Ray Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012), was one of the few science fiction writers to break out and enjoy mass market appeal. His novel Fahrenheit 451 (1953) and story collections The Martian Chronicles (1950) and The Illustrated Man (1951) are his best known work, all of which were adapted to either film or television.
Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois. His middle name Douglas was given in honor of Douglas Fairbanks. He was descended from Mary Bradbury, one of the victims of the Salem witch trials of 1692. His father went to high school with Jack Benny.
He idealized his childhood home as “Green Town, Illinois,” which serves as the setting of both Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes. The family moved to Tuscon and then to Los Angeles as his father pursued employment during the Great Depression. Bradbury learned to sneak into the local movie theater and pursued star autographs, haunting the famous Brown Derby restaurant to watch the stars go in and out.
Bradbury’s artistic interests started young. He collected and drew comic strips, and began writing unauthorized sequels to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars novels on a toy typewriter at the age of thirteen. He was initially unsuccessful as a writer: of the twenty stories he wrote in one semester of high school, all were rejected for publication in the senior class annual.
He joined the Los Angeles Science Fiction League (LASFL) in 1937 and worked on the club fanzine Imagination! Fan historian Harry Warner Jr. wrote, “He played the violin poorly, thought Astounding was the best prozine, and thought of his own nose as an object that would pass for a cabbage with the light behind him.” Forrest J. Ackerman funded Bradbury’s fanzine Futuria Fantasia, which contained stories by Robert Heinlein, Henry Kuttner, Emil Petaja, and H. Rider Haggard as well as covers by Hannes Bok. He was known in LASFL for his imitations of FDR, W. C. Fields, and Fred Allen, and claimed to be friends with Jack Benny.
In 1941, Bradbury made his first professional sale to Super Science Stories, the first of three that year. In the next 20 years, he would publish 300 more, moving from the science fiction pulps to slick magazines. In addition to the science fiction, fantasy, and horror that made his reputation, Bradbury wrote for the Burns and Allen radio show and authored the screenplays for It Came From Outer Space, Moby Dick, and numerous television shows.
He married Marguerite McClure in 1947 (the only woman he ever dated) and had four daughters. He never obtained a driver’s license. After a 1999 stroke, he was partially wheelchair-bound, though he continued to attend science fiction conventions until 2009. He died in 2012 at the age of 91.