Blish's A Case of Conscience (1958), Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960), Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), Frank Herbert's Dune (1965) and Dune Messiah (1969), and Michael Moorcock's In His Image (1968). Four of those works have won the Hugo award, the field's highest...
(The entire section is 4085 words.)
SOURCE: Guffey, George R. “The Unconscious, Fantasy, and Science Fiction: Transformations in Bradbury's Martian Chronicles and Lem's Solaris.” In Bridges to Fantasy, edited by George E. Slusser, Eric S. Rabkin, and Robert Scholes, pp. 142-59. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1982.
[In the following essay, Guffey asserts that the similarities between Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles and Stanislaw Lem's Solaris are “largely the result of the strong influence of the unconscious of each writer during the creative process.”]
[A writer] floats on the heavenly lake; he steeps himself in the nether spring. Thereupon, submerged words squirm up, as when a flashing fish, hook in its gills, leaps from water's depth.
—Lu Ki, Wen-fu
A writer psychoanalyzes himself, not with a psychiatrist, but with tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or maybe millions of readers.
—Larry Niven, Science Fiction Voices #2
Those of us who come to fantasy and science fiction after years of studying the poetry and prose of the earliest periods of English and American history do so with considerable delight. We are delighted, first, because a substantial amount of the fantasy and science fiction published since 1950 is...
(The entire section is 8235 words.)
SOURCE: Wolfe, Gary K. “The Remaking of Zero: Beginning at the End.” In The End of the World, edited by Eric S. Rabkin, Martin H. Greenberg, and Joseph D. Olander, pp. 1-19. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1983.
[In the following essay, Wolfe surveys the major characteristics of Bradbury's post-holocaust science fiction.]
In Ray Bradbury's 1950 short story “The Highway,” a poor Mexican farmer who has lived for years beside a highway from the United States, enjoying such odd fruits of this link to technology as sandals made from tire rubber and a bowl made from a hubcap, is startled one day by the sudden appearance of cars speeding northward in great numbers, all filled with apparently panic-stricken American tourists returning home. The farmer, Hernando, cannot account for this sudden flood of traffic. At the end of the flood, however, comes an aging Ford, topless and packed with young Americans who stop at Hernando's shack to ask for water for their failing radiator. The driver explains the reason for the exodus: “The war!’” he shouts, “‘It's come, the atom war, the end of the world!’”—and the tourists are all trying to return to their families. After the young people leave, Hernando prepares to resume his plowing. When his wife asks him what has happened, he replies, “‘It's nothing,’” and sets out with burro and plow, pausing momentarily to muse to...
(The entire section is 8580 words.)
SOURCE: Bradbury, Ray. “Memories Shape the Voice.” In The Voice of the Narrator in Children's Literature: Insights from Writers and Critics, edited by Charlotte F. Otten and Gary D. Schmidt, pp. 132-38. New York: Greenwood Press, 1989.
[In the following essay, Bradbury discusses the role of memory in his work.]
When I began to write Dandelion Wine (1975), first I rummaged through my mind for words that could describe my personal nightmares, fears of night, and time from my childhood. Then I took a long look at the green apple trees and the old house I was born in, and the house next door where my grandparents lived, and all the lawns of the summers I grew up in, and I began to try words for all that. I shaped stories from these.
What you have in Dandelion Wine then is a gathering of dandelions from all those years, all the summers of my childhood in one book. The wine metaphor that appears again and again in these pages is wonderfully apt. I was gathering images all my life, storing them away, and forgetting them. Somehow I had to send myself back, with words as catalysts, to open the memories out and see what they had to offer.
So from the age of twenty-four to thirty-six hardly a day passed when I didn't stroll myself across a recollection of my grandparents' northern Illinois grass, hoping to come across some old half-burnt firecracker, a rusted...
(The entire section is 3095 words.)
SOURCE: Stockwell, Peter. “Language, Knowledge, and the Stylistics of Science Fiction.” In Subjectivity and Literature from the Romantics to the Present Day, edited by Philip Shaw and Peter Stockwell, pp. 101-12. London: Pinter Publishers, 1991.
