Ray Bradbury's Lost Interview On Madmen, Writing, and Cars
In 2012, Lisa Potts found something long-lost and forgotten: an interview she conducted with author Ray Bradbury way back in 1972, when she was in college. The tape was behind her dresser.
The tape, lost for 40 years, was made in a car on the L.A. freeway. Potts and classmate Chadd Coates were driving Bradbury to a lecture at Chapman College, and the pair interviewed him on the way. What did he start talking about? Madmen. (No, not the series—his friends.) Childhood. Writing. Sex. Cars. This interview came almost 20 years after he wrote Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and The Illustrated Man.
Chadd Coates: "Did you have any formal training in writing, of any type?"
Ray Bradbury: "Not formal, no. But I am a dedicated madman, and that becomes its own training. If you can’t resist, if the typewriter is like candy to you, you train yourself for a lifetime. Every single day of your life, some wild new thing to be done. You write to please yourself. You write for the joy of writing."
Amen, sir. Enjoy:
Here's a transcript of the video.
Chadd Coates: You say you're a madman. How long have you been in this state of mind? It sounds pretty wonderful.
Ray Bradbury: Oh, since I was 9 or 10. You learn to live with your crazy enthusiasms which nobody else shares, and then you find a few other nuts like yourself, and they're your friends for a lifetime. That's what friends are, the people who share your crazy outlook and protect you from the world, because nobody else is going to give a damn what you're doing, so you need a few other people like yourself.
Chadd Coates: Do you feel you have to be protected from the world that surrounds you or...
Ray Bradbury: While you're growing, sure, because you're tender and you doubt yourself, and… Friendship is an island that you retreat to and you all fall on the floor and laugh at all the other ninnies that don't have enough brains to have your good taste, right?
Chadd Coates: Yeah.
Ray Bradbury: Yeah.
Lisa Potts: Um… this is kind of a weird question. We had an article in our newspaper that said Ray Bradbury has never driven a car or been in an airplane. Is that true?
Ray Bradbury: That's right. What do you think I'm doing here in the back seat?
Lisa Potts: You've in your whole life ever driven?
Ray Bradbury: Never have been behind the wheel.
Lisa Potts: Why is that?
Ray Bradbury: Oh, it seemed a good idea. That's all.
Lisa Potts: Are you scared of cars or scared or ...
Ray Bradbury: I'm scared of myself. I think I'd be a bad driver. I'm scared of cars, period. I've had too many friends killed now, and I've seen too many people killed in my life when I drove across the country when I was 12. I'm sure that has a lot to do with it. If you see a few real dead bodies with brains on the pavement, it does a lot to change your attitude. It means you can get it too. I've had a lot of relatives killed. I've had a lot of dear friends killed. It's stupid. The whole activity is stupid.
Lisa Potts: What about… why don't you like to go on airplanes? Are you scared of them, too?
Ray Bradbury: I don't like being up high. It took me three days to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Lisa Potts: So you do write very realistically?
Ray Bradbury: It's a combination of realism with fantasy. But no, I don't like realism. We already know the real facts about li[fe], most of the basic facts. I'm not interested in repeating what we already know. We know about sex, about violence, about murder, about war. All these things, by the time we're 18, we're up to here. From there on we need interpreters. We need poets. We need philosophers. We need theologians, who take the same basic facts and work with them and help us make do with those facts. Facts alone are not enough. It's interpretation.
Lisa Potts: We'd like to know how you go about writing a story. Like, do you take other people's opinions? Where do you get your ideas?
Ray Bradbury: You don't pay any attention to anything anyone else says, no opinions. The important thing is to explode with a story, to emotionalize a story, not to think it. You start thinking—the story's going to die on its feet. It's like anything else. If an athlete is running around the high hurdles, let's say, and he starts thinking about the next hurdle, he's doomed. He's going to knock it down. People who take books on sex to bed become frigid. You get self-conscious. You can't think a story. You can't think, "I shall do a story to improve mankind." Well, it's nonsense. All the great stories, all the really worthwhile plays, are emotional experiences. If you have to ask yourself whether or not you love a girl or you love a boy, forget it. You don't. A story is the same way. You either feel a story and need to write it, or you better not write it.
Chadd Coates: Did you have any formal training in writing, of any type?
Ray Bradbury: Not formal, no. But I am a dedicated madman, and that becomes its own training. If you can't resist, if the typewriter is like candy to you, you train yourself for a lifetime. Every single day of your life, some wild new thing to be done. You write to please yourself. You write for the joy of writing. Then your public reads you and it begins to gather around your selling a potato peeler in an alley, you know. The enthusiasm, the joy itself draws me. So that means every day of my life I've written. When the joy stops, I'll stop writing.
Lisa Potts: In most of your books, the Martian Chronicles is about Mars, but even in Illustrated Man, everything that happens in outer space is on Mars. I was wondering, are you really preoccupied with Mars, or why are you?
Ray Bradbury: Oh, I think because it's closest to us. You grow up with the romance of Mars. When I was a kid, some of the earliest clear photographs of Mars were being published from the Lowell Observatory in Arizona. Since it's the nearest planet, and we know, we've always had this feeling that someday, if we went anywhere, it would be to the moon and then to Mars. That's the way it's turning out. We'll be landing there in a few years now.