Best known for his 1953 dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 and 1950's The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury was widely considered one of the greatest and most popular American writers of speculative fiction of the twentieth century.
Ray Bradbury's popularity has been increased by more than 20 television shows and films using his writings (see Adaptations of his work).
Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois, to a Swedish immigrant mother and a father who was a power and telephone lineman. His paternal grandfather and great-grandfather were newspaper publishers.
Bradbury was a reader and writer throughout his youth, spending much time in the Carnegie Library in Waukegan. He used this library as a setting for much of his novel Something Wicked This Way Comes, and depicted Waukegan as "Green Town" in some of his other semi-autobiographical novels — Dandelion Wine, Farewell Summer — as well as in many of his short stories.
He attributes his lifelong habit of writing every day to an incident in 1932 when a carnival entertainer, Mr. Electrico, touched him with an electrified sword, made his hair stand on end, and shouted, "Live forever!"
The Bradbury family lived in Tucson, Arizona, in 1926–27 and 1932–33 as his father pursued employment, each time returning to Waukegan, but eventually settled in Los Angeles in 1934, when Ray was thirteen.
Bradbury graduated from the Los Angeles High School in 1938 but chose not to attend college. Instead, he sold newspapers at the corner of South Norton Avenue and Olympic Boulevard. He continued to educate himself at the local library, and having been influenced by science fiction heroes like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, he began to publish science fiction stories in fanzines in 1938. Ray was invited by Forrest J Ackerman to attend the now legendary Clifton’s Cafeteria Science Fiction Club. This was where Ray met the writers Robert A. Heinlein, Emil Petaja, Fredric Brown, Henry Kuttner, Leigh Brackett, and Jack Williamson. Launching his own fanzine in 1939, titled Futuria Fantasia, he wrote most of its four issues, each limited to under a hundred copies. Bradbury's first paid piece was for the pulp magazine Super Science Stories in 1941, for which he earned $15. He became a full-time writer by the end of 1942. His first book, Dark Carnival, a collection of short works, was published in 1947 by Arkham House, a firm owned by writer August Derleth.
A chance encounter in a Los Angeles bookstore with the British expatriate writer Christopher Isherwood gave Bradbury the opportunity to put The Martian Chronicles into the hands of a respected critic. Isherwood's glowing review followed and substantially boosted Bradbury's career.
Ray Bradbury married Marguerite McClure (1922–2003) in 1947, and they had four daughters.
Bradbury died in Los Angeles, California, on June 5, 2012, at the age of 91, after a "lengthy illness".
- Certificate of Birth, Ray Douglas Bradbury, August 22, 1920, Lake County Clerk's Record #4750. Although he was named after Rae Williams, a cousin on his father's side, Ray Bradbury's birth certificate spells his first name as "Ray."
- Their immigrant ancestor was the royally-descended Thomas Bradbury who married Mary Perkins of Ipswich, Massachusetts, who was convicted of witchcraft at the Salem witch trials, but escaped and was not hanged.
- Sites from these works which still exist in Waukegan include his boyhood home, his grandparents' home next door (and their connecting lawns where he and his grandfather gathered dandelions to make wine) and, less than a block away, the famous ravine which Bradbury used as a metaphor throughout his career.
- In His Words. RayBradbury.com.