Ray Bradbury, who turns 90 this year, is well-known for his novels and short stories, but his personal life has remained remarkably private over the years. Sam Weller’s recent interview collection, Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews, allows a rare look into the unbelievable life of a public figure who is nevertheless in many ways a recluse. Here are a few things that we learned.
1. Many people know that Ray Bradbury wrote his most famous work, Fahrenheit 451 in just nine days on a rented typewriter in the basement of the UCLA library. However, what wasn’t known until recently is that in the process of writing the novel, he made a unique friend: Ernest Hemingway’s son. They rode the same bus every morning to the library and got to talking. Hemingway told the stranger that his favorite writers were “Asimov, Clarke, and Bradbury,” and the two remained friends for decades.
2. Bradbury had uncredited involvement with a number of famous films. Most notably, he wrote the script for Nicholas Ray’s King of Kings, as well as the original version of It Came from Outer Space. Additionally, he wrote a number of episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and even turned down the opportunity to adapt The Birds (which was originally a novel) for the famous director. He later regretted passing up the opportunity, because he hated the ending: “If I had written it, it would have been beautiful.”
3. At one point, Charles Addams proposed that he and Bradbury merge their fictional families and collaborate on what became The Addams Family. Although the collaboration never materialized, Addams independently illustrated a number of Bradbury’s stories.
4. Bradbury has had a comet, a crater on the moon, and a Starfleet ship on Star Trek: The Next Generation named in his honor, all by influential fans.
5. In many ways, Bradbury was a writer of intuition. In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury was the first to predict the invention of flat-screen TVs, televised surveillance footage, ear-bud headphones, and ATMs — in the space of the nine days he spent writing the novel. However, it wasn’t until later that he realized how subtle his subconscious instincts really were: without knowing it, he’d named his four main characters after a paper company (Montag), a pencil company (Faber), an envelope company (Granger), and a now-gone office supply chain (Beatty).
6. Ray Bradbury never went to college. Instead, he went to the library all day, three times a week, until he got married at 27. To this day, he regularly organizes fundraisers for libraries, and refuses to touch e-reader devices like the Kindle.
7. In addition to writing books, Bradbury has written plays, composed a science-fiction operetta, created a cartoon which was nominated for an Academy Award, and drafted blueprints for the United States Pavilion in the 1964 World’s Fair, Horton Plaza in San Diego, and attractions at Disney’s Epcot.
8. In a radically brave move, Bradbury took out a newspaper ad and published an article criticizing the Red Scare at its peak, and at a time when his livelihood depended on Hollywood. Although it meant losing his agent and many of his friends, who were too terrified to support him, he was confident that they couldn’t touch him — and he was right. A week later he got another gig, and never had trouble getting work again.
9. Despite being hailed as “the poet of the Rocket Age,” Bradbury actually didn’t ride an airplane until he was 62. Furthermore, to date, he has never used a computer. He writes on an old IBM Selectric typewriter or dictates his stories to his daughter over the phone. This isn’t as much of an obstacle as one might think; since Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury rarely writes for more than two hours a day. He explained to Weller that he simply writes very quickly and doesn’t edit much.
10. Despite his fame, Bradbury has had his share of rejection, too. For a long time, he couldn’t get a publication outside of science fiction magazines. It was Truman Capote who finally recognized Bradbury’s talent, pulled his story “Homecoming” out of the slush pile, and convinced his editor at Mademoiselle to buy it. The New Yorker has only ever printed one of his stories, even though he’s sent them several hundred over the years. And only a few years ago, The Paris Review declined to publish an interview with him because they found him “too enthusiastic.”