Bradbury in 1975
||Raymond Douglas Bradbury
August 22, 1920
Waukegan, Illinois, U.S.
||June 5, 2012 (aged 91)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
||Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles
||Fantasy, social commentary,science fiction, horror fiction,mystery fiction
||American Academy of Arts and Letters (1954); Daytime Emmy Award (1994); National Medal of Arts (2004); Pulitzer Prize(2007)
(m. 1947–2003; her death)
Raymond Douglas “Ray” Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012) was an Americanfantasy, science fiction, horror and mystery fiction author. Best known for hisdystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 (1953) and for the science fiction and horror stories gathered together as The Martian Chronicles (1950) and The Illustrated Man (1951), Bradbury was one of the most celebrated 20th- and 21st-century American genre writers. He wrote and consulted on many screenplays and television scripts, includingMoby Dick and It Came from Outer Space. Many of his works have been adapted into comic books, television shows, and films.
Bradbury as a senior in high school, 1938
Bradbury was born on August 22, 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois, to Esther (née Moberg) Bradbury, a Swedish immigrant, and Leonard Spaulding Bradbury, a power and telephone lineman of English descent. He was given the middle name “Douglas,” after the actor Douglas Fairbanks. Bradbury was related to the American Shakespeare scholar Douglas Spaulding and was descended from Mary Bradbury, who was tried at one of the Salem witch trials in 1692.
Bradbury was surrounded by an extended family during his early childhood and formative years in Waukegan, Illinois. An aunt read him short stories when he was a child. This period provided foundations for both the author and his stories. In Bradbury’s works of fiction, 1920s Waukegan becomes “Green Town,” Illinois.
The Bradbury family lived in Tucson, Arizona, in 1926–27 and 1932–33 as the father pursued employment, each time returning to Waukegan, but eventually settled in Los Angeles in 1934, when Bradbury was 14. The family arrived with only 40 dollars, which paid for rent and food until his father finally found a job making wire at a cable company for $14 a week. This meant that they could stay, however, and Bradbury—who was in love with Hollywood—was ecstatic.
Bradbury attended Los Angeles High School and was active in the drama club. He often roller-skated through Hollywood in hopes of meeting celebrities. Among the creative and talented people Bradbury met this way were special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen and radio star George Burns. (Bradbury’s first pay as a writer was at the age of fourteen, when Burns hired him to write for the Burns and Allen show.)
Bradbury was a reader and writer throughout his youth. He knew as a young boy that he was “going into one of the arts.” In 1931, at the age of eleven, the young Bradbury began writing his own stories. The country was going through the Great Depression, and sometimes Bradbury wrote on butcher paper.
In his youth, he spent much time in the Carnegie library in Waukegan, reading such authors as H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Edgar Allan Poe. At age twelve, Bradbury began writing traditional horror stories and said he tried to imitate Poe until he was about eighteen. In addition to comics, he loved Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan of the Apes, especially Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars series. The Warlord of Marsimpressed him so much that at the age of twelve he wrote his own sequel. The young Bradbury was also a cartoonist and loved to illustrate. He wrote about Tarzan and drew his own Sunday panels. He listened to the radio show Chandu the Magician, and when the show went off the air every night he would sit and write the entire script from memory.
In Beverly Hills, he often visited the science fiction writer Bob Olsen for mentorship as well as friendship while Bradbury was a teenager. They shared ideas and would keep in contact. In 1936, at a secondhand bookstore in Hollywood, Bradbury discovered a handbill promoting meetings of the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society. Thrilled to find there were others with his interests, at the age of sixteen Bradbury joined a weekly Thursday-night conclave.
When he was seventeen, Bradbury read stories published in Astounding Science Fiction, and said he read everything by Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and the early writings of Theodore Sturgeon and A. E. van Vogt, but cited H. G. Wells and Jules Verne as his big science fiction influences. Bradbury identified with Verne, saying, “He believes the human being is in a strange situation in a very strange world, and he believes that we can triumph by behaving morally.”  Bradbury admitted that he stopped reading genre books in his twenties and embraced a broad field of literature that included Alexander Pope and poet John Donne. Bradbury had just graduated from high school when he met Robert Heinlein, then 31 years old. Bradbury recalled, “He was well known, and he wrote humanistic science fiction, which influenced me to dare to be human instead of mechanical.”
The family lived about four blocks from the Uptown Theater on Western Avenue in Los Angeles, the flagship theater for MGM and Fox. There, Bradbury learned how to sneak in and watched previews almost every week. He roller-skated there as well as all over town, as he put it “hell-bent on getting autographs from glamorous stars. It was glorious.” Among stars the young Bradbury was thrilled to encounter were Norma Shearer, Laurel and Hardy, and Ronald Colman. Sometimes he would spend all day in front of Paramount Pictures or Columbia Pictures and then skate to the Brown Derby to watch the stars who came and went for meals. He recounted seeing Cary Grant, Marlene Dietrich and Mae West, who he would learn made a regular appearance every Friday night, bodyguard in tow.
Bradbury relates the following meeting with Sergei Bondarchuk, director of Soviet epic film series War and Peace, at a Hollywood award ceremony in Bondarchuk’s honor:
They formed a long queue and as Bondarchuk was walking along it he recognized several people: “Oh Mr. Ford, I like your film.” He recognized the director, Greta Garbo, and someone else. I was standing at the very end of the queue and silently watched this. Bondarchuk shouted to me; “Ray Bradbury, is that you?” He rushed up to me, embraced me, dragged me inside, grabbed a bottle ofStolichnaya, sat down at his table where his closest friends were sitting. All the famous Hollywood directors in the queue were bewildered. They stared at me and asked each other “who is this Bradbury?” And, swearing, they left, leaving me alone with Bondarchuk…
Bradbury’s “Undersea Guardians” was the cover story for the December 1944 issue of Amazing Stories
Bradbury’s first published story was “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma”, which appeared in the January 1938 number of Forrest J. Ackerman’s fanzineImagination!. In July 1939, Ackerman gave nineteen-year-old Bradbury the money to head to New York for the First World Science Fiction Convention in New York City, and funded Bradbury’s fanzine, titled Futuria Fantasia. Bradbury wrote most of its four issues, each limited to under 100 copies. Between 1940 and 1947, he was a contributor to Rob Wagner‘s film magazine, Script.
Bradbury was free to start a career in writing when, owing to his bad eyesight, he was rejected admission into the military during World War II. Having been inspired by science fiction heroes like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, Bradbury began to publish science fiction stories in fanzines in 1938. Bradbury was invited by Forrest J. Ackerman to attend the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society, which at the time met at Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown Los Angeles. This was where he met the writers Robert A. Heinlein, Emil Petaja, Fredric Brown, Henry Kuttner, Leigh Brackett, and Jack Williamson.
In 1939, Bradbury joined Laraine Day‘s Wilshire Players Guild where for two years he wrote and acted in several plays. They were, as Bradbury later described, “so incredibly bad” that he gave up playwriting for two decades. Bradbury’s first paid piece, “Pendulum,” written with Henry Hasse, was published in the pulp magazineSuper Science Stories in November 1941, for which he earned $15.
Bradbury sold his first story, “The Lake”, for $13.75 at the age of twenty-two. He became a full-time writer by the end of 1942. His first collection of short stories, Dark Carnival, was published in 1947 by Arkham House, a small press in Sauk City, Wisconsin, owned by writer August Derleth. Reviewing Dark Carnival for the New York Herald Tribune, Will Cuppy proclaimed Bradbury “suitable for general consumption” and predicted that he would become a writer of the caliber of British fantasy author John Collier.
