Ray Bradbury was born in 1920, and the next day he went out and got a library card. Of course, that’s a slightly exaggerated account. He was drawn to books at an age when other boys are drawn to mud pies, though. He was a reader from the beginning. All the librarians in his hometown of Waukegan, Illinois new him on a first-name basis. “Hi, Ray. Back already?” etc. He was one of these figures such as Matilda in Roald Dahl’s book of the same name. Very precocious—though without the gift of ESP. Nevertheless, paranormal activities such as ESP did interest him very much back then, and continued to interest him as got older, and older, and older, so that he’s probably working hard on a short story or novel featuring the paranormal as you read this!
Actually, there’s a story about how Ray Bradbury became a writer himself that might amuse you. It’s a true one; and a little bizarre; and so very, very appropriate. (For Ray Bradbury.) One day in 1932 twelve-year-old Bradbury went to a nearby carnival. Carnivals, as everyone knows, are weird, mysterious events. One of Bradbury’s most famous books is about a carnival. Well—as Bradbury walked around, he noticed an eccentric-looking figure making quite a scene of it there in the carnival grounds. He looked like a mad wizard, or something. He had this shimmery suit on, sunlight reflected off him in these shimmery, blinding ripples. Bradbury was intrigued. Just who was this shimmery, wild-looking, voluble man!
Well, it was Mr. Electrico. He was attached to the carnival. Mr. Electrico was Bradbury’s original wizard, like Merlin was King Arthur’s. Mr. Electrico could perform amazing feats with, you guessed it, electricity. And this is what he did to Bradbury. He preformed a feat on Bradbury, either intuitively or randomly sensing that Bradbury, of all the crowd, was the person requiring a feat. What happened, apparently, was that he suddenly lunged at Bradbury with an electrified sword—Bradbury couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe!—Mr. Electrico lunged out with this terrible blazing sword but at the last second checked himself and very delicately touched Bradbury’s shoulder with the tip of the blade, at the same time shouting “Live forever!” in a commanding and terrible voice.
Electricity went down and up Bradbury as if his veins had become wires. Each and every one of his hairs stood straight up. The crowd laughed. Mr. Electrico forgot Bradbury entirely and went on with his act. But starting the next morning, and every morning since then, without fail, including this morning, Bradbury wrote part of a story.
Strange? Yes—this isn’t at all the typical way that authors begin writing. You can safely say that being zapped with an electrified sword by a partially insane carnival performer doesn’t feature in the early chapters of most writers’ biographies. However—whatever. Whatever works! Bradbury’s output has been enormous. He’s written hundreds of tales, dozens of novels; he’s created universe! There’s no mistaking a Bradbury story, there’s no mistaking the Bradbury style. There are thousands of science fiction writers in existence, and lots of them are good at what they do, but Bradbury—with Bradbury you’ve got a different thing, he’s separated out. He’s a live, fleshy, breathing and aging man, but he’s also a literature; he’s become a literature.
Very few writers become their own literature, so that when you read a single sentence from them you think of them as much as the sentence, and there’s no explaining it when it happens. It’s true that such writers have things in common, such as they read a lot, they wrote a lot, they weren’t your average personality, etc. But this can be said of a million published writers, who, if they aren’t unknown, haven’t managed to become so completely themselves, so completely and authentically “their own style,” that their books are completely themselves. So, all you can do is read the books and learn about these very exceptional writers (for added pleasure). For instance, read Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and then read the account of how, as a very young, very poor father, he tapped it out after work, at about the rate of one page per night, on an primeval typewriter in the basement of his—you guessed it again!—local library.