illustrated portrait of American author Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury

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Discussion Topics

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Ray Bradbury seems always to have known what he wanted to do and how to get it done. Of the initiatives he has taken in his life, which do you think have contributed most fruitfully to his writing?

Identify the resemblances between the Martians and American Indians in The Martian Chronicles and explain what they contribute to the total effect of the narrative.

Montag is a grown man at the beginning of Fahrenheit 451, but what evidence do you see that he matures in the course of the novel?

Some books probably intended for young readers turn out to be valuable reading for adults. Is Dandelion Wine such a book? Explain your response.

Is Bradbury more convincing in his depiction of the dark side of life or in his hopefulness?

Critics are inclined to discount the importance of popular writers in popular modes such as those Bradbury practices. What aspects of Bradbury’s work entitle him to the status of serious writer?

Other Literary Forms

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Although Ray Bradbury described himself as essentially a short-story writer, his contributions to a wide variety of other genres have been substantial. Indeed, he has intentionally sought to compose successfully in virtually every literary form. His best-known novels are Fahrenheit 451 (1953), Dandelion Wine (1957), and Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962), the last being his favorite of all of his works. Among his screenplays, the most successful have been Moby Dick (1956), written in collaboration with filmmaker John Huston, and Icarus Montgolfier Wright (1961) with George C. Johnson, which was nominated for an Academy Award. Bradbury had his stage plays produced in Los Angeles and New York City, and several of them have been published, representative samples of which are The Anthem Sprinters and Other Antics (1963) and The Pedestrian (1966). He also wrote many plays for radio and television. Some of the most important of the several volumes of poetry that he published were collected in The Complete Poems of Ray Bradbury (1982). He also wrote books for children and adolescents, including Ahmed and the Oblivion Machines: A Fable (1998); compiled anthologies of fantasy and science-fiction stories, such as The Circus of Dr. Lao and Other Improbable Stories (1956); and published nonfiction works dealing with his interests in creativity and the future, such as Yestermorrow: Obvious Answers to Impossible Futures (1991).


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Despite Bradbury’s once being named the United States’ best-known science-fiction writer in a poll, his actual literary accomplishments are based on an oeuvre whose vast variety and deeply humanistic themes transcend science fiction as it is commonly understood. His many stories, from gothic horror to social criticism, from playful fantasies to nostalgic accounts of midwestern American life, have been anthologized in several hundred collections, in English as well as many foreign languages, and several of the stories that he published early in his career now occupy a distinguished niche in twentieth century American literature.

Some of his early tales were recognized with O. Henry Prizes in 1947 and 1948, and in 1949 he was voted Best Author by the National Fantasy Fan Federation. Bradbury’s “Sun and Shadow” won the Benjamin Franklin Magazine Award as the best story of 1953-1954, and in 1954 he received a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award in Literature. His novel Fahrenheit 451 won a gold medal from the Commonwealth Club of California, and his book Switch on the Night (1955) was honored with a Boy’s Club of America Junior Book Award in 1956. He received the Mrs. Ann Radcliffe Award of the Count Dracula Society in 1965 and 1971, the Writers’ Guild of America West Valentine Davies Award in 1974, and the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1977. Whittier College...

(This entire section contains 266 words.)

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gave him an honorary doctor of literature degree in 1979. PEN, an international writers’ organization of poets, playwrights, editors, essayists, and novelists, gave Bradbury its Body of Work Award in 1985. In 1988 Bradbury won the Nebula Award, and in 1995 he was named Los Angeles Citizen of the Year.

Other literary forms

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Ray Bradbury’s principal literary form has been the short story, and he has published several important collections, including Dark Carnival (1947), The Illustrated Man (1951), The Golden Apples of the Sun (1953), and I Sing the Body Electric! (1969). Two important extensive collections of his short stories are The Stories of Ray Bradbury (1980) and Bradbury Stories: One Hundred of His Most Celebrated Tales (2003). In addition to his short stories and novels, he has published in a wide variety of literary forms, from light verse and poetry to plays for radio, television, films, and the stage. One of his notable screenplays, which he wrote in collaboration with the director John Huston, is Moby Dick (1956). His poetry has been collected in such volumes as The Complete Poems of Ray Bradbury (1982) and I Live by the Invisible: New and Selected Poems (2002). A representative example of his nonfiction is the widely and well-reviewed Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity (1989).


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Although Ray Bradbury became arguably the best-known science-fiction writer in the United States, the majority of his work, which ranges from gothic horror to social criticism, centers on humanistic themes. Aficionados of the genre have criticized his science-fiction stories for their scientific and technological inaccuracies, a criticism he shrugs off, stating that his dominating concerns are social, cultural, and intellectual issues, not scientific verisimilitude. His stories, which often explore the dehumanizing pressures of technocracies and the mesmerizing power of the imagination, are widely anthologized and translated into many foreign languages. His ascent from pulp magazines to literary respectability has been intermittently recognized with several awards, including appearances in Martha Foley’s annual best American short-story collections, two O. Henry Prizes, the Benjamin Franklin Magazine Award, the National Institute of Arts and Letters Award, an Academy Award nomination, an Emmy Award for his television adaptation of his 1972 children’s book The Halloween Tree, and a Golden Eagle Award for his 1961 screenplay Icarus Montgolfier Wright.

