“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” — Ray Bradbury
I originally wrote this Musing to be posted in August in celebration of the 92nd birthday of one of my favorite authors. With his passing at age 91 on Tuesday of this week, I’m sadly forced to move it up.
I’m basically a visual guy, but I love words! Especially the words of Ray Bradbury. I grew up reading his stories and still return to them as often as possible. In fact, I just completed a recently published collection of short stories last week. He was a true wordsmith who could paint a captivating picture with words as well as anyone who ever lived.
Insanely prolific, Ray published more than 30 books, close to 600 short stories, and numerous poems, essays, screenplays and theatrical works. He has written in almost every genre imaginable — horror, mystery, travel, autobiography, fantasy, science fiction, memoir … well, you get the picture. Until recently, he still continued to write, dictating for three hours at a time to his daughter, who then transcribed his words to the page.
Often categorized as a science fiction author, he claimed to have written only one true SF story and that’s his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451. Even his first major work, The Martian Chronicles, which details the conflict between humans colonizing the red planet and the native Martians they encounter, he described as pure fantasy, akin to Greek mythology.
Ray was born in 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois, where he enjoyed a relatively idyllic childhood, which he later incorporated into several semi-autobiographical novels and short stories. These stories, set in the fictional town of Green Town, Illinois, are among my favorites.
After shuffling back and forth between Waukegan and Tucson, Arizona, for several years, Ray’s family finally settled in Los Angeles when he was 13.
After graduation from high school in 1938, Ray couldn’t afford to go to college, so he went to the local library instead. “Libraries raised me,” he later said. “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.”
During this time, Ray sold newspapers to make a living. He eventually sold his first professional piece in November 1941, just a month before the United States entered World War II. Ineligible for military service because of poor vision, Ray became a full-time writer in 1942, cranking out short stories for magazines. His first collection of short stories was published in 1947.
In 1950, The Martian Chronicles was published and the rest is history. Over the years, Ray’s stories have been made into countless movies and TV shows.
If you’d like to familiarize yourself with some of Ray’s writing, click on the link below and download a PDF file of my favorite book quotes and excerpts. You’ll find Ray scattered all over the place. He will be missed but his words and images will live on.