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Ray Douglas Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois, on August 22, 1920.
He was the third son of Leonard Spaulding Bradbury and Esther Marie Moberg Bradbury. They gave him the middle name "Douglas," after the actor, Douglas Fairbanks.
He never lived up to his namesake's reputation for swashbuckling adventure on the high seas. Instead, Bradbury's great adventures would take place behind a typewriter, in the realm of imagination. Today, as an author, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, lecturer, poet and visionary, Ray Bradbury is known as one of America's greatest creative geniuses.
Bradbury's early childhood in Waukegan was characterized by his loving extended family. These formative years provided the foundations for both the author and his stories.
In Bradbury's works of fiction, 1920s Waukegan becomes "Greentown," Illinois. Greentown is a symbol of safety and home, and often provides a contrasting backdrop to tales of fantasy or menace. In Greentown, Bradbury's favorite uncle sprouts wings, traveling carnivals conceal supernatural powers, and his grandparents provide room and board to Charles Dickens.
Between 1926 and 1933, the Bradbury family moved back and forth between Waukegan and Tucson, Arizona. In 1931, young Ray began writing his own stories on butcher paper.
In 1934, the Bradbury family moved to Los Angeles, California. As a teenager, Bradbury often roller-skated through Hollywood, trying to spot celebrities. He befriended other talented and creative people, like special effects maestro Ray Harryhausen and radio star George Burns.
In fact, it was Burns who gave Bradbury his first pay as a writer -- for contributing a joke to the Burns & Allen Show.
Bradbury attended Los Angeles High School. He was active in the drama club and planned to become an actor.
However, two of his teachers recognized a greater talent in Bradbury, and encouraged his development as a writer. Snow Longley Housh taught him about poetry and Jeannet Johnson taught him to write short stories. Over 60 years later, Bradbury's work bears the indelible impressions left by these two women.
As his high school years progressed, Bradbury grew serious about becoming a writer. Outside of class, he contributed to fan publications and joined the Los Angeles Science Fiction League. At school, he improved his grades and joined the Poetry Club.
Bradbury's formal education ended with his high school graduation in 1938. However, he continued to educate himself. He sold newspapers on Los Angeles street corners all day, but spent his nights in the library. The hours between newspaper editions were spent at his typewriter.
His first published short story was "Hollerbochen's Dilemma," printed in 1938 in Imagination!. an amateur fan magazine. In 1939, Bradbury published four issues of his own fan magazine, Futuria Fantasia. writing much of the content himself. His first paid publication, a short story titled "Pendulum," appeared in Super Science Stories in 1941.
As he honed his writing skills, Bradbury often looked to established writers for guidance. During those early years, his mentors included Henry Kuttner, Leigh Brackett, Robert Heinlein and Henry Hasse.
At last, in 1942, Bradbury wrote "The Lake" -- the story in which he discovered his distinctive writing style. The following year, he gave up selling newspapers and began to write full-time. In 1945 his short story "The Big Black and White Game" was selected for Best American Short Stories. That same year, Bradbury traveled through Mexico to collect Indian masks for the Los Angeles County Museum.
In 1946, he met his future wife, Marguerite "Maggie" McClure. A graduate of George Washington High School (1941) and UCLA, Maggie was working as a clerk in a book shop when they met.
Ray and Maggie were married in the Church of the Good Shepherd, Episcopal in Los Angeles on September 27, 1947. Ray Harryhausen served as the best man.
That same year also marked the publication of Bradbury's first collection of short stories, entitled Dark Carnival.
The first of the Bradbury's four daughters, Susan, was born in 1949. Susan's sisters, Ramona, Bettina and Alexandra were born in 1951, 1955 and 1958, respectively.
Bradbury's reputation as a leading science fiction writer was finally established with the publication of The Martian Chronicles in 1950. The book describes man's attempt to colonize Mars, the effects of colonization on the Martians, and the colonists' reaction to a massive nuclear war on Earth.
As much a work of social criticism as of science fiction, The Martian Chronicles reflects America's anxieties in the early 1950's: the threat of nuclear war, the longing for a simpler life, reactions against racism and censorship, and the fear of foreign political powers.
Another of Bradbury's best-known works, Fahrenheit 451 . was released in 1953. It is set in a future in which a totalitarian government has banned the written word. Montag enjoys his job as a professional book-burner. But he begins to question his duties the when he learns of a time when books were legal and people did not live in fear. Montag begins stealing books marked for destruction and meets a professor who agrees to educate him. When his pilfering is discovered, he must run for his life.
Bradbury's work has won innumerable honors and awards, including the O. Henry Memorial Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award (1954), the Aviation-Space Writer's Association Award for Best Space Article in an American Magazine (1967), the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America. His work was also included in the Best American Short Stories collections for 1946, 1948 and 1952.
Perhaps Bradbury's most unusual honor came from the Apollo astronaut who named Dandelion Crater after Bradbury's novel, Dandelion Wine.
Bradbury's lifetime love of cinema fuelled his involvement in many Hollywood productions, including The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (a version of his story, "The Fog Horn"), Something Wicked This Way Comes (based on his novel,) and director John Huston's version of Moby Dick. His animated film about the history of flight, Icarus Montgolfier Wright. was nominated for an academy award
Over the decades, there have also been many attempts to adapt Bradbury's stories for television. Commendable examples include episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The Twilight Zone, and Bradbury's Emmy-winning teleplay for The Halloween Tree.
But not all adaptations were so successful. For instance, Bradbury was seriously disappointed with a Martian Chronicles network miniseries, broadcast in 1979.
Looking for more creative control, Bradbury turned to the relative freedom of cable television and developed his own series. Ray Bradbury Theater ran from 1986 until 1992 and allowed the author to produce televised versions of his own stories.
Even while working on TV series, novels, short stories, screenplays and radio dramas, Bradbury continues to publish collections of his plays, poems and essays.
Beyond his literary contributions, Bradbury also serves as an "idea consultant" for various civic, educational and entertainment projects. He provided the concept and script for the United States Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair and contributed to Disney's Spaceship Earth at EPCOT and the Orbitron at the Disneyland parks in Paris and Anaheim.
As a creative consultant to the Jon Jerde Partnership, he also helped create trend-setting shopping/entertainment plazas, including the Glendale Galleria in Los Angeles and Horton Plaza in San Diego. These innovative malls (and their many imitators) reflect Bradbury's vision of a "small-town plaza" tailored to the urban environment.
Today, Ray and Maggie Bradbury continue to live in Los Angeles. They have eight grandchildren and four cats.
Ray Bradbury still writes daily and occasionally lectures. At an age when most men rest on their laurels, Bradbury remains a dynamic storyteller and contributor of "obvious answers to impossible futures.".