May 14, 2000
By Franklin Harris
Ray Bradbury knows how to get to Mars and beyond; he just never learned to drive a car.
"I never learned because I had no money," he said. "Writers are poor. Until I was 38 years old, I didn't have enough money to buy a car. In the meantime, I saw a lot of people killed in cars, and that diminished my interest in owning one."
Rocket ships, however, are another matter.
Inspired by the stories of his youth, Buck Rogers newspaper strips and the John Carter, Warlord of Mars novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and later the stories of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, Bradbury set out to become a writer.
"I've been writing since I was 12 years old, a long time ago, 1932," Bradbury said.
Now many of his works are near universally recognized classics: "The Martian Chronicles," "The Illustrated Man," "Something Wicked This Way Comes," and others. His anti-censorship novel, "Fahrenheit 451," named after the temperature at which paper combusts, is required reading in many schools.
Largely recovered from a stroke he suffered in November, the 79-year-old Bradbury, his speech slightly slurred, is back on his speaking tour.
"I'm just fine," he said. "I'm travelling. I was in Minneapolis last week. I've been to Akron. And, of course, I'm coming to Alabama."
Bradbury will appear at 7 p.m. on May 22 at Norton Auditorium on the University of North Alabama campus in Florence for a lecture, "Yestermorrow and Beyond: An Evening with Ray Bradbury."
Bradbury will be joined by former Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine editor, Forrest J. Ackerman.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students
Bradbury also is scheduled to attend the May 21 performances of his play, "The World of Ray Bradbury."
"I've been writing plays since I was in high school, and for many years they were very bad," Bradbury said. "But in my 40s, they started to make sense. Finally, I moved on to do plays with professional groups and discovered, after 40 years or so, the darn things work."
"The World of Ray Bradbury" combines selections from Bradbury's previous works, as adapted for the stage. It includes "The Book People" from "Fahrenheit 451," "The Third Landing" from "The Martian Chronicles," "To the Chicago Abyss," "Kaleidoscope," "The Veldt," "Pillar of Fire" and "The Foghorn."
Shoals group to perform
The Shoals' theater group, Segue, will stage Bradbury's production at the Ritz Theater in downtown Sheffield. Performances will be Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and May 21 at 2 and 8 p.m. As with the lecture, tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students.
"'The Foghorn' is one of my favorite plays. It's a Shakespearean play," Bradbury said.
"An old man comes out of a lighthouse, and he begins to describe a dinosaur," he continued. "The play is written like a prolog to a Shakespearean play. So you need an actor who is good enough to make you believe in the dinosaur."
Ever prolific, Bradbury is working on several projects.
"I have about six books, including a book of poetry, which is finished; a new book of essays, which is finished; two novels that I'm working on that should be finished this summer; and an opera, "Leviathan 99," which we'll do a production of in London, I hope, sometime this summer," he said.
Even with all his projects, however, Bradbury only writes two hours a day. When he started writing, it paid to be fast. He worked at a coin-operated typewriter in the UCLA library. Now it's by choice.
"If you like what you're doing, you don't need much time," Bradbury said. "You just go to the typewriter and explode. I don't think about what I'm doing, I just do it."
Bradbury also doesn't think about which of his stories are his favorites.
"They're all my children," he said. "I have four daughters, four granddaughters and four grandsons. I don't play favorites. If you don't play favorites with your kids, you don't want to with your stories."
Tickets for both the lecture and the play are available at Ryan Piano Co., Anderson's Bookland, Wizard's Comics, Flashbacks, Super Wonder comics and Pegasus Records, Tapes and CDs, all in Florence; and at the Tennessee Valley Art Center in Tuscumbia.
Tickets for the lecture only are available at the UNA Ticket Office and the UNA Office of Student Auxiliary Services. Orders can be placed by phone at (256) 765-4658. For more information, call Terry Pace at (256) 740-5741.