Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Today marks Ray Bradbury’s 101st birthday! To celebrate, we’re sharing 10 fast facts about him and his life that you may not have known before. You can also take a deep dive into his amazing influence by visiting Ray Bradbury: Inextinguishable in-person at the American Writers Museum, or online here.
Ray Douglas Bradbury
Born: August 22, 1920
Died: June 5, 2012
Best Known For: Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine, The Ray Bradbury Theater
- He claimed to remember his own birth. Ray adamantly maintained that he could remember his entire life, including the trauma of his own birth. It’s not exactly clear how his phenomenal memory factored into his writing, but he certainly knew how to keep his inner child alive.
- He knew he would be a writer. When Ray was young, he received a toy typewriter as a Christmas present, and decided that it was the best thing he’d ever received. From then on, he never stopped writing, and was determined to make it into a career. His first writing “job” (he was never paid) was for George Burns and Gracie Allen’s radio show.
- He had a pet dinosaur named Gertie. Gertie is probably an Apatosaurus, and was one of Ray’s favorite toys that he kept in his crowded office. You can also see Gertie in person at the exhibit!
- Playboy helped make Ray famous. Though he was already doing well as a science fiction writer, Bradbury wasn’t a household name until after Fahrenheit 451 was published. Even then, most people didn’t know who he was until Hugh Hefner took a chance and serialized the story in 3 issues of Playboy.
- Ray considered science to be incidental to his fiction. Unlike his contemporaries Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, Bradbury was not very interested in how science would advance to meet the expectations of the stories he set in the future. He was more concerned with how humans reacted to certain situations, and used science fiction as a way to comment on problems of the time. His view influenced many people who write science fiction today, using it as a mask to comment on current events.
- He never wanted to be pigeonholed as a writer. Though many people know Ray as a sci-fi writer, he truly defies such easy characterization. Throughout his career, he wrote plenty of science fiction, but also crime stories, literary fiction, fantasy, many screenplays, essays, poetry, and more. The sheer volume of his work makes it difficult to categorize him as a writer, but he was intentional about not wanting to be placed in any one niche.
- Ray was also a painter. Once he got a larger desk, he used his smaller desk to paint at, and did many illustrations for his own covers. This painting is of The Halloween Tree.
- Ray’s favorite holiday was Halloween. He would host elaborate Halloween parties, always dress up. Halloween is featured in many of his stories, and is hinted at in some of his longer works like Something Wicked This Way Comes.
- He was writing screenplays long before The Ray Bradbury Theater. As much fun as it is to rewatch the old episodes of his show, it is more surprising that Ray had been writing screenplays since the 1950s. Notably, he was picked by John Huston himself to adapt Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick into the 1956 film. He also adapted many of his stories for the screen himself.
- Ray was good friends with Walt Disney. Perhaps because they were both visionary thinkers with active imaginations, Walt and Ray had a long-lasting relationship. Many of the screenplays that Ray adapted were for Disney-produced films. Ray even helped Disney Imagineers working on Disneyland Paris!
Can’t get enough of Ray Bradbury? Check out the virtual exhibit or visit us in person!