Ray Bradbury
By: David Smay | Categories: HiLo Heroes

Ray_Bradbury

RAY BRADBURY’s (1920–2012) late career as genial Disney-sponsored spokesman, World Fair consultant, and purveyor of golden summery Midwestern nostalgia occludes the actual writing that made him famous. He’d be the first person to tell you he wasn’t a science fiction writer; he wrote fantasy and horror for most of his career, creating a vernacular American fantastic. His first published story, “The Homecoming” (1946; plucked from the slush pile by Truman Capote, illustrated by Chas. Addams), and last essential novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) bracket his career neatly with a lyrical, macabre yearning for darkness that had not existed in American literature before him. And his writing could be very dark. In South America he’s shelved next to Borges as a master of the short story, and when you read “The Small Assassin” (1946) you see the parallel, as Bradbury subtly lays the grind of new parenthood into the substrate of his story. Personally, I don’t know a more dread-evoking story than “The Playground” (1953) and rate Bradbury’s bullies over the entire Cthulhu Mythos. Bradbury’s so thoroughly disseminated through popular culture that nobody credits the song “Rocket Man” as deriving from one of his stories. He’s almost too big to see. Which is how you wind up as a National Treasure, but don’t let that stop you from reading the stories. As Stephen King said, “Ray Bradbury wrote six hundred stories and three hundred of them are masterpieces.”

Ray Bradbury with Marlene Dietrich

Ray Bradbury with Marlene Dietrich

MORE HORROR ON HILOBROW: Early ’60s Horror, a series by David Smay | Phone Horror, a series by Devin McKinney | Philip Stone’s Hat-Trick | Shocking Blocking: Candyman | Shocking Blocking: A Bucket of Blood | Kenneth Anger | Sax Rohmer | August Derleth | Edgar Ulmer | Vincent Price | Max von Sydow | Lon Chaney Sr. | James Whale | Wes Craven | Roman Polanski | Ed Wood | John Carpenter | George A. Romero | David Cronenberg | Roger Corman | Georges Franju | Shirley Jackson | Ray Bradbury | Edgar Allan Poe | Algernon Blackwood | H.P. Lovecraft | Clark Ashton Smith | Gaston Leroux |

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On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: George Herriman, Dorothy Parker, GZA.

READ MORE about members of the New Gods Generation (1914-23).

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David Smay is the co-editor of two books about pop music, Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, and Lost in the Grooves. He's also the author of Swordfishtrombones, the 33 1/3 series entry on Tom Waits. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children.