Where do I get my ideas – Ray Bradbury

Where do I get my ideas – Ray Bradbury

The Journal Of Science-Fiction

Fall 1951

Now that five long years of work on The Martian Chronicles are over and done, it is interesting, to me at least, to look back and see where the sources of my inspiration and material lay. It is startling to discover that a good part of one’s life has been spent cheek-by-jowl with certain elements of fantasy and science. I was raised on the OZ books, on Edgar Allan Poe read to me by candlelight, on Hawthorne, and Irving intoned on October evenings, and on Tarzan and Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. I still have thousands of Buck Rogers comic strips put away from those days when I was nine, ten, and eleven and collecting was my great passion. Then, when I was 12 I received (1) a rabbit from Black­ stone, the magician, (2) a toy typewriter. Thereupon I wrote my first, illustrated., short novel, and became a magician performing at Oddfellow Banquets, with a moustache that fell off in the middle of my performance. I began reading Amazing Stories and all the other miraculous scientific pulps. Then, when I was fifteen, I started on Hemingway and Steinbeck and Sinclair Lewis, and dreamed that one day I would appear in the O’Brien collection of Best Amer ican Short Stories. The years went by, I worked my way up through the pulps to The New Yorker and Harper’s, and then in looking beck I began to put the whole pattern together. I thought to myself, I was a magician, and there is something of the magician in every writer, flourishing his effects and making his miracles, and I collected Buck Rogers and listened to Poe and loved Steinbeck and Sherwood Anderson and all the rest. Out of this melange·, though, what could one save and shape? And then I began to think that there had been too many science-fiction books written, in hasty first drafts. With no emphasis on the human equation, with too many rocket guns and bug-eyed monsters, and I knew that I wanted to write a book that would use Buck Rogers perhaps as a springboard and follow along the paths of those writers I really admired, Mr. Anderson, Mr. Steinbeck, Mr. Hemingway, but not lean on them, no, just use them as guide­ lights along the way. And so, taking the people from my home town, Waukegan, Illinois, my aunts and my uncles and cousins who had been raised in a green land, I parceled them into rockets and sent them off to Mars, not to bang at each other with childish pistols, or run from green, scaly beasts with sixteen heads, but to live, to build homes, to be lonely. And I knew that the essence of my book must be loneliness, for who among us would not be lonely 60-million miles from home with everything, our youths, our towns. our countries.our planet hidden in space, perhaps never to be seen again. I decided that my book would be not a looking crystal into the future, but simply a mirror in which each human Earthman would find his own image reflected. I have tried to do a book about you and me and the next fellow going away to another planet and being afraid and surprised and happy and then afraid again of the things that happen there. And if you ask me where I get my ideas then I will have to say I was raised on Poe and Hawthorne and Waukegan and Hemingway and Amazing Stories and OZ and, well, if you start at the beginning of this article and read it all over again, I think you’ll really see where I get my ideas.

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