Ray Douglas Bradbury, our Ghost of Honor for 2017, was born on August 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Illinois, a town that would later be immortalized in Bradbury’s many stories set in “Green Town”.
The Bradbury’s moved to various cities during Bradbury’s childhood, eventually settling in Los Angeles, California in 1934. As a child, Bradbury knew that he would choose one of the arts as his profession. He started writing stories at the age of 11, creating a number of horror stories along the way. Amazing Stories was one of the magazines Bradbury read as a boy, listing Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, A.E. Van Vogt, and Theodore Sturgeon among his favorites. Young Bradbury also visited his local library and there found works by H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Edgar Allan Poe. Many of his early horror stories were written in the style of Poe. In his twenties, Bradbury stopped reading genre books, and expanded his reading to include such mainstream writers as Alexander Pope and the poet, John Donne. He also listed Shakespeare, Aldous Huxley, John Steinbeck, Katherine Anne Porter, Edith Wharton, and Robert Frost among his favorite authors and poets.
Bradbury was also fascinated by movies as a child and young adult. He lived only a few blocks from the Uptown Theater, and would often stand outside the building, hoping to catch a glimpse of famous film actors and actresses. Among the people he met this way were special effects pioneer, Ray Harryhausen, and comedian, George Burns. Burns actually hired the 17 year-old Bradbury to write an episode of the Burns and Allen radio show. A lifetime fascination with magic began in Bradbury’s childhood. He performed magic himself and was a frequent visitor at Los Angeles’s Magic Castle.
Bradbury was one of the most prolific of the writers working in the fantasy and science-fiction genre, during a career that spanned over six decades. Among his many works are Dark Carnival, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine, R is For Rocket, S is For Space, Fahrenheit 451, The Illustrated Man, The Halloween Tree, and I Sing the Body Electric. In fact, Bradbury is credited with writing 27 novels and over 600 short stories. Bradbury was known for saying that he would write a story every day. Not all of them were published, of course. Among the Bradbury books that were made into films or TV movies were Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. As a side note, Bradbury, who refused to fly, was asked by an airline to write a story for their in-flight magazine. The result was an additional Martian Chronicles story that was not in the original book. This story, however, was included in the television version of the Martian Chronicles.
Over his long lifetime, Ray Bradbury received many awards, including the Prometheus Award, the Emmy for the screenplay for The Halloween Tree, a World Fantasy Award, The Bran Stoker Award, The National Medal of Arts, and a Special Citation from the Pulitzer Prize Jury.
Ray Bradbury died on August 12, 2012, at the age of 91. He once said during a lecture that he had never been bored a day in his life. It’s very easy to believe that.