“Stuff your eyes with wonder. Live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that . Shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass.” ~ from Fahrenheit 451
It appears that Ray Bradbury has truly lived by his own advice. The inimitable writer of dystopian science fiction classics, including The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Dandelion Wine turns 91 today.
Bradbury grew up in a working class family in Illinois. His education was his own creation. He argues,
“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.”
When Ray was 13, his family moved from Waukegan, Illinois to Los Angeles, California. There, even though he did not attend UCLA, he did make frequent visits to the Powell Library. It was at that library, on rented typewriters, that Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451.
When he was just 18, Bradbury’s first science fiction short stories were published in fanzines. By the time he was 22, in 1942, he was being paid. A chance meeting with Christopher Isherwood got his manuscript for The Martian Chronicles into the proper hands.
The adaptations of Ray Bradbury’s work are almost endless. His short stories and novels have been transformed into comic books, into television scripts (notably “I Sing the Body Electric” for The Twilight Zone) and into major motion pictures. All in all, Bradbury’s work has been transformed into thirty-five films and shorts.
In 2000, Bradbury sat down with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air and talked about his extensive body of work and some of his quirks (for example, he never obtained a driver’s license and is afraid to fly). In 2007, the Pulitzer board commended the author with a special citation “for his distinguished, prolific, and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy.”
Bradbury continues to write and lecture. So think about that when you want to whine that something is too hard or you are too old. Happy birthday, rocket man.