Interview with Ray Bradbury
AFG: I wanted to ask you about one of my favorite books, Fahrenheit 451. Would you say it’s even more prophetic today, in terms of people not reading as much as they used to, than it was 50 years ago?
RB: The Internet should be destroyed! I hate the Internet! I hate computers!
AFG: In a way, computers are destroying the publishing industry.
RB: We should get rid of them, yeah!
AFG: Are you an optimist or a pessimist about the state of the world?
RB: I went through the Depression with my father 70 years ago and we made it. If things are no worse today, we’ll make it through.
AFG: So you’re optimistic.
RB: Of course I’m optimistic. This is the best country in the world. We are the freest country, so we’re gonna make it. As long as we don’t have anything to do with Wall Street—Wall Street is always busy scaring itself. Let’s not have anything to do with it. Let’s make it on our own. We don’t need Wall Street.
AFG: Who were some of the writers that influenced you when you were growing up?
RB: H.G. Wells influenced me. When I had enough money, when I was 19, I went to a sound studio and I did recordings from The Invisible Man. And I saw Things to Come when I was 16. He told me the future—the future was space travel and going to the moon. So H.G. Wells told me the direction to go in and I went there.
AFG: Were you a Jules Verne fan?
RB: I read Jules Verne when I was 10 years old, yes.
AFG: It was a pity that Wells stopped writing science fiction novels and started writing novels with more of a social message.
RB: I didn’t need the other works. The Invisible Man was good enough for me. And then they made a film of his The Man Who Could Work Miracles. I loved that film.
AFG: I love that movie. Roland Young was in it.
RB: Roland Young was the star.
AFG: And The Time Machine with Rod Taylor is one of my favorites.
RB: It’s a very good film. Very well done.
AFG: Who are some of the writers you enjoy reading today?
RB: I go back and I read George Bernard Shaw all the time. He influenced me when I lived in Ireland for a year, when I was 33 years old, when I wrote the screenplay for Moby Dick. I met Bernard Shaw’s plays there, and I read the plays of all the Irish playwrights. When I came home, I began to write Irish plays! This weekend, I am going to see my Irish play, Falling Upward, at the El Portal theatre here in Los Angeles. So I keep going back to George Bernard Shaw. I have this huge book, which is 3,000 pages of essays that he wrote about theatre, and they’re just as good as his plays. He was a smart man. He posed problems and you saw him talking both ways. He said yes and then he said no!
AFG: Tell us about your admiration for the works of John Collier.
RB: He was a fantasy writer of the first class. I bumped into him when I was 12 years old and I got that copy of that book right here. I bought it for a quarter from the May Company. They were getting rid of it, so I got it for a quarter. I took it home and read the short stories of John Collier, and he changed my life. So I became a better writer.
AFG: I like “Youth from Vienna” and “Back for Christmas.” What are some of your favorite John Collier stories?
RB: “Thus I Refute Beelzy.”
AFG: I love that one too.
RB: I love Collier. I also love the short stories of Eudora Welty. They came out the same time. I read them when I was 10, 12 years old. Eudora Welty’s A Curtain of Green is a beautiful book.
AFG: It’s a fantastic book. Are you spiritual? Do you believe in God?
RB: I am God! You are God, I am God, the world is God. Everything is God.
AFG: Do you believe that God is in every atom in the universe? God is everywhere?
RB: We are completely God. All the people are God, and the world is God, and the sun is God. It’s all God. It’s all one.
AFG: What are you working on now?
RB: A new book of mine is coming out.
AFG: Oh, yes, I love it: We’ll Always Have Paris.
RB: We’ll Always Have Paris is my new book.
AFG: And are you working on any short stories or books now?
RB: I’m writing a new book now, yeah.
AFG: What’s it about?
RB: I won’t tell you until I’m finished. [laughs] It’s gonna be done in a year and you’ll see it published next year.
AFG: I look forward to that. I love the short stories you’ve written for The Strand, by the way.
RB: I’m glad that you like them. I’ve had fun writing them. The thing to remember is that I remember being born. So every moment of my life is special because I remember being born. I was in the womb 10 months. I was a 10-month baby not a 9-month baby. I remember being in the womb and when I was brought forth I was excited, I was pleased. And ever since, I remember every single instance of my life for the last 88 years. It’s a miracle; no wonder I’m happy! So stick around me, kid, I’m gonna make it to a hundred. You come along with me!
AFG: I’d love to, Ray.
RB: Well if you’re ever in town, give me a call.
AFG: I will. So would you like to talk about Mars?
RB: I read Edgar Rice Burroughs when I was 12. And the first thing I wrote when I was 12 was a sequel to one of the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books about the planet Mars.
AFG: How do you get your ideas?
RB: They come to me in the night. I jump out of bed in the morning and I go aåånd write them.
AFG: What was the inspiration behind one of my all-time favorite books, Something Wicked This Way Comes?
RB: When I was 12 years old, a carnival magician told me to live forever. So I wrote about that carnival magician, and I put him in my book and wrote a whole book about a carnival and living forever.
AFG: And what about The Martian Chronicles?
RB: Edgar Rice Burroughs inspired that. I love the planet Mars because of him. I went to the planet Mars and never came home. I wrote about it because of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
AFG: Do you think there’s life on other planets?
RB: We’re gonna put it there. We’re gonna move out in space and go back to the moon, we’re gonna go to Mars, and we’re gonna be on the other planets. We’re going to put life there ourselves.
AFG: So what’s a typical day in your life like?
RB: Staying alive!
AFG: Do you write every day?
RB: Every day. I’ve written three short stories this week alone.
AFG: Waukegan, Illinois. Was that to you the perfect small American town?
RB: I grew up there and I saw movies there, and I began to write there. That was the important thing. It’s my hometown, the town I grew up in, my grandfather’s house—I helped him make dandelion wine there when I was 3 years old. The house is still there. It’s one of my most important books, Dandelion Wine. It was the center of my life and I hope to go back to Waukegan if I find the time, sometime in the next few years.
AFG: Do you watch any contemporary films or do you only like the classics?
RB: There are no good movies being made today. I’m going to be on Turner Classic Movies again. I was on there a couple of weeks ago, examining Citizen Kane, talking about Rebecca, and I’m going to be on again examining all the best films that were made in 1939.
AFG: What’s your favorite movie of all time?
RB: My favorite movie? Citizen Kane. It’s a great movie.
AFG: What’s your favorite book that you’ve ever read?
RB: Which book in all my life?
AFG: Yes, in all your life, what’s the best book you’ve ever read?
RB: John Carter of Mars and Tarzan of the Apes.
AFG: What advice do you have for beginning writers?
RB: Do what you love and love what you do. Write what you love and love what you write. Write only about your loves, nothing else. And if you don’t love something, don’t write about it.
AFG: Who is your favorite mystery writer of all time?
RB: Raymond Chandler. He was wonderful. Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon is a great book. It was made into a movie and The Maltese Falcon book became the screenplay for the movie. Hammett should get credit for the screenplay. The next time you see the film, open the book and turn the pages of the screenplay!
AFG: It was great to talk to you, Ray.
RB: If you’re ever in town, give me a call.
AFG: I will. Thank you. It was an honor.
RB: Thank you. God bless you.