10 Things You Should Know About Ray Bradbury

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For such a visionary futurist whose predictions for the future often came true, Ray Bradbury was rather old-fashioned in many ways. August 22nd would have been his 92nd birthday; check out a few fascinating facts about the literary genius. 

1. Most teenagers get a first job sacking groceries or slinging burgers. At the age of 14, Ray Bradbury got himself a job writing for George Burns and Gracie Allen’s radio show.

“I went down on Figueroa Street in front of the Figueroa Playhouse,” Bradbury said. “I saw George Burns outside the front of the theater. I went up to him and said, ‘Mr. Burns, you got your broadcast tonight don’t you?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘You don’t have an audience in there do you?’ He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Will you take me in and let me be your audience?’ So he took me in and put me in the front row, and the curtain went up, and I was in the audience for Burns and Allen. I went every Wednesday for the broadcast and then I wrote shows and gave them to George Burns. They only used one—but they did use it, it was for the end of the show.”

2. At the age of 22, Bradbury finally summoned up the courage to ask a girl out for the first time ever. She was a bookstore clerk named Maggie, who thought he was stealing from the bookstore because he had a long trench coat on. They went out for coffee, which turned into cocktails, which turned into dinner, which turned into marriage, which turned into 56 anniversaries and four children. She was the only girl Bradbury ever dated. Maggie held down a full-time job while Ray stayed at home and wrote, something that was virtually unheard of in the 1940s.

3. Not only did Bradbury never get a driver’s license, he didn’t believe in cars for anyone. His own personal aversion came from seeing a fatal car accident when he was just 16. In 1996, he told Playboy, “I saw six people die horribly in an accident. I walked home holding on to walls and trees. It took me months to begin to function again. So I don't drive. But whether I drive or not is irrelevant. The automobile is the most dangerous weapon in our society—cars kill more than wars do.”

4. Despite his writings about all things futuristic, Bradbury loathed computers. “We are being flimflammed by Bill Gates and his partners,” he told Playboy in 1996. “Look at Windows '95. That's a lot of flimflam, you know.” He also stated that computers were nothing more than typewriters to him, and he certainly didn’t need another one of those. He also called the Internet “old-fashioned": “They type a question to you. You type an answer back. That’s thirty years ago. Why not do it on the telephone, which is immediate? Why not do it on TV, which is immediate? Why are they so excited with something that is so backward?”

5. George Burns' isn’t the only famous eye Bradbury caught. In 1947, an editor at Mademoiselle read Bradbury’s short story, “Homecoming,” a story about the only human boy in a family of supernatural beings. The editor decided to run the piece, and Bradbury won a place in the O. Henry Prize Stories for one of the best short stories of 1947. That young editor who helped Bradbury out by grabbing his story out of the unsolicited materials pile? Truman Capote.

6. It took Bradbury just nine days to write Fahrenheit 451, and he did it in the basement of the UCLA library on a rented typewriter. The title of his classic novel, by the way, comes from the temperature at which paper burns without being exposed to flame.

7. Though he wrote Fahrenheit 451 at UCLA, he didn’t attend school there, and, in fact, he didn’t believe in college. “I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money,” Bradbury said. “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.”

8. Not only was Bradbury good friends with Walt Disney (and even urged him to run for mayor of Los Angeles), he helped contribute to the Spaceship Earth ride at Epcot, submitting a story treatment that they built the ride around.

Disney Parks

He was a big fan of the Disney parks, saying, “Everyone in the world will come to these gates. Why? Because they want to look at the world of the future. They want to see how to make better human beings. That’s what the whole thing is about. The cynics are already here and they’re terrifying one another. What Disney is doing is showing the world that there are alternative ways to do things that can make us all happy. If we can borrow some of the concepts of Disneyland and Disney World and Epcot, then indeed the world can be a better place.”

9. He once said that when he died, he planned to have his ashes placed in a Campbell’s Tomato Soup can and then planted on Mars. Then he decided that he wanted to have a place his fans could visit, and thought he’d design his own gravestone that included the names of his books. As a final touch, a sign at his gravesite would say Place dandelions here, “as a tribute to Dandelion Wine, because so many people love it.” In the end, he ended up going with something a whole lot simpler—a plain headstone bearing his name and “Author of Fahrenheit 451.” Go take him some dandelions the next time you’re in L.A.—he’s buried at Westwood Memorial Park.

10. Perhaps a more fitting memorial is the one NASA gave him when they landed a rover on Mars a few months after Bradbury’s death in 2012: They named the site where Mars Curiosity touched down "Bradbury Landing."

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August 26, 2013 - 4:00pm
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