Exploring Expository Writing

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Exploring Expository Writing

Author Biography: Ray Bradbury

Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious and anything self-conscious is

lousy. You can't try to do things. You simply must do things. -Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury is considered a great American icon whose writings continue to influence and inspire

readers as they have for over sixty years. Bradbury espouses a wealth of knowledge and judgment on

political and social issues, especially education. He believes that every child should learn to read and

write by first grade, and adamantly proclaims that the educational system in the U.S. is a “disaster.” He is

a self-professed cat lover with a fear of flying, who never learned to drive, and who has a well-known

aversion to computers and the Internet, yet remains one of the most prolific, well-respected, and beloved

authors in history.
Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois on August 22, 1920 as Rae Douglas Bradbury, the third son of

Leonard Spaulding Bradbury and Esther Marie Moberg Bradbury. In the small town in Northern Illinois,

he lived on the same block with three other Bradbury families—his own relatives. Growing up he often

visited his grandparents’ vast library to read stories like Alice in Wonderland, The Grimm Fairy Tales,

and The Wizard of Oz. At an uncle’s house, he had access to books about Mars and Tarzan, and to

authors like H.G. Wells, Edgar Allen Poe, and Jules Verne. Although at one point Bradbury wanted to be

a magician, he loved to read and write. At a young age, his mother often took him to the movies, where he

was engrossed in such movies as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Phantom of the Opera and The

Lost World and learned to recognize and develop his own creative spark.
One of the turning points in Bradbury’s life occurred when he was twelve. A carnival had come to

Waukegan, and a magician, Mr. Electrico, was the talk of the town. Since Bradbury wanted to be a

magician, he insisted on going to the carnival. The next day, Bradbury attended the funeral of an uncle

that had recently died. On their way to the wake, Bradbury begged for his father to skip the wake and go

back to the carnival. Hesitantly, his father let him out of the car, and Bradbury went to visit Mr. Electrico.

After showing Bradbury around, Mr. Electrico told Ray that he knew him—that he was the soul of a long

lost friend—and told Bradbury to “live forever.” That gave Bradbury something to live for. He now had a

past and a future, and he was determined to live his life to the fullest. A few days later, he began to write

seriously, and has written every day of his life since then. He later said about the incident: “I could teach

everyone to ... get out of bed someday and look, as I looked when I was 12, on the fuzz on the back of my

hand, and I said, I'm alive! Why didn't someone tell me?! So I would tell every person to really know

you're alive, as a gift ... that would really be the most important thing... in my life or anyone else’s.”

In 1934, the Bradbury family moved to Los Angeles, California. He attended Los Angeles High School,

and was active in the drama club. After his teachers saw his writing abilities, he was encouraged to

become a writer. He began to write for magazines, joined the local Science Fiction League, and his high

school’s Poetry Club.

After graduating from high school in 1938, Bradbury sold newspapers and continued to write. His first

publications, published in 1938 and 1939, were short stories printed in his own fan magazine called

Futuria Fantasia. He wasn’t paid for his work, however, until 1941 with the publication of his story

“Pendulum” in the magazine, Super Science Stories. By 1943, he began writing full-time, after leaving his

job selling newspapers. His short story “The Big Black and White Game” was chosen in 1945 for Best

American Short Stories, an anthology published every year since 1915. His short stories would again

make the distinction of this list in 1946, 1948, and 1952.

In 1946 he met his future wife Marguerite "Maggie" McClure, a graduate of UCLA. Ray and Maggie were

married in Los Angeles on September 27, 1947, and were together for over fifty years. In that same year,

Bradbury’s first collection of short stories, Dark Carnival, was published. Bradbury became further

acclaimed for The Martian Chronicles, a series of short stories exploring the widespread fear of nuclear

war and the threat of foreign political powers that plagued Americans in the 1950s.

In 1949, the first of the Bradburys’ four daughters, Susan, was born. It is reported that the Bradburys

only had $10 in the bank at the time they found out they were expecting. Later, daughters Ramona (born

in 1951), Bettina (born in 1955) and Alexandra (born in 1958) joined the Bradbury family.

Another of Bradbury's best-known works, Fahrenheit 451, was published in 1953 in Galaxy Science

Fiction magazine as the short story “The Fireman.” According to Bradbury, the inspiration for the book

came from an incident in Los Angeles in 1949 when he and a friend were stopped and questioned by

police for no reason. At the time, a great paranoia had America by the throat—a period of extreme

censorship and accusations of what were perceived as “anti-American” activities.

Viewed as one of the most prophetic books of all time, Fahrenheit 451’s eerie similarity to our modernday

life is astounding. According to Bradbury, he was considering the impact of radio and the newlyinvented

television when he wrote the book. He also explored lack of education, stating that he foresaw a

time in the future when teachers no longer taught reading so books were no longer a necessity. He

describes a fictional future in which people are bombarded with sensation and stimulation—which

ultimately takes the place of thinking.

Bradbury’s love for theater also motivated him to become involved in Hollywood. He wrote several

screenplays, including the movie Moby Dick, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1953. He

developed his own cable series entitled Ray Bradbury Theater, which ran from 1986 to 1992, where he

adapted over sixty of his short stories for television. His works have also been seen in such television

shows as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, and Night Gallery.

In all, Bradbury has written over 500 short stories, plays, screenplays, novels, and essays. His more

notable include: Dark Carnival (1947), The Martian Chronicles (1950), The Illustrated Man (1951),

Fahrenheit 451 (1953), The Golden Apples of the Sun (1953), Dandelion Wine (1957), Something Wicked

This Way Comes (1962), Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity (1991), and A Chrestomathy of

Ray Bradbury: A Dramatic Selection (1991). More recently, Bradbury wrote From the Dust Returned,

which was selected as one of the Best Books of the Year by the Los Angeles Times in 2002, The Cat’s

Pajamas (2004), and Bradbury Speaks (2005), each of which is a collection of short stories and essays,

both old and new.

Bradbury's work has won numerous honors, including the O. Henry Memorial Award, the Benjamin

Franklin Award, the Aviation-Space Writer's Association Award for Best Space Article in an American

Magazine, the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Grand Master Award from the Science

Fiction Writers of America, the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and the

National Medal of Arts. One of Bradbury’s most unusual, yet flattering awards was from an Apollo 15

astronaut who named a moon crater “Dandelion” after Bradbury's novel, Dandelion Wine.

Bradbury worked as an idea consultant for the World’s Fair in 1964, helped to design Spaceship Earth for

Disney World, and later contributed to the conception of the Orbitron space ride at Euro-Disney in

In November 1999, Bradbury suffered a stroke which hospitalized him. Despite his subsequent

confinement to a wheelchair, Bradbury still continued to write. Arguably his most striking personal blow,

however, came in 2003, when Maggie, his wife of 56 years, passed away.

Bradbury currently lives in Los Angeles with his much-adored cats, still writing every single day.

Standards Focus: Exploring Expository Writing

Directions: Based upon the article about Ray Bradbury, answer the following questions using

complete sentences.

1. Respond to the quote which begins the article. What do you think Bradbury means? Do you

agree or disagree? Explain.

2. Ray Bradbury was greatly influenced by environmental circumstances in his very early life. Cite

some of those influences as mentioned in the article.

3. In three or four sentences, give a brief explanation of how the incident with Mr. Electrico

changed Bradbury’s life.

4. If you were given the opportunity to interview Ray Bradbury, what two questions would you ask


5. Referring to the information from the article, use the back of this paper or a separate sheet of

paper to draw a timeline of the important milestones in Bradbury’s life. Be sure to include dates

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