After a rejection notice from the pulp Weird Tales, Bradbury submitted “Homecoming” to Mademoiselle which was spotted by a young editorial assistant named Truman Capote. Capote picked the Bradbury manuscript from a slush pile, which led to its publication. Homecoming won a place in The O. Henry Prize Stories of 1947.
It was in UCLA‘s Powell Library, in a study room with typewriters for rent, that Bradbury wrote his classic story of a book-burning future, The Fireman, which was about 25,000 words long. It was later published at about 50,000 words under the name Fahrenheit 451, for a total cost of $9.80, due to the library’s typewriter-rental fees of ten cents per half-hour.
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.
Bradbury attributed to two incidents his lifelong habit of writing every day. The first of these, occurring when he was three years old, was his mother’s taking him to see Lon Chaney‘s performance in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The second incident occurred in 1932, when a carnival entertainer, one Mr. Electrico, touched the young man on the nose with an electrified sword, made his hair stand on end, and shouted, “Live forever!” Bradbury remarked, “I felt that something strange and wonderful had happened to me because of my encounter with Mr. Electrico…[he] gave me a future…I began to write, full-time. I have written every single day of my life since that day 69 years ago.” It was at that age that Bradbury first started to do magic, which was his first great love. If he had not discovered writing, he would have become a magician.
Bradbury claimed a wide variety of influences, and described discussions he might have with his favorite poets and writers Robert Frost, William Shakespeare, John Steinbeck, Aldous Huxley, and Thomas Wolfe. From Steinbeck, he said he learned “how to write objectively and yet insert all of the insights without too much extra comment.” He studied Eudora Welty for her “remarkable ability to give you atmosphere, character, and motion in a single line.” Bradbury’s favorite writers growing up included Katherine Anne Porter, who wrote about the American South, Edith Wharton, and Jessamyn West.
Bradbury was once described as a “Midwestsurrealist” and is often labeled a science fiction writer, which he described as “the art of the possible.” Bradbury resisted that categorization, however:
First of all, I don’t write science fiction. I’ve only done one science fiction book and that’s Fahrenheit 451, based on reality. It was named so to represent the temperature at which paper ignites. Science fiction is a depiction of the real. Fantasy is a depiction of the unreal. So Martian Chronicles is not science fiction, it’s fantasy. It couldn’t happen, you see? That’s the reason it’s going to be around a long time – because it’s a Greek myth, and myths have staying power.
Bradbury recounted when he came into his own as a writer, the afternoon he wrote a short story about his first encounter with death. When he was a boy, he met a young girl at the beach and she went out into the water and never came back. Years later, as he wrote about it, tears flowed from him. He recognized he had taken the leap from emulating the many writers he admired to connecting with his voice as a writer.
When later asked about the lyrical power of his prose, Bradbury replied, “From reading so much poetry every day of my life. My favorite writers have been those who’ve said things well.” He is quoted, “If you’re reluctant to weep, you won’t live a full and complete life.”
In high school, Bradbury was active in both the Poetry Club and the Drama club, continuing plans to become an actor but becoming serious about his writing as his high school years progressed. Bradbury graduated from Los Angeles High School, where he took poetry classes with Snow Longley Housh, and short story writing courses taught by Jeannet Johnson. The teachers recognized his talent and furthered his interest in writing, but he did not attend college. Instead, he sold newspapers at the corner of South Norton Avenue and Olympic Boulevard. In regard to his education, Bradbury said:
Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. 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.
He told The Paris Review, “You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do – and they don’t.”
A reinvention of Waukegan, Green Town is a symbol of safety and home, which is often juxtaposed as a contrasting backdrop to tales of fantasy or menace. It serves as the setting of his semi-autobiographical classics Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Farewell Summer as well as in many of his short stories. In Green Town, Bradbury’s favorite uncle sprouts wings, traveling carnivals conceal supernatural powers, and his grandparents provide room and board to Charles Dickens. Perhaps the most definitive usage of the pseudonym for his hometown, in Summer Morning, Summer Night, a collection of short stories and vignettes exclusively about Green Town, Bradbury returns to the signature locale as a look back at the rapidly disappearing small-town world of the American heartland, which was the foundation of his roots.
Bradbury wrote many short essays on the arts and culture, attracting the attention of critics in this field, but he used his fiction to explore and criticize his culture and society. Bradbury observed, for example, thatFahrenheit 451 touches on the alienation of people by media:
In writing the short novel Fahrenheit 451 I thought I was describing a world that might evolve in four or five decades. But only a few weeks ago, in Beverly Hills one night, a husband and wife passed me, walking their dog. I stood staring after them, absolutely stunned. The woman held in one hand a small cigarette-package-sized radio, its antenna quivering. From this sprang tiny copper wires which ended in a dainty cone plugged into her right ear. There she was, oblivious to man and dog, listening to far winds and whispers and soap opera cries, sleep walking, helped up and down curbs by a husband who might just as well not have been there. This was not fiction.
In a 1982 essay he wrote, “People ask me to predict the Future, when all I want to do is prevent it.” This intent had been expressed earlier by other authors, who sometimes attributed it to him.
Bradbury hosted The Ray Bradbury Theater which was based on his short stories. Bradbury was a consultant for the American Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and the original exhibit housed in Epcot‘sSpaceship Earth geosphere at Walt Disney World. In the 1980s, Bradbury concentrated on detective fiction.
Bradbury was a strong supporter of public library systems, and helped to raise money to prevent the closure of several in California due to budgetary cuts. He iterated from his past that “libraries raised me”, and shunned colleges and universities, comparing his own lack of funds during the Depression with poor contemporary students. His opinion varied on modern technology. In 1985 Bradbury wrote, “I see nothing but good coming from computers. When they first appeared on the scene, people were saying, ‘Oh my God, I’m so afraid.’ I hate people like that – I call them the neo-Luddites“, and “In a sense [computers] are simply books. Books are all over the place, and computers will be too”. He resisted the conversion of his work into e-books, stating in 2010 “We have too many cellphones. We’ve got too many internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now”. When the publishing rights for Fahrenheit 451 came up for renewal in December 2011, Bradbury permitted its publication in electronic form provided that the publisher, Simon & Schuster, allowed the e-book to be digitally downloaded by any library patron. The title remains the only book in the Simon & Schuster catalog where this is possible.
Several comic book writers have adapted Bradbury’s stories. Particularly noted among these were EC Comics‘ line of horror and science-fiction comics. Initially, the writers plagiarized his stories, but a diplomatic letter from Bradbury about it led to the company paying him and negotiating properly licensed adaptations of his work. The comics featuring Bradbury’s stories included Tales from the Crypt, Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, Crime Suspenstories, Haunt of Fear and others.
Bradbury remained an enthusiastic playwright all his life, leaving a rich theatrical legacy as well as literary. Bradbury headed the Pandemonium Theatre Company in Los Angeles for many years and had a five-year relationship with the Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena.
Bradbury is featured prominently in two documentaries related to his classic 1950s-’60s era: Jason V Brock‘s Charles Beaumont: The Life of Twilight Zone’s Magic Man, which details his troubles with Rod Serling, and his friendships with writers Charles Beaumont, George Clayton Johnson, and most especially his dear friend William F. Nolan, as well as Brock’s The AckerMonster Chronicles!, which delves into the life of former Bradbury agent, close friend, mega-fan, and Famous Monsters of Filmland editor Forrest J Ackerman.
On May 24, 1956, Bradbury appeared on the popular quiz show, You Bet Your Life hosted by Groucho Marx (Season 6 Episode 35).
Bradbury in December 2009.
Bradbury was married to Marguerite McClure (January 16, 1922 – November 24, 2003) from 1947 until her death; they had four daughters: Susan, Ramona, Bettina and Alexandra. Though he lived in Los Angeles, Bradbury never obtained a driver’s license but relied on public transportation or his bicycle. He lived at home until he was twenty-seven and married. His wife of fifty-six years, Maggie, as she was affectionately called, was the only woman Bradbury ever dated.
Bradbury was a close friend of Charles Addams, and Addams illustrated the first of Bradbury’s stories about the Elliotts, a family that would resemble Addams’ own Addams Familyplaced in rural Illinois. Bradbury’s first story about them was “Homecoming,” published in the 1946 Halloween issue of Mademoiselle, with Addams illustrations. He and Addams planned a larger collaborative work that would tell the family’s complete history, but it never materialized, and according to a 2001 interview, they went their separate ways. In October 2001, Bradbury published all the Family stories he had written in one book with a connecting narrative, From the Dust Returned, featuring a wraparound Addams cover of the original “Homecoming” illustration.
Another close friend was animator Ray Harryhausen, who was best man at Bradbury’s wedding. During a BAFTA 2010 awards tribute in honor of Ray Harryhausen‘s 90th birthday, Bradbury spoke of his first meeting Harryhausen at Forrest J Ackerman‘s house when they were both 18 years old. Their shared love for science fiction, King Kong, and the King Vidor-directed film The Fountainhead, written by Ayn Rand, was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. These early influences inspired the pair to believe in themselves and affirm their career choices. After their first meeting, they kept in touch at least once a month, in a friendship that spanned over 70 years.
Late in life, Bradbury retained his dedication and passion despite what he described as the “devastation of illnesses and deaths of many good friends.” Among the losses that deeply grieved Bradbury was the death of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who was an intimate friend for many years. They remained close friends for nearly three decades after Roddenberry asked him to write for Star Trek, which Bradbury never did, objecting that he “never had the ability to adapt other people’s ideas into any sensible form.”
Bradbury suffered a stroke in 1999 that left him partially dependent on a wheelchair for mobility. Despite this he continued to write, and had even written an essay for The New Yorker, about his inspiration for writing, published only a week prior to his death. Bradbury made regular appearances at science fiction conventions until 2009, when he retired from the circuit.
Ray Bradbury’s headstone in May 2012 prior to his death
Bradbury chose a burial place at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, with a headstone that reads “Author of Fahrenheit 451”. On February 6, 2015, the New York Times reported that the house that Bradbury lived and wrote in for fifty years of his life, at 10265 Cheviot Drive in Los Angeles, CA, had been demolished.
Bradbury died in Los Angeles, California, on June 5, 2012, at the age of 91, after a lengthy illness. Bradbury’s personal library was willed to the Waukegan Public Library, where he had many of his formative reading experiences.
The New York Times ’ obituary stated that Bradbury was “the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream.” The Los Angeles Times credited Bradbury with the ability “to write lyrically and evocatively of lands an imagination away, worlds he anchored in the here and now with a sense of visual clarity and small-town familiarity”. Bradbury’s grandson, Danny Karapetian, stated that Bradbury’s works had “influenced so many artists, writers, teachers, scientists, and it’s always really touching and comforting to hear their stories”.The Washington Post hallmarked several modern day technologies that Bradbury had envisioned much earlier in his writing, such as the idea of banking ATMs and earbuds and Bluetooth headsets from Fahrenheit 451, and the concepts of artificial intelligence within I Sing the Body Electric.
On June 6, 2012, in an official public statement from the White House Press Office, President Barack Obama said:
For many Americans, the news of Ray Bradbury’s death immediately brought to mind images from his work, imprinted in our minds, often from a young age. His gift for storytelling reshaped our culture and expanded our world. But Ray also understood that our imaginations could be used as a tool for better understanding, a vehicle for change, and an expression of our most cherished values. There is no doubt that Ray will continue to inspire many more generations with his writing, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.
Several celebrity fans of Bradbury paid tribute to the author by stating the influence of his works on their own careers and creations. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg stated that Bradbury was “[his] muse for the better part of [his] sci-fi career…. On the world of science fiction and fantasy and imagination he is immortal”. Writer Neil Gaiman felt that “the landscape of the world we live in would have been diminished if we had not had him in our world”. Author Stephen King released a statement on his website saying, “Ray Bradbury wrote three great novels and three hundred great stories. One of the latter was called ‘A Sound of Thunder.’ The sound I hear today is the thunder of a giant’s footsteps fading away. But the novels and stories remain, in all their resonance and strange beauty.” Bradbury’s influence well exceeded the field of literature. Progressive house music producer and performer, Joel Thomas Zimmerman, who is most commonly known by his stage name Deadmau5, composed a song named after one of Bradbury’s short stories “The Veldt” which was originally published in the Saturday Evening Post. The EP of “The Veldt” was released days after Bradbury’s death and is dedicated to the memory of the author.
Bradbury is credited with writing 27 novels and over 600 short stories. More than eight million copies of his works, published in over 36 languages, have been sold around the world.
In 1949, Bradbury and his wife were expecting their first child. He took a Greyhound bus to New York and checked into a room at the YMCA for fifty cents a night. He took his short stories to a dozen publishers and no one wanted them. Just before getting ready to go home, Bradbury had dinner with an editor at Doubleday. When Bradbury recounted that everyone wanted a novel and he didn’t have one, the editor, coincidentally named Walter Bradbury, asked if the short stories might be tied together into a book length collection. The title was the editor’s idea; he suggested, “You could call it “The Martian Chronicles.” Bradbury liked the idea and recalled making notes in 1944 to do a book set on Mars. That evening, he stayed up all night at the YMCA and typed out an outline. He took it to the Doubleday editor the next morning, who read it and wrote Bradbury a check for seven hundred and fifty dollars. When Bradbury returned to Los Angeles, he connected all the short stories and that became The Martian Chronicles.
Intended first novel
What was later issued as a collection of stories and vignettes, Summer Morning, Summer Night, started out to be Bradbury’s first true novel. The core of the work was Bradbury’s witnessing of the American small-town and life in the American heartland.
In the winter of 1955–56, after a consultation with his Doubleday editor, Bradbury deferred publication of a novel based on Green Town, the pseudonym for his hometown. Instead, he extracted seventeen stories and, with three other Green Town tales, bridged them into his 1957 book Dandelion Wine. Later, in 2006, Bradbury published the original novel remaining after the extraction, and retitled it Farewell Summer. These two titles show what stories and episodes Bradbury decided to retain as he created the two books out of one.
The most significant of the remaining unpublished stories, scenes, and fragments were published under the originally intended name for the novel, Summer Morning, Summer Night, in 2007.
Adaptations to other media
From 1951 to 1954, 27 of Bradbury’s stories were adapted by Al Feldstein for EC Comics, and 16 of these were collected in the paperbacks, The Autumn People (1965) andTomorrow Midnight (1966), both published by Ballantine Books with cover illustrations by Frank Frazetta.
Also in the early 1950s, adaptations of Bradbury’s stories were televised in several anthology shows, including Tales of Tomorrow, Lights Out, Out There, Suspense, CBS Television Workshop, Jane Wyman’s Fireside Theatre, Star Tonight, Windows and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. “The Merry-Go-Round,” a half-hour film adaptation of Bradbury’s “The Black Ferris,” praised by Variety, was shown on Starlight Summer Theater in 1954 and NBC’s Sneak Preview in 1956. During that same period, several stories were adapted for radio drama, notably on the science fiction anthologies Dimension X and its successor X Minus One.
Producer William Alland first brought Bradbury to movie theaters in 1953 with It Came from Outer Space, a Harry Essex screenplay developed from Bradbury’s screen treatment “Atomic Monster”. Three weeks later came the release of Eugène Lourié’s The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), which featured one scene based on Bradbury’s “The Fog Horn“, about a sea monster mistaking the sound of a fog horn for the mating cry of a female. Bradbury’s close friend Ray Harryhausen produced the stop-motion animation of the creature. Bradbury would later return the favor by writing a short story, “Tyrannosaurus Rex”, about a stop-motion animator who strongly resembled Harryhausen. Over the next 50 years, more than 35 features, shorts, and TV movies were based on Bradbury’s stories or screenplays.
