Born in in Waukegan, Illinois, fantasy writer Ray Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012) was a native of the “rapidly disappearing small-town world of the American heartland” that English writer Malcolm Bradbury described from the point of view of an alien visitor.
Like Malcolm, Ray was a prolific writer of short stories, screenplay and teleplays. However, Ray’s tales of small-town America were more likely to be visited by time-traveling historical figures and “alien” travelers of an interplanetary rather than a transatlantic nature.
“Ray Bradbury on Martian soil”
Oil on Canvas by Gabriel Caprav
Ray’s family lived in Tucson, Arizona, before relocating to Los Angeles when he was fourteen. He lived and worked there for the rest of his life.
It was in UCLA’s Powell Library, in a study room with typewriters for rent, that Bradbury wrote his classic story of a book burning future, The Fireman, which was about 25,000 words long. It was later published at about 50,000 words under the name Fahrenheit 451, for a total cost of $9.80, due to the library’s typewriter-rental fees of ten cents per half-hour.
Ray’s preference for electric typewriters could be explained by an incident that occurred in 1932, when a carnival entertainer, one “Mr. Electrico”, touched the 12-year-old Bradbury on the nose with an electrified sword, making his hair stand on end, and shouted, “Live forever!”
Bradbury later remarked:
“I felt that something strange and wonderful had happened to me because of my encounter with Mr. Electrico. He gave me a future. I began to write, full-time. I have written every single day of my life since that day 69 years ago.”
The author did not expect to live forever (thanks to the intervention of “Mr Electrico” he lived to the ripe old age of 91) but with 27 novels and over 600 short stories to his name, his impressive legacy lives on.
Ray’s IBM Wheelwriter is one of three typewriters on display at The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis: