Best known for his 1953 dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 and 1950's The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury is widely considered one of the greatest and most popular American writers of speculative fiction during the twentieth century.
Ray Bradbury's popularity has been increased by more than 20 television shows and films using his writings (see below, Adaptations of his work).
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. Here 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.
On another occasion, Bradbury observed that the novel 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.
Besides his fiction work, Bradbury has written many short essays on the arts and culture, attracting the attention of critics in this field. Bradbury was a consultant for the American Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair and the original exhibit housed in Epcot's Spaceship Earth geosphere at Walt Disney World .
Bradbury was a close friend of Charles Addams and collaborated with him on the creation of the macabre "Family" enjoyed by New Yorker readers for many years and later popularized as The Addams Family. Bradbury called them the Elliotts and placed them in rural Illinois. His first story about them was "Homecoming," published in the New Yorker Halloween issue for 1946, with Addams illustrations. He and Addams planned a larger collaborative work that would tell the family's complete history, but it never materialized. 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.
Bradbury was a friend of Charles Addams and they did collaborate, but in a 2001 interview Bradbury clearly states that they went their own separate ways, with Bradbury creating the Elliott Family and Addams creating the Addams family. http://www.indiebound.org/author-interviews/bradburyray
Also in the early 1950s, adaptations of Bradbury's stories were televised on a variety of 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.
Director Jack Arnold first brought Bradbury to movie theaters in 1953 with It Came from Outer Space, a Harry Essex screenplay developed from Bradbury's screen treatment, "The Meteor". Three weeks later, Eugène Lourié's The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953), 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, was released. 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.
In 1969, The Illustrated Man was brought to the big screen, starring Oscar winner Rod Steiger, Claire Bloom & Robert Drivas. Containing the prologue, and three short stories from the book, the film received mediocre reviews.
In 1984, Michael McDonough of Brigham Young University produced "Bradbury 13," a series of thirteen audio adaptations of famous Ray Bradbury stories, in conjunction with National Public Radio. The full-cast dramatizations featured adaptations of "The Man," "The Ravine," "Night Call, Collect," "The Veldt," "Kaleidoscope," "There Was an Old Woman," "Here There Be Tygers," "Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed," "The Wind," "The Fox and the Forest," "The Happiness Machine," "The Screaming Woman" and "A Sound of Thunder". 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. The series has not yet been released on CD but is heavily traded by fans of "old time radio".
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.
Five episodes of the USSR science fiction TV series This Fantastic World adapted Ray Bradbury's stories I Sing The Body Electric, Fahrenheit 451, A Piece of Wood, To the Chicago Abyss and Forever and the Earth. And a Soviet adaptation of "The Veldt" was filmed in 1987.
The 1998 film The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, released by Touchstone Pictures, was written by Ray 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 video 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."