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Ray Bradbury Interview Part 2

Ray Bradbury
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Interview by Gavin J. Grant

Ray BradburyHere's the concluding part of our interview with Ray Bradbury. (Did you miss Part 1?) In the first part we talked about that wonderful family, the Elliotts, who feature in his wonderful new novel, From the Dust Returned. Then we got a chance to pepper him with questions about anything at all, and Mr. Bradbury rose to the challenge, answering our questions as fast as we could pose them. It was great fun, and I can only recommend attending the readings he is doing in this month -- or at least watching him on Charlie Rose (October 24), or the History Channel (Feb 1, 2001!).

Fahrenheit 451I've read you typed Fahrenheit 451 in 9 days on a rented typewriter…

That's right. At UCLA library, down in a room underneath the library.

Do you still use a typewriter?

Oh yes. I don't have a computer. A computer's a typewriter, so I don't need two. I just need one.

I know you have a mixed relationship with technology...

No I don't. All I ask is that you tell yourself why you need a thing, and then you use it. Why do you need a telephone? Well, we're using one right now. Why do you need a computer? Well, if you're in business, a computer is a very important part of your business, especially if you're selling things to people and you have 2-300 sales in a day. At the end of the day your computer adds it up for you -- that saves a heck of a lot of time, doesn't it? So you look at each machine and say, "How do I this?" If you use it for stupid or silly reasons... like the internet is often used by men -- it's a toy. You can play with a toy, but don't play with a toy all the time. That's all I'm saying.

Do you still enjoy Halloween?

Something Wicked This Way ComesNot quite as much because friends of mine like Federico Fellini died on Halloween morning eight or nine years ago and that destroyed Halloween for me. That evening I shut up the house and threw out the pumpkins because it was no longer as much fun when it got real.

Now I mainly stay home and answer the door and take pictures of all the trick-and-treaters who come. I love to have my camera and take pictures of all the various costumes.

Do you ever go to the library the way you did as a child?

I don't need to -- I have 3,000 books in the house!

Do you still do book tours?

I go to many libraries and speak free; I do not charge a lecture fee at libraries. They sell my books and they keep all the money. I help them make a profit and raise money to buy books. I love to speak at libraries. I've spoken to at least 95 libraries in California in the last few years and helped them to buy books. It's wonderful fun. Everything must be fun, or you mustn't do it.

Are your books still being read in schools?

The Martian ChroniclesMore than ever! Fahrenheit 451 is in almost every school in America. It's in the middle schools -- strangely enough! -- all the young people 9, 10, 11 years old are reading Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Something Wicked This Way Comes, they're in all the schools, in all the high schools and all the colleges. In France Fahrenheit 451 is outstanding study with French students all over the country.

So children are still definitely finding your books?

More than ever.

Which of your books do you enjoy the most?

All of my books are my children, so I have no special favorite. I have four daughters; I have eight grandchildren, and I love them all the same. The same way with my books, I treat them equally, I love them equally.

How many letters do you receive each week?

The Illustrated ManBetween 200 and 300 letters a week.

Do you ever get time to answer them?

I try to answer all of them that are intelligent and ask good questions. There's a certain amount that you can't answer. I try to answer what I can.

Are you involved with any of the five films ("The Martian Chronicles," "Fahrenheit 451," "The Sound of Thunder," "The Illustrated Man," and "Frost of Fire"), presently being made from your stories?

Yes, I've just finished the screenplay of The Illustrated Man. I've contributed the screenplay to The Martian Chronicles and one for Fahrenheit 451. I don't know how much of those screenplays will get used. You never know.

What are you reading?

Saint JoanI'm rereading George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan. Shaw is a huge influence in my life. I just returned from Milwaukee, Wisconsin a week ago where they were having a George Bernard Shaw festival and I was the keynote speaker because of my great love and admiration for Shaw.

Do you have a favorite bookshop?

Not anymore! They've closed up here. I had two favorite bookstores and the landlords raised the rents so high the bookstores had to close and go on the internet in order to survive, which is a great shame. I love to visit bookstores and sit and talk to the proprietors who have a knowledge of books that is quite amazing.

Given a chance to meet anyone, who would you want to meet?

I think George Bernard Shaw. He's incredibly talented and a brilliant man and I think the best playwright of the 20th century.

How does the future look to you now?

From the Dust ReturnedFine! We always make do, don't we? We've gone through some terrible times. Communism dominated Europe, but finally after 40 years or so, the combined efforts of our country and people like Ronald Reagan -- who was very brave and said, "Tear down the wall," -- and Pope John Paul II, an incredible man, a very important man in the history of undoing Communism by visiting Poland and Czechoslovakia and Hungary, but we finally did it. There's a lot of things that have been terribly evil in the twentieth century but we've managed to overcome them. We're going back to the moon and then we're going to head out to Mars sometime in the next 20 years. I wish I were going to be around to see it. Maybe I will be, by a miracle. You never know.