Ray Bradbury: Fact or Fiction – American Literature Research Paper (200 Level Course)
Ray Bradbury is an American novelist, short story writer, playwright, poet, children’s author and editor. He is the leading writer of science fiction and fantasy that is concerned with the ideas of futurism, rather than with the wonders of advanced gadgetry. His fiction is based on the inhumanity, apathy, and technology of modern society (Riley, p. 68). Bradbury has left most of us with this question:
has left most of us with this question: Is there a difference between realism and fantasy?
Ray Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois, in 1920. His father, Leonard Spaulding, came from a long line of editors and publishers who owned their own Chicago firm, Bradbury and Sons, at the turn of the century. Bradbury’s mother came from Sweden in 1890. Through the attention of his aunt, Neva Bradbury, Ray Bradbury became interested in books and writing at the age of seven. In 1928, Bradbury became aware of the exciting worlds of future and fantasy through Buck Rogers, Tarzan, and the magazine Amazing Stories. By the mere age of twelve, he was writing at least four hours a day on his typewriter, a Christmas present from his parents. Bradbury lived completely in a world of fantasy and illusion, collecting Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon strips, doing magic shows, appearing in plays, and writing imaginative stories on his toy machine (Riley, p. 111).
While in high school, Bradbury began reading on a higher level and decided that someday he would appear in the Best American Short Stories. While taking a short story course in high school, he started sending stories to the Post, Collier’s and Esquire. After graduating from Los Angeles High School, Bradbury sold newspapers on street corners while he published a few non-paying stories to West Coast magazines (Riley, p. 111).
On his twenty-first birthday, Bradbury had his first paying story published in Super Science Stories, which started his professional career. For the next four years, he sold his stories to Weird Tales, Amazing Stories, Astounding Science Fiction, and other pulp magazines. In 1945, he made his first quality sale to American Mercury. This story, The Big Black and White Game, also appeared in The Best American Short Stories of 1946 edited by Martha Foley. And by the end of that year, Bradbury had sixty appearances in short story anthologies, both in hard and paper covers (Riley, p. 111).
After publishing some stories in Who Knocks?, an anthology published by August Derleth’s firm, Derleth suggested Bradbury compile a volume of his own stories. The resulting book was Dark Carnival, which collected some of his earlier fantasy tales. Many of those pieces were republished with new material in The October Country. The publication of The Martian Chronicles established Bradbury’s reputation as an author of sophisticated science fiction. This collection of stories is about the settling of Mars by human beings, and it is dominated by tales of space travel and environmental adaptation. Bradbury’s themes, however, reflect many of the important issues that troubled the Post-World-War II era– racism, censorship, technology and nuclear war. Another collection of his, The Illustrated Man, based its stories on the tattoos of the title character.
Bradbury’s latter short story collections were generally considered to be less significant as he shifted his focus from outer space to more familiar earthbound settings. Dandelion Wine, which was not as well received as his earlier work, has the Midwestern youth of Bradbury’s semiautobiographical protagonist, Douglas Spaulding, as its main subject. A Medicine for Melancholy, The Machineries of Joy, I Sing the Body Electric!, and Long After Midnight shift back to Bradbury’s familiar outer space or Midwestern settings and explore his typical themes. Many of Bradbury’s stories have been anthologized or filmed for such television programs as The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Ray Bradbury Theater (Riley, p. 31).
In addition to his short stories, Bradbury has written three adult novels. Fahrenheit 451 was originally published as a short story and later expanded into a novel. It deals with a futuristic society where books are burned because they are perceived as threats to societal conformity. In Something Wicked This Way Comes, a father attempts to save his son and a friend from the evil forces of a mysterious traveling carnival. And Death is a Lonely Business is a detective story featuring Douglas Spaulding, the protagonist of Dandelion Wine, as a struggling writer for pulp magazines (Riley, p. 31).
In a field that thrives on the fantastic and the marvelous, Ray Bradbury’s best stories celebrate the everyday. In a field preoccupied with the future, Ray Bradbury’s vision is firmly rooted in the past. It’s Bradbury’s style that remains his most distinguished characteristic. It’s Bradbury’s style which is unmistakable, which is his and his alone. It is his images and metaphors and the way they are combined, which displays his outstanding style (Ethridge, p. 108).
Bradbury is an important figure in the development of science fiction. He was one of the first writers to combine the concepts of science fiction with a sophisticated prose style. His fiction conveys a vivid sense of place, in which everyday events are transformed into unusual situations. Bradbury has written fantasies, crime and mystery stories, supernatural tales, mainstream literature, and science fiction. “He perceives life, even at its worst, with a childlike wonder and awe which charge his work with a passionate affirmation of humanity(Ethridge, p.108).”
Bradbury has won numerous awards, including the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Short Story of 1953-54 in an American Magazine for “Sun and Shadow” and the Commonwealth Club of California gold medal, 1954, for Fahrenheit 451. His creativity has also lead him to be an Imagineer at Walt Disney Enterprises, where he designed the Spaceship Earth exhibition at Epcot Center. Despite his familiarity with outer space and the mind to write about such things, Bradbury has never learned to drive a car and he has never flown (http:\www.plcmc.lib.nc.us/novello/listen/bradbury/html).
Ray Bradbury is an American novelist, shot story writer, playwright poet, children’s author, and editor. His stories have enlightened some, while others still question his conceptions. “Bradbury’s stories are full of rockets, time machines, robots and dinosaurs, but they are first and foremost about the human heart. He tempers even his nightmarish tales with the notion that compassion and a sense of wonder redeem humanity from it darker side(Riley, p. 111).” There is still that one question with which we are left: Is there a difference between realism and fantasy?