9 Things You Should Know About Ray Bradbury
In honor of Ray Bradbury's continuing influence on science fiction, check out a few fascinating facts about the literary genius.
1. Ray Bradbury scored his first writing gig when he was still a teen.
Most teenagers get a first job bagging groceries or slinging burgers. At the age of 14, Ray Bradbury landed himself a gig writing for George Burns and Gracie Allen’s radio show—though he later said he never got any money.
“I went down on Figueroa Street in front of the Figueroa Playhouse,” Bradbury later recalled. “I saw George Burns outside the front of the theater. I went up to him and said, ‘Mr. Burns, you got your broadcast tonight don’t you?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘You don’t have an audience in there do you?’ He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Will you take me in and let me be your audience?’ So he took me in and put me in the front row, and the curtain went up, and I was in the audience for Burns and Allen. I went every Wednesday for the broadcast and then I wrote shows and gave them to George Burns. They only used one—but they did use it, it was for the end of the show.”
2. Ray Bradbury was 25 years old before he ever asked a girl out.
At the age of 25, Bradbury finally summoned up the courage to ask a girl out for the first time ever. She was a bookstore clerk named Maggie, who thought he was stealing from the bookstore because he had a long trench coat on. They went out for coffee, which turned into cocktails, which turned into dinner, which turned into marriage, which turned into 56 anniversaries and four children. She was the only girl Bradbury ever dated. Maggie held down a full-time job while Ray stayed at home and wrote, something that was virtually unheard of in the 1940s.
3. Ray Bradbury impressed Truman Capote.
George Burns isn’t the only famous eye Bradbury caught. In 1947, a writer at Mademoiselle read Bradbury’s short story, “Homecoming,” about the only human boy in a family of supernatural beings. The magazine decided to run the piece, and Bradbury won a place in the O. Henry Prize Stories as one of the best short stories of 1947. That young writer who helped Bradbury out by grabbing his story out of the unsolicited materials pile? Truman Capote.
4. Ray Bradbury had an aversion to cars.
Not only did Bradbury never get a driver’s license, he didn’t believe in cars for anyone. His own personal aversion came from seeing a fatal car accident when he was just 16. In 1996, he told Playboy, “I saw six people die horribly in an accident. I walked home holding on to walls and trees. It took me months to begin to function again. So I don't drive. But whether I drive or not is irrelevant. The automobile is the most dangerous weapon in our society—cars kill more than wars do.”
5. Ray Bradbury didn't go to college.
Though he wrote Fahrenheit 451 at UCLA, he wasn't a student there. In fact, he didn’t believe in college. “I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money,” Bradbury told The New York Times in 2009. “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.”
6. Ray Bradbury loathed computers.
Despite his writings about all things futuristic, Bradbury loathed computers. “We are being flimflammed by Bill Gates and his partners,” he told Playboy in 1996. “Look at Windows '95. That's a lot of flimflam, you know.” He also stated that computers were nothing more than typewriters to him, and he certainly didn’t need another one of those. He also called the internet “old-fashioned”: “They type a question to you. You type an answer back. That’s 30 years ago. Why not do it on the telephone, which is immediate? Why not do it on TV, which is immediate? Why are they so excited with something that is so backward?”
7. Ray Bradbury was pals with Walt Disney.
Not only was Bradbury good friends with Walt Disney (and even urged him to run for mayor of Los Angeles), he helped contribute to the Spaceship Earth ride at Epcot, submitting a story treatment that they built the ride around. He was a big fan of the Disney parks, saying:
“Everyone in the world will come to these gates. Why? Because they want to look at the world of the future. They want to see how to make better human beings. That’s what the whole thing is about. The cynics are already here and they’re terrifying one another. What Disney is doing is showing the world that there are alternative ways to do things that can make us all happy. If we can borrow some of the concepts of Disneyland and Disney World and Epcot, then indeed the world can be a better place.”
8. Ray Bradbury wanted his ashes to be sent to Mars in a soup can.
He once said that when he died, he planned to have his ashes placed in a Campbell’s tomato soup can and planted on Mars. In the end, he ended up going with something a whole lot simpler—a plain headstone bearing his name and “Author of Fahrenheit 451.” He’s buried at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles.
9. NASA paid tribute to Ray Bradbury.
Perhaps a more fitting memorial is the one NASA gave him when they landed a rover on Mars a few months after Bradbury’s death in 2012: They named the site where Mars rover Curiosity touched down “Bradbury Landing.”
A version of this story ran in 2017; it has been updated for 2021.
Do you love reading? Are you eager to know incredibly interesting facts about novelists and their works? Then pick up our new book, The Curious Reader: A Literary Miscellany of Novels and Novelists, out May 25!