Ray Bradbury: Literary Influences
Ray Bradbury: Literary Influences
Ray Bradbury, one of the most revered science-fiction authors, has had
many things occur in his life which directly influenced his style of writing. In
addition to influencing his style, these events also affected the content and theme
of his individual works. Putting all of this aside, however, if these specific events
did not occur in Bradbury's life, he would not have become a science-fiction
Throughout his childhood, Bradbury was exposed to many types of
literature. While living in Waukegan, Illinois at the age of six, Bradbury's Aunt
read him the Oz books. Also at this early age, Bradbury was encouraged to read
the classic Norse, Roman, and Greek myths (Johnson 1). "When he grew old
enough to choose his own reading material, the boy rapidly developed a fondness
for the stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs and the comic book heroes Flash Gordon,
Buck Rogers, and Prince Valiant." (Johnson 1). It was these comic book heroes
who fueled Bradbury's fondness for science fiction. After moving to Tucson,
Arizona Bradbury got a job a local radio station because of his experience in
Waukegan as an amateur magician. "'I was on the radio every Saturday night
reading comic book strips to the kiddies and being paid in free movie tickets, to
local cinema, where I saw 'The Mummy,' 'The Murders in the Wax Museum,'
'Dracula' ...and 'King Kong.'" (Johnson 2). In reference to his one year in Tucson
Arizona, Bradbury recalls "'It was one of the greatest years of my life because I
was acting and singing in operettas and writing, beginning to write my first short
stories.'" (Johnson 2). After graduating from high school, Bradbury bought a
typewriter and rented an office with the money saved from selling newspapers.
While in his early twenties, Bradbury sold one science-fiction short stories every
month for four years. He was paid $20 for each story. "Bradbury sold some of his
first stories in 1945 to magazines such as Collier's, Charm, and Mademoiselle."
(Kunitz and Haycraft 111,112).
Ray Bradbury had a number of literary influences. "At its best, Bradbury's
prose combines influences from a wide variety of writers, as well as other
media-films, radio, and theater." (Mogen 27). "Indeed, when he first set up
business as a writer, Bradbury spent several years in what he calls his 'imitative
period,' sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously adopting the tone and
manner of writers he admired." (Mogen 27). After tapping into his own life
experiences for subject matter and theme, Bradbury discovered his own literary
voice. Bradbury feels this process began in 1942 when he wrote "The Lake," a
story based on memories of childhood sweetheart (Mogen 27).
This personal memory is raw stuff of writers. This is the stuff you
go to, if you want to write original weird stories. We're told all this
stuff, you know, to go to the literature of Poe, to go to Hawthorne.
This is all nonsense. These people dug their own symbols, their own
needs, and their own terrors out of themselves, and got it on paper.
They didn't get it from anyone else. When I made that magical discovery,
then I began to write original weird stories (Mogen 27).
"Though his 'magical discovery' was that his own experience, especially his
childhood in Waukegan, was a rich source of artistic material, Bradbury has paid
tribute throughout his career to those artists and art forms that have most strongly
influenced him." (Mogen 28).
When he was eighteen, Bradbury read a book called Becoming a Writer, by
Dorothea Brande. "Bradbury recalls that Becoming a Writer 'helped change my
life,' a tribute that suggests the profound impact of a book that helped him direct
his energies both as a writer and as a reader." (Mogen 28). This book aided
Bradbury in developing an original style and also helped him maintain disciplined
and structured work habits (Mogen 28).
She deals with the subconscious and she tells you how prepare
yourself. It's got to be a ritual, like being a monk. There are some good
suggestions. She said that at night when you go bed you should put a
piece of paper in the typewriter so your subconscious knows the paper is
there. Then put a couple of nouns down on the paper, so they're laying
there during the night. Then you get up to go right to the typewriter-no
phone calls, no newspaper, no breakfast, nothing-and sit down and start
typing whatever comes into your head. It doesn't have to make any sense.
And out of all of this madness suddenly a line will come. Maybe you'll
write a poem. Or just make a list of nouns: the night... the lake... the
attic... the cellar, the wine, the frog.... Then you say to yourself, "Okay,
I've got all these nouns. What do they mean?" (Mogen 29).
Two things commonly found in Bradbury stories are magic and monsters.
Magic influenced Bradbury very much. "...in 1931 when, during a performance in
Waukegan, the great magician Blackstone presented eleven-year-old Bradbury
with a live rabbit." (Johnson 13). This theatrical magic is often found in
Bradbury's works. "Bradbury's monsters come in many shapes and sizes.
Interestingly, his monster that resemble the lizard or snakelike fairy tale dragons
are his most sympathetic." (Johnson 33,34)." Bradbury's use of monsters can
traced back to the motion picture "King Kong." "The love Bradbury has for 'King
Kong'-which he claims to have seen forty-three times in forty-two years-probably
arises, at least in part, from the qualities the film shared with its own best work:
technical finesse, a tightly organized structure, intense evocation of mood, and an
enthusiastic celebration of primitive emotions." (Johnson 34).
Each and every event in Bradbury's life played an important role in
formation of this science-fiction author. At the age of 75, it is Bradbury's turn to
influence the young generation. In addition to having several of his works in high
school textbooks, Bradbury recently released "The Martian Chronicles" on
CD-ROM ("Sci-Fi for you D: Drive" 89).
Johnson, Wayne, L. Ray Bradbury. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing,
Kunitz, Stanley, J. and Haycraft, Howard. Twentieth Century Authors. New
York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1942.
Mogen, David. Ray Bradbury. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1986.
---. "Ray Bradbury." The Electronic Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Groiler
Electronic Publishing, 1990.
"Sci-Fi for your D: Drive." Newsweek. 13 November 1995: 89.
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