[In the following essay, Stockwell provides a stylistic analysis of “The Night,” focusing on Bradbury's utilization of language and the story's place within the conventions of science fiction.]
This [essay] will be concerned with language in relation to the genre of Science Fiction (SF), and will deal with the practice of stylistics and the reading of texts. In the spirit of SF itself, the discussion will draw on work from a variety of disciplines which will be brought to bear on a short story ‘The Night’, by the American SF writer, Ray Bradbury.1 Firstly, however, to facilitate this discussion I would remind the reader of the story of the roadrunner. In those cartoons, first shown in the 1960s but regularly re-run, the basic plot centred around the efforts of a wily coyote to chase and catch a small, fast bird—the roadrunner. The animators of that cartoon imposed rules on themselves in its production: there was to be no dialogue; the roadrunner was to remain on the road; the bird never directly harmed the coyote; and so on. The coyote employed a variety of tools and techniques to catch the roadrunner, but the roadrunner always escaped,...
(The entire section is 6117 words.)
SOURCE: Eller, Jonathan. “The Body Eclectic: Sources of Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles.” University of Mississippi Studies in English 11-12 (1993-95): 376-410.
[In the following essay, Eller traces the creation of Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, particularly the influenceson the book.]
There is an intriguing five-year gap between the time that Ray Bradbury first envisioned a book about people on Mars, and the time that he rediscovered that intent and produced his remarkable first novel, The Martian Chronicles. Bradbury's new introduction to the Fortieth Anniversary Edition recalls the crucial moment of rediscovery, a New York luncheon in June 1949 with Don Congdon, Bradbury's literary agent, and Doubleday editor Walter I. Bradbury (no relation). At the urging of California writer Norman Corwin, the twenty-nine-year-old author had traveled to New York from Los Angeles with fifty new stories and enough money to stay at the YMCA for a week. It was an exciting time for Bradbury—O. Henry Prizes in 1947 and again in 1948 were leading to recognition beyond the secondary market of the pulp magazines. He had already published a horror story collection with August Derleth's specialized Arkham House imprint; now, Bradbury and Congdon used the New York trip to showcase his stories for the major publishing houses.
But Bradbury found that story collections by bright...
(The entire section is 11735 words.)
SOURCE: Hoskinson, Kevin. “The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451: Ray Bradbury's Cold War Novels.” Extrapolation 36, no. 4 (winter 1995): 345-59.
[In the following essay, Hoskinson investigates the link between The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451, contending that “though the two fictions are usually read as separate entities, if read as complementary works, they provide a more comprehensive view of a larger whole.”]
In a discussion about the thematic content of The Martian Chronicles with interviewer David Mogen in 1980, Ray Bradbury stated, “The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 come from the same period in my life, when I was warning people. I was preventing futures” (83). In this pairing of the two books, Bradbury suggests a deep kinship between the pieces and indicates the probability that they are more than just successive novels in his overall body of work.1 Though the two fictions are usually read as separate entities, if read as complementary works, they provide a more comprehensive view of a larger whole. As consecutive arrivals in Bradbury's postwar publications, and in their mutual attraction to similar major themes of the cold war era, The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 distinguish themselves as Bradbury's “cold war novels.”
The two works are on the surface...
(The entire section is 7438 words.)
SOURCE: Person, James E., Jr. “‘That Always Autumn Town’: Winesburg, Ohio and the Fiction of Ray Bradbury.” The Winesburg Eagle XXII, no. 2 (summer 1997): 1-4.
[In the following essay, Person evaluates the thematic and stylistic influence of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio on Bradbury's Dandelion Wine.]
The river, great symbol of life, is also the great symbol of death, for it is the symbol of samsara, of time … Rivers are irreversible. Clocks are reversible. “You can't go home again” does not mean that you can't turn the clock back (because you can) but that you can't turn the river back. This is true not only of our last exit from home, our final death, but also of a thousand little deaths before it. To be born, we must die to the womb, never to return. To be weaned, we must die to the breast, never to return (though we seek a thousand substitutes). To go to school, we must die to the all-embracing security of the home. To raise a family, we must die to the centrality of the family we came from. To move to a new home, a new job, or a new city, we must die to our old ones. And when we are old and death carries away our relatives, family, and friends, nothing replaces them sometimes except our own loneliness. The supremely lonely act is to die. When we die, we consummate the secret loneliness we inherited at birth. We part from...
