At the age of twelve, Ray Bradbury saw a carnival magician, Mr. Electrico. The magician took a statically electrified sword, touched it to Ray’s nose, and shouted “Live Forever!” The hair on Ray’s head literally stood on end from the electricity, and the boy determined to become a writer as a means to follow the command.
Bradbury spent many hours of his youth in public libraries, reading the stories of H.G. Welles, Jules Verne, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Bradbury was such a fan of of Burrough’s Tarzan and The Warlord of Mars that he wrote his own sequel to Warlord.
Bradbury’s father was a telephone and power lineman, and the family moved often with his work. In 1934, the Bradbury’s settled in Los Angeles. Ray studied poetry and short story writing at Los Angeles High School but did not go on to college. He took a job selling newspapers, and spent his free time educating himself in libraries. “Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities” he would say later. “I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school it was during the depression, and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”
In addition to selling newspapers and going to the library, an activity young Ray enjoyed was rollerskating through Hollywood, trying to spot celebrities. He met and befriended a number of creative and talented people in this manner, including special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen and comedian George Burns. In fact, Ray’s first paid writing work was a joke he sold to the Burns and Allen radio show.
Bradbury began writing Science fiction short stories in the late 1930’s and received an invitation to join the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society, which met at a cafe in downtown LA. While with the Society, writers such as Robert Heinlein, Emil Petaja, and Fredric Brown helped to shape Ray’s writing career.
Bradbury often insisted that his writing was not Science Fiction. Most of his stories had no basis in scientific fact. Rather they were works of fantasy, “a depiction of the unreal.” Some of his best known works include the dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, the semiautobiographical novels Dandelion Wine and Farewell Summer, and several short story collections, including I Sing The Body Electric. Many of Bradbury’s stories were adapted as radio plays, especially for programs like X Minus One, Dimension X, Suspense!, and Escape. A Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6644 Hollywood Blvd honors Ray Bradbury.
It is the world’s loss that Ray Bradbury was not able to fulfill Mr. Electrico’s instruction. Ray Bradbury passed away June 5, 2012.
Good Night, Ray Bradbury.
Enjoy this episodes of Mars Is Heaven from X Minus One (May 8, 1955):