Bradbury was hired in 1953 by director John Huston to work on the screenplay for his film version of Melville‘s Moby Dick (1956), which stars Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab, Richard Basehart as Ishmael, and Orson Welles as Father Mapple. A significant result of the film was Bradbury’s book Green Shadows, White Whale, a semi-fictionalized account of the making of the film, including Bradbury’s dealings with Huston and his time in Ireland, where exterior scenes that were set in New Bedford, Massachusetts, were filmed.
Bradbury’s short story I Sing the Body Electric (from the book of the same name) was adapted for the 100th episode of The Twilight Zone. The episode was first aired on May 18, 1962.
In 1965, three of Bradbury’s stories were adapted for the stage. These included “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit”, “The Day It Rained Forever” and “Device Out Of Time”. The latter was adapted from his 1957 novel Dandelion Wine. The plays debuted at the Coronet Theater in Hollywood and featured Booth Coleman, Joby Baker, Fredric Villani, Arnold Lessing, Eddie Sallia, Keith Taylor, Richard Bull, Gene Otis Shane, Henry T. Delgado, F. Murray Abraham, Anne Loos and Len Lesser. The director was Charles Rome Smith and the production company was Pandemonium Productions.
Oskar Werner and Julie Christie starred in Fahrenheit 451 (1966), an adaptation of Bradbury’s novel directed by François Truffaut.
In 1966, Bradbury helped Lynn Garrison create AVIAN, a specialist aviation magazine. For the first issue Bradbury wrote a poem – Planes that land on grass.
In 1969, The Illustrated Man was brought to the big screen, starring Rod Steiger, Claire Bloom and Robert Drivas. Containing the prologue and three short stories from the book, the film received mediocre reviews. The same year, Bradbury approached composer Jerry Goldsmith, who had worked with Bradbury in dramatic radio of the 1950s and later scored the film version of The Illustrated Man, to compose a cantataChristus Apollo based on Bradbury’s text. The work premiered in late 1969, with the California Chamber Symphony performing with narrator Charlton Heston at UCLA.
In 1972 The Screaming Woman was adapted as an ABC Movie-of-the-Week starring Olivia de Havilland.
The Martian Chronicles became a three-part TV miniseries starring Rock Hudson which was first broadcast by NBC in 1980. Bradbury found the miniseries “just boring”.
The 1982 television movie, The Electric Grandmother, was based on Bradbury’s short story “I Sing the Body Electric.”
The 1983 horror film Something Wicked This Way Comes, starring Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce, is based on the Bradbury novel of the same name.
In 1984, Michael McDonough of Brigham Young University produced “Bradbury 13,” a series of 13 audio adaptations of famous stories from Bradbury, in conjunction with National Public Radio. The full-cast dramatizations featured adaptations of “The Ravine,” “Night Call, Collect,” “The Veldt“, “There Was an Old Woman,” “Kaleidoscope,” “Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed“, “The Screaming Woman,” “A Sound of Thunder,” “The Man,” “The Wind,” “The Fox and the Forest,” “Here There Be Tygers” and “The Happiness Machine”. Voiceover actor Paul Frees provided narration, while Bradbury himself was responsible for the opening voiceover; Greg Hansen and Roger Hoffman scored the episodes. The series won a Peabody Award as well as two Gold Cindy awards and was released on CD on May 1, 2010. The series began airing on BBC Radio 4 Extra on June 12, 2011.
From 1985 to 1992 Bradbury hosted a syndicated anthology television series, The Ray Bradbury Theater, for which he adapted 65 of his stories. Each episode would begin with a shot of Bradbury in his office, gazing over mementoes of his life, which he states (in narrative) are used to spark ideas for stories. During the first two seasons, Bradbury also provided additional voiceover narration specific to the featured story and appeared on screen.
Deeply respected in the USSR, Bradbury’s fictions has been adapted into five episodes of the Soviet science fiction TV series This Fantastic World which adapted the stories I Sing The Body Electric, Fahrenheit 451, A Piece of Wood, To the Chicago Abyss, and Forever and the Earth. In 1984 a cartoon adaptation of There Will Come Soft Rains («Будет ласковый дождь») came out byUzbek director Nazim Tyuhladziev. He made a film adaptation of The Veldt (“Вельд”) in 1987. In 1989 came out a cartoon adaptation of Here There Be Tygers («Здесь могут водиться тигры») by director Vladimir Samsonov.
Bradbury wrote and narrated the 1993 animated television version of The Halloween Tree, based on his 1972 novel.
The 1998 film The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, released by Touchstone Pictures, was written by Bradbury. It was based on his story “The Magic White Suit” originally published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1957. The story had also previously been adapted as a play, a musical, and a 1958 television version.
In 2002, Bradbury’s own Pandemonium Theatre Company production of Fahrenheit 451 at Burbank’s Falcon Theatre combined live acting with projected digital animation by the Pixel Pups. In 1984, Telarium released a game for Commodore 64 based on Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury and director Charles Rome Smith co-founded Pandemonium in 1964, staging the New York production of The World of Ray Bradbury(1964), adaptations of “The Pedestrian“, “The Veldt”, and “To the Chicago Abyss.”
In 2005, the film A Sound of Thunder was released, loosely based upon the short story of the same name. The film The Butterfly Effect revolves around the same theory as A Sound of Thunder and contains many references to its inspiration. Short film adaptations of A Piece of Wood and The Small Assassin were released in 2005 and 2007 respectively.
In 2005, it was reported that Bradbury was upset with filmmaker Michael Moore for using the title Fahrenheit 9/11, which is an allusion to Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, for his documentary about the George W. Bush administration. Bradbury expressed displeasure with Moore’s use of the title but stated that his resentment was not politically motivated, even though Bradbury was conservative-leaning politically. Bradbury asserted that he did not want any of the money made by the movie, nor did he believe that he deserved it. He pressured Moore to change the name, but to no avail. Moore called Bradbury two weeks before the film’s release to apologize, saying that the film’s marketing had been set in motion a long time ago and it was too late to change the title.
In 2008, the film Ray Bradbury’s Chrysalis was produced by Roger Lay Jr. for Urban Archipelago Films, based upon the short story of the same name. The film won the best feature award at the International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival in Phoenix. The film has international distribution by Arsenal Pictures and domestic distribution by Lightning Entertainment.
In 2010, The Martian Chronicles was adapted for radio by Colonial Radio Theatre on the Air.
In 2012, EDM artist deadmau5, along with guest vocalist Chris James, crafted a song called “The Veldt” inspired by Bradbury’s short story of the same title. The lyrics featured various references to the short story.
Bradbury’s works and approach to writing are documented in Terry Sanders‘ film Ray Bradbury: Story of a Writer (1963).
Bradbury’s poem “Groon” was voiced as a tribute in 2012.
Awards and honors
The Ray Bradbury Award for excellency in screenwriting was occasionally presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America – presented to six people on four occasions from 1992 to 2009. Beginning 2010, the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation is presented annually according to Nebula Awards rules and procedures, although it is not a Nebula Award. The revamped Bradbury Award replaced the Nebula Award for Best Script.
- In 1971, an impact crater on Earth’s moon was named “Dandelion Crater” by the Apollo 15 astronauts, in honor of Bradbury’s novel Dandelion Wine.
- In 1984, he received the Prometheus Award for Fahrenheit 451.