In 2000 the National Book Foundation honored Bradbury with a medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and in 2004 President George W. Bush presented him with the National Medal of Arts. In 2007 he received a special citation from the Pulitzer Board for his outstanding work in science fiction and fantasy, and the French paid tribute to him with the medal of Commandeur, Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Bradbury has been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and his hometown of Waukegan, Illinois, has named a park for him. Astronomers have named an asteroid in his honor, and a crater on the Moon is named for his novel Dandelion Wine. His best novels are cautionary tales of the dangers of unrestricted scientific and technological progress, and his work has a strong moral core, encouraging the hope that humanity will deal creatively and ethically with the new worlds it seems driven to construct.


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Bloom, Harold, ed. Ray Bradbury. New York: Chelsea House, 2001. Critical essays cover the major themes in Bradbury’s works, looking at, among other topics, his Martian stories, his participation in the gothic tradition, the role of children in his work, and his use of myth.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.” New York: Chelsea House, 2001. Eight essays address various aspects of one of Bradbury’s most important novels. Includes an informative editor’s introduction, a chronology, and a bibliography.

Bolhafner, J. Stephen. “The Ray Bradbury Chronicles.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 1, 1996. An interview with Bradbury on the occasion of the publication of his collection of short stories Quicker than the Eye. Bradbury reminisces about the beginnings of his career, talks about getting over his fear of flying, and discusses The Martian Chronicles as fantasy, mythology, and magical realism.

Bradbury, Ray. “Sci-fi for Your D: Drive.” Newsweek 126 (November 13, 1995): 89. In this interview-story, Bradbury discusses why he is putting his most widely acclaimed short-story collection, The Martian Chronicles, on CD-ROM. Bradbury also discusses the role of imagination in technology, the space program, and his favorite literary figures.

Eller, Jonathan R., and William F. Touponce. Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2004. Described as “the first comprehensive textual, bibliographical, and cultural study of sixty years of Bradbury’s fiction,” this book makes use of manuscripts, correspondence, charts, and graphs to bring out the interconnections among the many versions that led to Bradbury’s published works and the events in his life. Includes index.

Greenberg, Martin Henry, and Joseph D. Olander, eds. Ray Bradbury. New York: Taplinger, 1980. Anthology of Bradbury criticism includes essays that defend Bradbury against the charge that he is not really a science-fiction writer but an opponent of science and technology; others defend him against the charge that his work is mawkish. Includes extensive bibliography and index.

Johnson, Wayne L. Ray Bradbury. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1980. Although this volume is the work of a fan rather than a critic, it provides a good general introduction to Bradbury’s stories of fantasy and science fiction. Johnson’s approach is thematic rather than chronological (he uses the categories of magic, monsters, and machines to facilitate his discussion of Bradbury’s principal approaches, ideas, and themes). Index.

Mogen, David. Ray Bradbury. Boston: Twayne, 1986. Provides a brief introduction to Bradbury’s career, focusing on analyses of the literary influences that shaped the development of his style and the themes that shaped his reputation. Includes detailed notes, bibliography, and index.

Nolan, William F. The Ray Bradbury Companion: A Life and Career History, Photolog, and Comprehensive Checklist of Writings with Facsimiles from Ray Bradbury’s Unpublished and Uncollected Work in All Media. Detroit: Gale Research, 1975. The ample subtitle gives a good idea of this book’s contents. After its publication, its information on Bradbury has been updated by Donn Albright, in “The Ray Bradbury Index,” in several issues of Xenophile (May, 1975; September, 1976; and November, 1977).

Reid, Robin Ann. Ray Bradbury: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000. Offers biographical information as well as critical discussion of Bradbury’s major works and their critical reception. Includes bibliography and index.

Slusser, George Edgar. The Bradbury Chronicles. San Bernardino, Calif.: Borgo Press, 1977. This booklet is part of a series, Popular Writers of Today. Intended for young students and general audiences, this brief work discusses summarily some of Bradbury’s most important writings. Bibliography.

Touponce, William F. Naming the Unnameable: Ray Bradbury and the Fantastic After Freud. Mercer Island, Wash.: Starmont House, 1997. Argues that the psychoanalytic ideas of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung are helpful in plumbing the effectiveness of much of Bradbury’s work (though in a letter to the author, Bradbury himself denies any direct influence, saying he has “read little Freud or Jung”). Asserts that Bradbury has produced stories of a modern consciousness that often forgets its debt to the unconscious.

Weist, Jerry. Bradbury: An Illustrated Life—A Journey to Far Metaphor. New York: William Morrow, 2002. Celebratory book, with an introduction by Bradbury, has, as its principal attraction, its numerous illustrations, carefully chosen and presented by an auction-house expert in science-fiction and fantasy collectibles. Includes index.

Weller, Sam. The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury. New York: William Morrow, 2005. Authorized biography, based on extensive research in Bradbury’s personal archives and on many interviews, presents an inspirational account of the highly imaginative writer. Includes detailed bibliographic notes, selected bibliography, and index.


Critical Essays