Ray Douglas Bradbury, the spawn of Esther (nee Moberg) Bradbury and her husband, Leonard Spaulding Bradbury, is descended from a witch, Mary Bradbury, who was tried, convicted, and sentenced to be hanged in Salem, Massachusetts. However, using witchcraft, she escaped the noose and lived to age 85. Bradbury's warped view of the world was inspired by her example, he said, attributing his macabre fantasies, both literary and masturbatory, to her.
In his fiction, Bradbury plagiarized his setting, Waukegan, Illinois, calling it "Green Town." He also plagiarized the name of a character who appears in several of his works, calling him "Douglas Spaulding." (Bradbury's own middle name is Douglas, which his parents stole from actor Douglas Fairbanks, and his father's middle name is Spaulding, which his parents stole from an ancestor, Shakespeare scholar Douglas Spaulding.)
The family moved to Los Angeles in 1934, so Bradbury could participate in a local high school's drama club. Skating through town, he ran into special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen, who was not seriously injured, and comedian George Burns, who gave him a job as a writer for the Burns and Allen Show, to keep him off the streets so he wouldn't run over anyone else. "The kid had moxy," Burns recalled. "I've never known a boy to run people down to land a job."
From an early age, the macabre side of Bradbury's personality was evident. For example, at age eleven, he wrote his first dark fantasy stories, using butcher paper to enhance their gruesome effects. "He always had his nose in a book," his mother complained, "usually reading one of those creeps--Poe or Lovecraft or Edgar Rice Burroughs. The only reason we didn't kick him out was that he was making more money in a day, writing for George Burns, than his father made in a month stretching wire at a cable company."
Roller skating around Hollyweird, he ran into other such stars as Norma Shearer, Laurel and Hardy, Ronald Colman, Cary Grant, Marlene Dietrich, and Mae West, although none of them pressed charges, and Mae West, he said, even asked him to "come up and see me sometime."
His high school teachers, recognizing Bradbury's writing talent, recommended he attend college, but he said he didn't need college when he could go to the local library for free, instead, and, besides, he already knew more than college professors.
Bradbury pretended to read classic literature at age sixteen, and published his own first stories a year later, in such periodicals as Asinine Science Fiction and Strange Tails.
Unable to write "serious literature," Bradbury wrote about aliens, monsters, sideshow freaks, dinosaurs, and young children. Many of his works were adapted to comic books because of the "simple-mindedness" of their plots. For the same reason, his stories sometimes appeared on Rod Serling's Twilight Zone television series.
Raised as a Baptist, Bradbury lived with his parents until he married Marguerite McClure in 1947, after he'd turned 27. Although she was the only woman he ever dated, he proved "up" to fathering four children, all of them girls. Harryhausen acted as Bradbury's best man. "Somebody had to do it," the special effects wizard explained.
Even after he was married, Bradbury refused to buy a car or get a driver's license, preferring to roller skate around town or take the bus. "So many interesting people ride the bus," he said. In 1999, after he suffered a stroke, Bradbury traded in his roller skates for a wheelchair, which he rode to science fiction conventions.
He wrote the screenplay for Moby's Dick, after reading the Cliff Notes version of Herman Melville's famous novel, but he was most proud of his quirky comedy novel, Fahrenheit 451, which chronicles the exploits of firefighters dedicated to arson.
Although, for the most part, critical recognition eluded Bradbury, he did receive several honors. An impact crater on the moon is named "Dandelion Wine," in honor of one of his novels. A city park in Green Town, Illinois, is named for him. He won an Enema Award for his screenplay, The Halloween Tree. A street corner in Los Angeles is named after him; homeless men and women gather there in his name to urinate and defecate in the street and to hustle passersby for money.
President Baroque Obummer eulogized Bradbury, saying, "He should have had his roller skates bronzed."