- Ray Bradbury Park was dedicated in Waukegan, Illinois in 1990. He was present for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The park contains locations described in Dandelion Wine, most notably the “113 steps”. In 2009, an interpretive panel designed by artist Michael Pavelich was added to the park detailing the history of Ray Bradbury and Ray Bradbury Park.
- An asteroid discovered in 1992 was named “9766 Bradbury” in his honor.
- In 1994, he received the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award, presented annually by the Tulsa Library Trust.
- In 1994, he won an Emmy Award for the screenplay, The Halloween Tree.
- In 2000, he was awarded the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation.
- For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Bradbury was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 1, 2002.
- In 2003, he received an honorary doctorate from Woodbury University where he presented the Ray Bradbury Creativity Award each year at Woodbury University until his death.
- On November 17, 2004, Bradbury received of the National Medal of Arts, presented by President George W. Bush and Laura Bush.
- Bradbury received a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement at the 1977 World Fantasy Convention and was named Gandalf Grand Master of Fantasy at the 1980 World Science Fiction Convention. In 1989 the Horror Writers Association gave him the fourth or fifth Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement in horror fiction and the Science Fiction Writers of America made him its 10th SFWA Grand Master. He won a First Fandom Hall of Fame Award in 1996 and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted him in 1999, its fourth class of two deceased and two living writers.
- In 2005 he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) by the National University of Ireland, Galway at a conferring ceremony in Los Angeles.
- On April 14, 2007, Bradbury received the Sir Arthur Clarke Award‘s Special Award, given by Clarke to a recipient of his choice.
- On April 16, 2007, Bradbury received a special citation by the Pulitzer Prize jury “for his distinguished, prolific, and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy.”
- In 2007, Bradbury received the French Commandeur Ordre des Arts et des Lettres medal.
- In 2008, he was named SFPA Grandmaster.
- On May 17, 2008, Bradbury received the inaugural J. Lloyd Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award in Science Fiction, presented by the UCR Libraries at the 2008 Eaton Science Fiction Conference, “Chronicling Mars”.
- In 2009, Bradbury was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Columbia College Chicago.
- In 2010, Spike TVScream AwardsComic-Con Icon Award went to Bradbury
- In 2012, the NASACuriosity rover landing site (4.5895°S 137.4417°E) on the planet Mars was named “Bradbury Landing“.
- On December 6, 2012, the Los Angeles street corner at 5th and Flower Streets was named in his honor.
- On February 24, 2013, Bradbury was honored during the 85th Academy Awards in the ‘In Memoriam’ segment.
Bradbury appeared in the documentary The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal (1985) (Produced and directed by Arnold Leibovit).
- Anderson, James Arthur (2013). The Illustrated Ray Bradbury. Wildside Press. ISBN 978-1-4794-0007-2.
- Albright, Donn (1990). Bradbury Bits & Pieces: The Ray Bradbury Bibliography, 1974–88. Starmont House. ISBN 1-55742-151-X.
- Eller, Jonathan R.; Touponce, William F. (2004). Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction. Kent State University Press. ISBN 0-87338-779-1.
- Eller, Jonathan R. (2011). Becoming Ray Bradbury. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-03629-8.
- Nolan, William F. (1975). The Ray Bradbury Companion: A Life and Career History, Photolog, and Comprehensive Checklist of Writings. Gale Research. ISBN 0-8103-0930-0.
- Paradowski, Robert J.; Rhynes, Martha E. (2001). Ray Bradbury. Salem Press.
- Reid, Robin Anne (2000). Ray Bradbury: A Critical Companion. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-30901-9.
- Tuck, Donald H. (1974). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Chicago: Advent. pp. 61–63. ISBN 0-911682-20-1.
- Weist, Jerry (2002). Bradbury, an Illustrated Life: A Journey to Far Metaphor. William Morrow and Company. ISBN 0-06-001182-3.
- Weller, Sam (2005). The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-054581-X.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury published in 1953. It is regarded as one of his best works. The novel presents a future American society where books are outlawed and “firemen” burn any that are found. The title refers to the temperature that Bradbury asserted to be the autoignition point of paper (In reality, scientists place the autoignition point of paper anywhere from high 440 degrees Fahrenheit to some 30 degrees hotter, depending on the study and type of paper).
The novel has been the subject of interpretations primarily focusing on the historical role of book burning in suppressing dissenting ideas. In a 1956 radio interview,Bradbury stated that he wrote Fahrenheit 451 because of his concerns at the time (during the McCarthy era) about the threat of book burning in the United States. In later years, he stated his motivation for writing the book in more general terms.
The novel has won multiple awards. In 1954, it won the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature and the Commonwealth Club of California Gold Medal. It has since won the Prometheus “Hall of Fame” Award in 1984 and a 1954 “Retro” Hugo Award, one of only four Best Novel Retro Hugos ever given, in 2004. Bradbury was honored with a Spoken Word Grammy nomination for his 1976 audiobook version.
The novel has been adapted several times. François Truffaut wrote and directed a film adaptation of the novel in 1966, and a BBC Radio dramatization was produced in 1982. Bradbury published a stage play version in 1979 and helped develop a 1984 interactive fiction computer game titled Fahrenheit 451. A companion piece titled A Pleasure To Burn, consisting of a selection of Bradbury’s short stories, was released in 2010, less than two years before the author’s death.
Fahrenheit 451 is set in an unspecified city (likely in the American Mid-West) at some unspecified time in the future[notes 1] after the year 1960.[notes 2]
The novel is divided into three parts: “The Hearth and the Salamander”, “The Sieve and the Sand”, and “Burning Bright”.
“The Hearth and the Salamander”
Guy Montag is a “fireman” hired to burn the possessions of those who read outlawed books. One fall night while returning from work, he meets his new neighbor: a teenage girl named Clarisse McClellan, whose free-thinking ideals and liberating spirit cause him to question his life and his own perceived happiness. Montag returns home to find that his wife Mildred has overdosed on sleeping pills, and calls for medical attention. Mildred survives with no memory of what happened. Over the next days, Clarisse faithfully meets Montag as he walks home. She tells him about how her interests have made her an outcast at school. Montag looks forward to these meetings, and just as he begins to expect them, Clarisse goes absent. He senses something is wrong.
In the following days, while at work with the other firemen ransacking the book-filled house of an old woman before the inevitable burning, Montag steals a book before any of his coworkers notice. The woman refuses to leave her house and her books, choosing instead to light a match and burn herself alive. Montag returns home jarred by the woman’s suicide. While getting ready for bed, he hides the stolen book under his pillow. Still shaken by the night’s events, he attempts to make conversation with Mildred, conversation that only causes him to realize how little he knows her and how little they have in common. Montag asks his wife if she has seen Clarisse recently. Mildred mutters that she believes Clarisse died after getting struck by a speeding car and that her family has moved away. Dismayed by her failure to mention this, Montag uneasily tries to fall asleep. Outside he suspects the presence of “The Hound”, an eight-legged robotic dog-like creature that resides in the firehouse and aids the firemen.
Montag awakens ill the next morning and stays home from work. He relates the story of the burned woman to an apathetic Mildred and mentions perhaps quitting his work. The possibility of becoming destitute over the loss of income provokes a strong reaction from her and she explains that the woman herself is to blame because she had books.
Captain Beatty, Montag’s fire chief, personally visits Montag to see how he is doing. Sensing Montag’s concerns, Beatty recounts how books lost their value and where the firemen fit in: Over the course of several decades, people embraced new media, sports, and a quickening pace of life. Books were ruthlessly abridged or degraded to accommodate a short attention span while minority groups protested over the controversial, outdated content perceived to be found in books. The government took advantage of this and the firemen were soon hired to burn books in the name of public happiness. Beatty adds casually that all firemen eventually steal a book out of curiosity; if the book is burned within 24 hours, the fireman and his family will not get in trouble.
After Beatty has left, Montag reveals to Mildred that over the last year he has accumulated a stash of books that he has kept hidden in their air-conditioning duct. In a panic, Mildred grabs a book and rushes to throw it in their kitchen incinerator; Montag subdues her and tells her that the two of them are going to read the books to see if they have value. If they do not, he promises the books will be burned and all will return to normal.
“The Sieve and the Sand”
While Montag and Mildred are perusing the stolen books, a sniffing occurs at their front door. Montag recognizes it as The Hound while Mildred passes it off as a random dog. They resume their discussion once the sound ceases. Montag laments Mildred’s suicide attempt, the woman who burned herself, and the constant din of bombers flying over their house taking part in a looming war neither he, nor anybody else, knows much about. He states that maybe the books of the past have messages that can save society from its own destruction. The conversation is interrupted by a call from Mildred’s friend Ann Bowles, and they set up a date to watch the “parlor walls” (large televisions lining the walls of her living room) that night at Mildred’s house.
Montag meanwhile concedes that they will need help to understand the books. Montag remembers an old man named Faber he once met in a park a year ago, an English professor before books were banned. He telephones Faber with questions about books and Faber soon hangs up on him. Undeterred, Montag makes a subway trip to Faber’s home along with a rare copy of the Bible, the book he stole at the woman’s house. Montag forces the scared and reluctant Faber into helping him by methodically ripping pages from the Bible. Faber concedes and gives Montag a homemade ear-piece communicator so he can offer constant guidance.
After Montag returns home, Mildred’s friends, Mrs. Bowles and Clara Phelps, arrive to watch the parlor walls. Not interested in the insipid entertainment they are watching, Montag turns off the walls and tries to engage the women in meaningful conversation, only to find them indifferent to all but the most trivial aspects of the upcoming war, friend’s deaths, their families, and politics. Montag leaves momentarily and returns with a book of poetry. This confuses the women and alarms Faber who is listening remotely. He proceeds to recite the poem Dover Beach, causing Mrs. Phelps to cry. At the behest of Faber in the ear-piece, Montag burns the book. Mildred’s friends leave in disgust while Mildred locks herself in the bathroom and takes more sleeping pills.
In the aftermath of the parlor party, Montag hides his books in his backyard before returning to the firehouse late at night with just the stolen Bible. He finds Beatty playing cards with the other firemen. Montag hands him the book, which is unceremoniously tossed into the trash. Beatty tells Montag that he had a dream in which they fought endlessly by quoting books to each other. In describing the dream Beatty reveals that, despite his disillusionment, he was once an enthusiastic reader. A fire alarm sounds and Beatty picks up the address from the dispatcher system. They drive in the firetruck recklessly to the destination. Montag is stunned when the truck arrives at his house.
Beatty orders Montag to destroy his own house, telling him that his wife and her friends were the ones who reported him. Montag tries to talk to Mildred as she quickly leaves the house. Mildred ignores him, gets inside a taxi, and vanishes down the street. Montag obeys the chief, destroying the home piece by piece with a flamethrower. As soon as he has incinerated the house, Beatty discovers Montag’s ear-piece and plans to hunt down Faber. Montag threatens Beatty with the flamethrower and (after Beatty taunts him) burns his boss alive, and knocks his coworkers unconscious. As Montag escapes the scene, the firehouse’s mechanical dog attacks him, managing to inject his leg with a tranquilizer. He destroys it with the flamethrower and limps away.
Montag runs through the city streets towards Faber’s house. Faber urges him to make his way to the countryside and contact the exiled book-lovers who live there. He mentions he will be leaving on an early bus heading to St. Louis and that he and Montag can rendezvous there later. On Faber’s television, they watch news reports of another mechanical hound being released, with news helicopters following it to create a public spectacle. Montag leaves Faber’s house. After an extended manhunt, he escapes by wading into a river and floating downstream.
Montag leaves the river in the countryside, where he meets the exiled drifters, led by a man named Granger. They have each memorized books for an upcoming time when society is ready to rediscover them. While learning the philosophy of the exiles, Montag and the group watch helplessly as bombers fly overhead and attack the city with nuclear weapons, completely annihilating it. While Faber would have left on the early bus, Mildred along with everyone else in the city was surely killed. Montag and the group are injured and dirtied, but manage to survive the shock wave.
In the morning after, Granger teaches Montag and the others about the legendary phoenix and its endless cycle of long life, death in flames, and rebirth. He adds that the phoenix must have some relation to mankind, which constantly repeats its mistakes. Granger emphasizes that man has something the phoenix does not: mankind can remember the mistakes it made from before it destroyed itself, and try to not make them again. Granger then muses that a large factory of mirrors should be built, so that mankind can take a long look at itself. When the meal is over, the band goes back toward the city, to help rebuild society.
- Guy Montag is the protagonist and fireman who presents the dystopia through the eyes of a worker loyal to it, a man in conflict about it, and one resolved to be free of it. Through most of the book, Montag lacks knowledge and believes what he hears.
- Clarisse McClellan walks with Montag on his trips home and is one month short of being a 17-year-old girl.[notes 3] She is an unusual sort of person in the bookless, hedonistic society: outgoing, naturally cheerful, unorthodox, and intuitive. She is unpopular among peers and disliked by teachers for asking “why” instead of “how” and focusing on nature rather than on technology. A few days after their first meeting, she disappears without any explanation; Mildred tells Montag (and Captain Beatty confirms) that Clarisse was hit by a speeding car and that her family left following her death. In the afterword of a later edition, Bradbury notes that the film adaptation changed the ending so that Clarisse (who, in the film, is now a 20-year-old school teacher who was fired for being unorthodox) was living with the exiles. Bradbury, far from being displeased by this, was so happy with the new ending that he wrote it into his later stage edition.
- Mildred “Millie” Montag is Guy Montag’s wife. She is addicted to sleeping pills, absorbed in the shallow dramas played on her “parlor walls” (flat-panel televisions), and indifferent to the oppressive society around her. She is described in the book as “thin as a praying mantis from dieting, and her flesh like white bacon.” Despite her husband’s attempts to break her from the spell society has on her, Mildred continues to be shallow and indifferent. After Montag scares her friends away by reading Dover Beach and unable to live with someone who has been hoarding books, Mildred betrays Montag by reporting him to the firemen and abandoning him.
- Captain Beatty is Montag’s boss. Once an avid reader, he has come to hate books due to their unpleasant content and contradicting facts and opinions. In a scene written years later by Bradbury for theFahrenheit 451 play, Beatty invites Montag to his house where he shows him walls of books left to molder on their shelves.
- Stoneman and Black are Montag’s coworkers at the firehouse. They do not have a large impact on the story and function to show the reader the contrast between the firemen who obediently do as they’re told and someone like Montag, who formerly took pride in his job—subsequently realizing how damaging it is to society.
- Faber is a former English professor. He has spent years regretting that he did not defend books when he saw the moves to ban them. Montag turns to him for guidance, remembering him from a chance meeting in a park some time earlier. Faber at first refuses to help Montag, and later realizes that he is only trying to learn about books, not destroy them. Bradbury notes in his afterword that Faber is part of the name of a German manufacturer of pencils, Faber-Castell.
- Mrs. Ann Bowles and Mrs. Clara Phelps are Mildred’s friends and representative of the anti-intellectual, hedonistic society presented in the novel. During a social visit to Montag’s house, they brag about ignoring the bad things in their lives and have a cavalier attitude towards the upcoming war, their husbands, their children, and politics. Mrs. Phelps has a husband named Pete who was called in to fight in the upcoming war (and believes that he’ll be back in a week because of how quick the war will be) and thinks having children serves no purpose other than to ruin lives. Mrs. Bowles is a thrice married, single mother. Her first husband divorced her, her second died in a jet accident, and her third committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. She has two children who do not like or even respect her due to her permissive, often negligent and abusive parenting: Mrs. Bowles brags that her kids beat her up and she’s glad that she can hit back. When Montag reads Dover Beach to them, Mrs. Phelps starts crying over how hollow her life is while Mrs. Bowles chastises Montag for reading “silly awful hurting words”.