(The entire section is 3102 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Driving Blind, by Ray Bradbury. Publishers Weekly 244, no. 39 (22 September 1997): 72.
[The following review provides a positive appraisal of Driving Blind.]
The 21 stories in Bradbury's new anthology [Driving Blind] are full of sweetness and humanity. Despite bizarre actions and abstract twists, all are grounded in the everyday. Here are sketches, vignettes, strange tales, colorful anecdotes, little tragedies, hilarious lies and metaphysics too. Here are a spinster's ancient love letters and the man who wrote them, wholesome small-town folk and conniving sharpsters, a moribund circus camel, a homicidal garbage disposal and a dead man searching for mourners. Much of the text is dialogue, and it works because Bradbury excels at portraying the robust textures of American speech. He is unapologetically romantic: most of the stories have love songs in them, or thunderstorms, or both, and no one seems to need to lock their door. Only four of these tales are science fiction, and one of those sneaks very cleverly out from under the genre's strictures: in the title story, Mr. Mysterious, a black-hooded stranger, is befriended by a boy whom Norman Rockwell might have painted. The reader is led to expect a supernatural change beneath the hood, but the boy has an insight of almost Philip K. Dickian subtlety about the nature of reality and memory that allows Mr. Mysterious to redeem...
(The entire section is 283 words.)
SOURCE: A review of One more for the road, by Ray Bradbury. Publishers Weekly 249, no. 10 (11 March 2002): 51.
[The following review offers a favorable assessment of the collection One More for the Road.]
“You do not build a Time Machine unless you know where you are going.… But I built my Time Machine, all unknowingly, with no destination in mind,” explains a bemused time traveler in Bradbury's latest collection [One More for the Road: A New Story Collection]. Bradbury, who has taken readers on so many marvelous trips, has a similar approach to navigation. In this new volume of stories (17 of the 24 have never been published before), he maintains his unflinching dedication to the magic of everyday life. Relaxing into his favorite themes—memory, loneliness, childhood, love and time—he is not afraid to wax sentimental, but the sharp edge of his prose keeps the tales from cloying. Flaunted settings are common: the ghost town in “Where All Is Emptiness There Is Room to Move”; the Parisian cemetery Pere Lachaise in “Diane de Foret” and the L. A. streets of 1939 in “Tangerine,” in which Bradbury tells the story of a tragically cool man who'd rather be dead than 30. The writer is at his best when he chronicles the child self he has never lost touch with. In “Autumn Afternoon,” Miss Elizabeth Simmons cleans out her attic and discovers calendars she kept as a girl,...
(The entire section is 323 words.)
Eller, Jon R. “The Stories of Ray Bradbury: An Annotated Finding List (1938-1991).” Bulletin of Bibliography 49, no. 1 (March 1992): 27-51.
Primary bibliography and title index.
Weist, Jerry. Bradbury: An Illustrated Life: A Journey to Far Metaphor. New York: Morrow, c.2002, 208 p.
Full-length biography of Bradbury.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Ray Bradbury. Philadelphia : Chelsea House Publishers, 2001, 159 p.
Full-length critical overview of Bradbury's career that contains bibliographic information.
Boone, Alice. “Usher III.” Proteus: A Journal of Ideas 14, no. 2 (fall 1997): 37-8.
Compares Bradbury's short story “Usher II,” Mark Twain's novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Steven Spielberg's film Schindler's List in terms of their treatment of the issues of censorship and freedom of expression.
Green, Roland. A review of One More for the Road, by Ray Bradbury. Booklist 98, no. 15 (1 April 2002): 1312.
Positive review of One More for the Road.
Hamburger, Susan. A review of Driving Blind, by Ray Bradbury. Library Journal 122, no. 19 (15 November 1997):...
(The entire section is 437 words.)