A new book, Becoming Ray Bradbury, offers a unique look into the mind of an iconic writer who has been called America's "prose poet for the space age."
"It's sort of a biography of his mind," said Jonathan R. Eller, author of the book and co-founder of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, senior textual editor of the Institute for American Thought and a professor of English at IUPUI. "I always wanted to write about how he learned, how he read and how he became a writer."
The official release date for Becoming Ray Bradbury (University of Illinois Press) is Sept. 5, 2011.
The book ends when Bradbury is 33 years old, traveling to Europe with his family. He has accepted an offer from director John Huston to write the screen play for the Warner Brothers production of Moby Dick. At that point in his life, Bradbury was just becoming famous, having published the Martian Chronicles, in 1950, the Illustrated Man in 1951, and Farenheit 451 was just about to be released.
One reviewer of Becoming Ray Bradbury has already called for a sequel -- which Eller is already writing.
Eller draws upon an encyclopediac knowledge of the works of Bradbury and an unprecedent access to Bradbury's personal papers -- as well as a releationship with Bradbury that spans 22 years. Eller and Bradbury first met in 1989 when Eller was on the faculty of the Air Force Academy.
In the 1990s and especially over the last decade, Eller was able to work with Bradbury and edit some limited editions of Bradbury's classic works. Since 2004, when he began work on Becoming Ray Bradbury, he has spent a week or two each year interviewing Bradbury.
One influence on Bradbury that stands out, Eller said, came from a small group of science fiction writers who lived for the most part in Los Angeles and were Bradbury's mentors. These were writers of that "golden age" of science fiction writing in the late 1930s and the war years, including Leigh Brackett, her husband-to-be Edmond Hamilton, and Henry Kuttner.
"These were the people who showEd Ray that he needed to break away from forumula writing and write from his own experience. If he was best at writing about childhood fears and the ambitions and passions that transalte into adulthood, then that's what he should write. And Bradbury did," Eller said.