- Granger is the leader of a group of wandering intellectual exiles who memorize books in order to preserve their contents.
Bradbury’s lifelong passion with books began at an early age. As a frequent visitor to his local libraries in the 1920s and 1930s, he recalls being disappointed because they did not stock popular science fiction novels, like those of H. G. Wells, because, at the time, they were not deemed literary enough. Between this and learning about the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, a great impression was made on the young man about the vulnerability of books to censure and destruction. Later as a teenager, Bradbury was horrified by the Nazi book burnings and later Joseph Stalin‘s campaign of political repression, the “Great Purge“, in which writers and poets, among many others, were arrested and often executed.
After the 1945 conclusion of World War II shortly after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United States focused its concern on the Soviet atomic bomb project and the expansion of communism. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC)—formed in 1938 to investigate American citizens and organizations suspected of having communist ties—held hearings in 1947 to investigate alleged communist influence in Hollywood movie-making. These hearings resulted in the blacklisting of the so-called “Hollywood Ten“, a group of influential screenwriters and directors. This governmental interference in the affairs of artists and creative types greatly angered Bradbury. Bitter and concerned about the workings of his government, a late 1949 nighttime encounter with an overzealous police officer would inspire Bradbury to write “The Pedestrian“, a short story which would go on to become “The Fireman” and then Fahrenheit 451. The rise of Senator Joseph McCarthy‘s hearings hostile to accused communists starting in 1950, would only deepen Bradbury’s contempt over government overreach.
The same year HUAC began investigating Hollywood is often considered the beginning of the Cold War, as in March 1947, the Truman Doctrine was announced. By about 1950, the Cold War was in full swing and the American public’s fear of atomic warfare and communist influence was at a feverish level. The stage was set for Bradbury to write the dramatic nuclear holocaust ending of Fahrenheit 451, exemplifying the type of scenario feared by many Americans of the time.
Bradbury’s early life witnessed the Golden Age of Radio while the transition to the Golden Age of Television began right around the time he started to work on the stories that would eventually lead to Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury saw these forms of media as a threat to the reading of books, indeed as a threat to society, as he believed they could act as a distraction from important affairs. This contempt for mass media and technology would express itself through Mildred and her friends and is an important theme in the book.
Writing and development
Fahrenheit 451 developed out of a series of ideas Bradbury had visited in previously written stories. For many years, he tended to single out “The Pedestrian” in interviews and lectures as sort of a proto-Fahrenheit 451. In the Preface of his 2006 anthology Match to Flame: The Fictional Paths to Fahrenheit 451 he states that this is an oversimplification. The full genealogy of Fahrenheit 451 given in Match to Flame is involved. The following covers the most salient aspects.
Between 1947 and 1948, Bradbury wrote the short story “Bright Phoenix” (not published until the May 1963 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction) about a librarian who confronts a book-burning “Chief Censor” named Jonathan Barnes. Barnes is a clear foreshadow of the ominous Captain Beatty of Fahrenheit 451.
In late 1949, Bradbury was stopped and questioned by a police officer while walking late one night. When asked “What are you doing?”, Bradbury wisecracked, “Putting one foot in front of another.”This incident inspired Bradbury to write the 1951 short story “The Pedestrian”.[notes 4] In “The Pedestrian”, Leonard Mead is harassed and detained by the city’s remotely operated police cruiser (there’s only one) for taking nighttime walks, something that has become extremely rare in this future-based setting: everybody else stays inside and watches television (“viewing screens”). Alone and without an alibi, Mead is taken to the “Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies” for his peculiar habit. Fahrenheit 451 would later echo this theme of an authoritarian society distracted by broadcast media.
Bradbury expanded the book-burning premise of “Bright Phoenix” and the totalitarian future of “The Pedestrian” into “The Fireman”, a novella published in the February 1951 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. “The Fireman” was written in the basement of UCLA‘s Powell Library on a typewriter that he rented for a fee of ten cents per half hour. The first draft was 25,000 words long and was completed in nine days.
Urged by a publisher at Ballantine Books to double the length of his story to make a novel, Bradbury returned to the same typing room and expanded his work into Fahrenheit 451, taking just nine days. The completed book was published by Ballantine in 1953.
Bradbury has supplemented the novel with various front and back matter, including a 1979 coda, a 1982 afterword, a 1993 foreword, and several introductions. In these he provides some commentary on the themes of the novel, thoughts on the movie adaptation, and numerous personal anecdotes related to the writing and development.
The first U.S. printing was a paperback version from October 1953 by The Ballantine Publishing Group. Shortly after the paperback, a hardback version was released that included a special edition of 200 signed and numbered copies bound in asbestos. These were technically collections because the novel was published with two short stories: “The Playground” and “And the Rock Cried Out”, which have been absent in later printings. A few months later, the novel was serialized in the March, April, and May 1954 issues of nascent Playboy magazine.
Starting in January 1967, Fahrenheit 451 was subject to expurgation by its publisher, Ballantine Books with the release of the “Bal-Hi Edition” aimed at high school students. Among the changes made by the publisher were the censorship of the words “hell”, “damn”, and “abortion”; the modification of seventy-five passages; and the changing of two episodes. In the one case, a drunk man became a “sick man” while cleaning fluff out of a human navel became “cleaning ears” in the other. For a while both the censored and uncensored versions were available concurrently but by 1973 Ballantine was publishing only the censored version. This continued until 1979 when it came to Bradbury’s attention:
In 1979, one of Bradbury’s friends showed him an expurgated copy. Bradbury demanded that Ballantine Books withdraw that version and replace it with the original, and in 1980 the original version once again became available. In this reinstated work, in the Author’s Afterword, Bradbury relates to the reader that it is not uncommon for a publisher to expurgate an author’s work, but he asserts that he himself will not tolerate the practice of manuscript “mutilation”.
The “Bal-Hi” editions are now referred to by the publisher as the “Revised Bal-Hi” editions.
An audiobook version read by Bradbury himself was released in 1976 and received a Spoken Word Grammy nomination. Another audiobook was released in 2005 narrated by Christopher Hurt. The e-bookversion was released in December 2011.
In 1954, Galaxy Science Fiction reviewer Groff Conklin placed the novel “among the great works of the imagination written in English in the last decade or more.” The Chicago Sunday Tribune‘s August Derlethdescribed the book as “a savage and shockingly savage prophetic view of one possible future way of life,” calling it “compelling” and praising Bradbury for his “brilliant imagination”. Over half a century later, Sam Weller wrote, “upon its publication, Fahrenheit 451 was hailed as a visionary work of social commentary.” Today, Fahrenheit 451 is still viewed as an important cautionary tale against conformity and book burning.
When the book was first published there were those who did not find merit in the tale. Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas were less enthusiastic, faulting the book for being “simply padded, occasionally with startlingly ingenious gimmickry, … often with coruscating cascades of verbal brilliance [but] too often merely with words.” Reviewing the book for Astounding Science Fiction, P. Schuyler Miller characterized the title piece as “one of Bradbury’s bitter, almost hysterical diatribes,” and praised its “emotional drive and compelling, nagging detail.” Similarly, The New York Times was unimpressed with the novel and further accused Bradbury of developing a “virulent hatred for many aspects of present-day culture, namely, such monstrosities as radio, TV, most movies, amateur and professional sports, automobiles, and other similar aberrations which he feels debase the bright simplicity of the thinking man’s existence.”
In the years since its publication, Fahrenheit 451 has occasionally been banned, censored, or redacted in some schools by parents and teaching staff either unaware of or indifferent to the inherent irony of such censorship. The following are some notable incidents:
- In 1987, Fahrenheit 451 was given “third tier” status by the Bay County School Board in Panama City, Florida, under then-superintendent Leonard Hall’s new three-tier classification system. Third tier was meant for books to be removed from the classroom for “a lot of vulgarity”. After a resident class-action lawsuit, a media stir, and student protests, the school board abandoned their tier-based censorship system and approved all the currently used books.
- In 1992, Venado Middle School in Irvine, California gave copies of Fahrenheit 451 to students with all “obscene” words blacked out. Parents contacted the local media and succeeded in reinstalling the uncensored copies.
- In 2006, parents of a tenth grade high school student in Montgomery County, Texas, demanded the book be banned from their daughter’s English class reading list. Their daughter was assigned the book during Banned Books Week, but stopped reading several pages in due to the offensive language and description of the burning of the Bible. In addition, her parents protested the violence, portrayal of Christians, and depictions of firemen in the novel.
Discussions about Fahrenheit 451 often center on its story foremost as a warning against state-based censorship. Indeed, when Bradbury wrote the novel during the McCarthy era, he was concerned about censorship in the United States. During a radio interview in 1956, Bradbury said:
I wrote this book at a time when I was worried about the way things were going in this country four years ago. Too many people were afraid of their shadows; there was a threat of book burning. Many of the books were being taken off the shelves at that time. And of course, things have changed a lot in four years. Things are going back in a very healthy direction. But at the time I wanted to do some sort of story where I could comment on what would happen to a country if we let ourselves go too far in this direction, where then all thinking stops, and the dragon swallows his tail, and we sort of vanish into a limbo and we destroy ourselves by this sort of action.
As time went by, Bradbury tended to dismiss censorship as a chief motivating factor for writing the story. Instead he usually claimed that the real messages of Fahrenheit 451 were about the dangers of an illiterate society infatuated with mass media and the threat of minority and special interest groups to books. In the late 1950s, Bradbury recounted:
In writing the short novel Fahrenheit 451, I thought I was describing a world that might evolve in four or five decades. But only a few weeks ago, in Beverly Hills one night, a husband and wife passed me, walking their dog. I stood staring after them, absolutely stunned. The woman held in one hand a small cigarette-package-sized radio, its antenna quivering. From this sprang tiny copper wires which ended in a dainty cone plugged into her right ear. There she was, oblivious to man and dog, listening to far winds and whispers and soap-opera cries, sleep-walking, helped up and down curbs by a husband who might just as well not have been there. This was not fiction.
This story echoes Mildred’s “Seashell ear-thimbles” (i.e., a brand of in-ear headphones) that act as an emotional barrier between her and Montag. In a 2007 interview, Bradbury maintained that people misinterpret his book and that Fahrenheit 451 is really a statement on how mass media like television marginalizes the reading of literature. Regarding minorities, he wrote in his 1979 Coda:
There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist/Unitarian, Irish/Italian/Octogenarian/Zen Buddhist, Zionist/Seventh-day Adventist, Women’s Lib/Republican, Mattachine/Four Square Gospel feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. […] Fire-Captain Beatty, in my novel Fahrenheit 451, described how the books were burned first by minorities, each ripping a page or a paragraph from this book, then that, until the day came when the books were empty and the minds shut and the libraries closed forever. […] Only six weeks ago, I discovered that, over the years, some cubby-hole editors at Ballantine Books, fearful of contaminating the young, had, bit by bit, censored some seventy-five separate sections from the novel. Students, reading the novel, which, after all, deals with censorship and book-burning in the future, wrote to tell me of this exquisite irony. Judy-Lynn del Rey, one of the new Ballantine editors, is having the entire book reset and republished this summer with all the damns and hells back in place.
Book-burning censorship, Bradbury would argue, was a side-effect of the these two primary factors; this is consistent with Captain Beatty’s speech to Montag about the history of the firemen. According to Bradbury, it is the people, not the state, who are the culprit in Fahrenheit 451. Nevertheless, the role on censorship, state-based or otherwise, is still perhaps the most frequent theme explored in the work.
A variety of other themes in the novel besides censorship have been suggested. Two major themes are resistance to conformity and control of individuals via technology and mass media. Bradbury explores how the government is able to use mass media to influence society and suppress individualism through book burning. The characters Beatty and Faber point out the American population is to blame. Due to their constant desire for a simplistic, positive image, books must be suppressed. Beatty blames the minority groups, who would take offense to published works that displayed them in an unfavorable light. Faber went further to state that the American population simply stopped reading on their own. He notes that the book burnings themselves became a form of entertainment to the general public.
Predictions for the future
Bradbury described himself as “a preventor of futures, not a predictor of them.” He did not believe that book burning was an inevitable part of our future; he wanted to warn against its development. In a later interview, when asked if he believes that teaching Fahrenheit 451 in schools will prevent his totalitarian vision of the future, Bradbury replied in the negative. Rather, he states that education must be at the kindergarten and first-grade level. If students are unable to read then, they will be unable to read Fahrenheit 451.
In terms of technology, Sam Weller notes that Bradbury “predicted everything from flat-panel televisions to iPod earbuds and twenty-four-hour banking machines.”
Playhouse 90 broadcast “A Sound of Different Drummers” on CBS in 1957, written by Robert Alan Aurthur. The play combined plot ideas from Fahrenheit 451 and Nineteen Eighty-Four. Bradbury sued and eventually won on appeal.
A film adaptation written and directed by François Truffaut and starring Oskar Werner and Julie Christie was released in 1966.
BBC Radio produced a one-off dramatization of the novel in 1982 starring Michael Pennington. It was broadcast again on February 12, 2012, and April 7 and 8, 2013, on BBC Radio 4 Extra.
In 1984, the novel was adapted into a computer text adventure game of the same name by the software company Trillium.
In 2006, the Drama Desk Award winning Godlight Theatre Company produced and performed the New York City premiere of Ray Bradbury‘s Fahrenheit 451 at 59E59 Theaters. After the completion of the New York run, the production then transferred to the Edinburgh Festival where it was a 2006 Edinburgh Festival Pick of the Fringe.
The Off-Broadway theatre The American Place Theatre presented a one man show adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 as a part of their 2008–2009 Literature to Life season.
In June 2009, a graphic novel edition of the book was published. Entitled Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation, the paperback graphic adaptation was illustrated by Tim Hamilton. The introduction in the novel is written by Bradbury.
Fahrenheit 451 inspired the Birmingham Repertory Theatre production Time Has Fallen Asleep in the Afternoon Sunshine, which was performed at the Birmingham Central Library in April 2012.
- Jump up^ During Captain Beatty’s recounting of the history of the firemen to Montag, he says, “Out of the nursery into the college and back to the nursery; there’s your intellectual pattern for the past five centuries or more.” The text is ambiguous regarding which century he is claiming began this pattern. One interpretation is that he means the 20th century, which would place the novel in at least the 24th century. “The Fireman” novella, which was expanded to become Fahrenheit 451, is set in October 2052.
- Jump up^ In early editions of the book, Montag says, “We’ve started and won two atomic wars since 1960” in the first pages of The Sieve and the Sand. This sets a lower bound on the time setting. In later decades, some editions have changed this year to 1990 or 2022.
- Jump up^ Clarisse tells Montag she is “seventeen and crazy”, later admitting that she will actually be seventeen “next month”.
- Jump up^ “The Pedestrian” would go on to be published in The Reporter magazine on August 7, 1951, that is, after the publication in February 1951 of its inspired work “The Fireman”.