Ray Bradbury at 90

When Ray Bradbury misses, he misses by a mile. This propensity springs, in large part, from the man’s amazing productivity. Ray Bradbury has been writing every day, at the pace of roughly a completed story per week, since 1932. He has never been the kind of guy who agonizes over revisions or censors his worst impulses. He writes stories, sets them free to sink or sail, and moves on. Some of the tales that proved seaworthy are among the greatest stories ever written in English.

In the beginning, he wrote this way because he wrote to eat. His earliest stories filled the pages of a self-published fanzine called Futuria Fantasia (which he produced in print runs of 100 or less and sold on street corners). Later, he started placing his stories in pulp story digests like Super Science Stories, Dime Mystery, and Weird Tales. In the 1940s, his stories were being anthologized, and in 1950 his first collection, The Martian Chronicles, was published. Ray had arrived.

But he never changed the way he wrote. The decades passed, the demands on his time multiplied exponentially, and Bradbury still wrote every day, still wrapped up a story more or less every week. This approach to writing is anathema to mainstream fiction writers today, who are taught to obsess over every participle and pronoun. Top-tier MFA programs teach writers to re-write and re-write and re-write, to workshop those results, and then re-write some more. The inevitable result of all this relentless fine-tuning and focus-grouping is a marketplace full of novels that all read the same.

Bradbury never sands the rough edges off his fiction. He is never dour or difficult or obscene for art’s sake. He never shies away from topics or themes that his more jaded contemporaries might deem too sentimental or maudlin. Even his worst stories convey the sense of an author who is absolutely unafraid of taking chances or of looking foolish. His stories always sound like Ray Bradbury and no one else.
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