Selected from Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed (1991)
Quicker Than the Eye (1996)
Driving Blind (1997)
Ray Bradbury Collected Short Stories (2001)
One More for the Road (2002)
Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales (2003)
The Cat's Pajamas: Stories (2004)
A Sound of Thunder and Other Stories (2005)
The Dragon Who Ate His Tail (2007)
Summer Morning, Summer Night (2007)
A Pleasure to Burn (2010)
The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury (2011, 2014)
The Meadow (1947)
The Flying Machine: A One-Act Play for Three Men (1953)
The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit and Other Plays (1972)
Pillar of Fire and Other Plays (1975)
The Martian Chronicles (1986)
The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit (1986)
Fahrenheit 451 (1986)
Dandelion Wine (1988)
The Veldt (1988)
Ray Bradbury was a child of the Midwest. Born in Waukegan, Illinois in 1920, Bradbury spent his formative years playing in ravines, collecting Buck Rodgers comics from the local newspaper, and haunting the public library. In this small corner of what many regard as “fly over country” Bradbury’s gothic imagination ignited and then exploded onto the pages of pulp fiction magazines. And what sparked this remarkable imagination? His hometown where he met Lon Chaney on the silver screen at his local theater. The man of 1,000 faces terrified a very young Bradbury, and Bradbury loved him for it. This love lasted a lifetime. According to Bradbury, Chaney “was someone who acted out our psyches. He somehow got into the shadows inside our bodies; he was able to nail down some of our secret fears and put them on-screen.” Bradbury explained that “the history of Lon Chaney is the history of unrequited loves. He brings that part of you out into the open, because you fear that you are not loved, you fear that you never will be loved, you fear there is some part of you that’s grotesque, that the world will turn away from.”
Compare Bradbury’s description of Chaney’s genius to how Damon Knight described Bradbury’s weird tales
Bradbury’s strength lies in the fact that he writes about things that are really important to us—not the things that we pretend to be interested in—but the fundamental prerational fears and longings and desires: the rage at being born; the will to be loved; the longing to communicate; the hatred of parents and siblings, the fear of things that are not the self.
Bradbury’s deeply affectionate nostalgia for his Midwestern roots helped him reach international acclaim for his ability to reimagine the American gothic tradition and the dark fantastic. Many of his eerie tales, after all, take place in Green Town—a setting patterned after his childhood hometown which is located only an hour outside of Chicago. Horror writers from Stephen King and Peter Straub to Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, and Dan Chaon were particularly influenced by Bradbury’s ability to refashion gothic tale settings in Midwestern American small towns and suburbs. Other notable authors such as Margaret Atwood, Steven Barnes, Charles Johnson, Michael Chabon, and the recent two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead were all inspired by Bradbury’s imagination, style, and ability to cleverly depict human encounters with the unknown.
While Bradbury’s professional writing career unfolded in Los Angeles, California, he started writing at age 12, several years before the Great Depression forced his family to look for work outside of Bradbury’s beloved hometown. Waukegan is where he met Mr. Electrico—the mysterious carnival actor who commanded an adolescent Bradbury to “live forever!” It was here that Bradbury discovered how to become immortal: by living alongside his favorite authors on the bookshelves. His quest for immortality launched Ray Bradbury’s seven-decade career—a career that intersected an impressively broad spectrum of American cultural history. In addition to becoming one of the most well-known writer’s of our time, Bradbury was deeply connected with Hollywood, where his stories and books were adapted for feature films and television. But his influence reached even broader cultural stages as he wrote for radio, film, television, and stage theater production. Throughout his life he defended public libraries and First Amendment rights, and eventually became one of the most prominent public advocates for space exploration. Bradbury is most well-known for his fiction, having published more than 400 stories and 27 book-length works, including The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, The Golden Apples of the Sun, The October Country, Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Fahrenheit 451. In these works, he engaged real-world issues such as racial and political intolerance, freedom of the imagination, the threat of nuclear war, the need to fund the American Space program, and the vital importance of literacy.
Bradbury’s most famous work, Fahrenheit 451—a classic tale of authoritarian government overreach and cultural devaluing of literacy culminating in censorship and book burning—remains a best seller after nearly seven decades in print. In 2006, Fahrenheit 451 became a primary reading selection of the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read program. Other Bradbury works, particularly his short stories, have been published in over 1000 literary anthologies featured in the curriculum of schools throughout the United States.
Infusing his work with prose poems and rich metaphors, Bradbury used his literary craft to probe the human condition, often bypassing the technological terrain of more traditional “hard science fiction” narratives. His unconventional approach to genre fiction, shirking the formulas used by his contemporaries when writing for pulp fiction magazines, propelled Ray Bradbury to new heights as he became a catalyst for bringing the often-marginalized science fiction genre into the literary mainstream.
Yet, in spite of all of these accomplishments, Ray Bradbury never forgot where he came from. Green Town is an “everytown”—a fictional place that will seem familiar to anyone who grew up in a Midwestern small town residing in the shadow of a large city. Bradbury captures this sense of place eloquently in his Green Town novels—Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Farewell, Summer—and numerous short stories. And while most of Bradbury’s Midwestern tales take place in small towns, it’s clear that he also looked fondly on Chicago. He grew up hearing his grandfather tell stories about the World’s Columbian Exposition that Chicago hosted in 1893. In 1933, around the time Bradbury met Mr. Electrico and a few years after his silver screen idol, Lon Chaney, passed away, he spent some time at A Century of Progress International Exposition, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair, which celebrated the city’s centennial. Against the backdrop of the Great Depression, which would soon displace Ray Bradbury and his family from their home in Waukegan, the fair provided an experience of much-needed optimism by imagining a brighter, not-to-distant future. Decades later, Bradbury would write a short story about a bleak, post-apocalyptic future riddled with 1984-esque government overreach and surveillance. In that dark future, it is illegal to reminisce about the past, about better times. But in that setting there is one place on the North American continent where those who wish to recall aloud and dream of better days are safe and off-the-grid—the ruined city of Chicago. It’s not hard to imagine that Bradbury’s experience at the Chicago World’s Fair inspired him to write “To the Chicago Abyss” which appears in his collection The Machineries of Joy. The optimism of that Fair is replete in Bradbury’s stories—whether they be set on Mars, Venus, abandoned sets in Hollywood studio lots, or a charming, oft-overlooked, small town.