Bradbury married Marguerite McClure in 1947, the same year he published his first collection of short stories — "Dark Carnival" (Arkham House) — a series of vignettes that revisited his childhood hauntings.
His first big break came in 1950, when Doubleday collected some new and previously published Martian stories in a volume titled "The Martian Chronicles." A progression of pieces that were at once adventures and allegories taking on such freighted issues as censorship, racism and technology, the book established him as an author of particular insight and note. And a rave review from novelist Christopher Isherwood in Tomorrow magazine helped Bradbury step over the threshold from genre writer to mainstream visionary.
"The Martian Chronicles" incorporated themes that Bradbury would continue to revisit for the rest of his life. "Lost love. Love interrupted by the vicissitudes of time and space. Human condition in the large perspective and definition of what is human," said Benford. "He saw ... the problems that the new technologies presented — from robots to the super-intelligent house to the time machine -- that called into question our comfy definitions of human."
Bradbury's follow-up bestseller, 1953's "Fahrenheit 451," was based on two earlier short stories and written in the basement of the UCLA library, where he fed the typewriter 10 cents every half-hour. "You'd type like hell," he often recalled. "I spent $9.80 and in nine days I had 'Fahrenheit 451.' "
Books like "Fahrenheit 451," in which interactive TV spans three walls, and "The Illustrated Man" — the 1951 collection in which "The Veldt" appeared — not only became bestsellers and ultimately films but cautionary tales that became part of the American vernacular.
"The whole problem in 'Fahrenheit' centers around the debate whether technology will destroy us," said George Slusser, curator emeritus of the J. Lloyd Eaton Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Utopia at UC Riverside. "But there will always be a spirit that keeps things alive. In the case of 'Fahrenheit,' even though this totalitarian government is destroying the books, the people have memorized them. There are people who love the written word. That is true in most of his stories. He has deep faith in human culture."
Besides books and short stories, Bradbury wrote poetry, plays, teleplays, even songs. In 1956, he was tapped by John Huston to write the screenplay for "Moby Dick." In 1966, the French auteur director Francois Truffaut brought "Fahrenheit 451" to the screen. And in 1969 "The Illustrated Man" became a film starring Rod Steiger.
Bradbury's profile soared.
But as he garnered respect in the mainstream, he lost some standing among science fiction purists. In these circles, Bradbury was often criticized for being "anti-science." Instead of celebrating scientific breakthroughs, he was reserved, even cautious.
Bradbury had very strong opinions about what the future had become. In the drive to make their lives smart and efficient, humans, he feared, had lost touch with their souls. "We've got to dumb America up again," he said.
Over the years he amassed a mantel full of honors. Among them: the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (2000), the Los Angeles Times' Robert Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award (1998), the Nebula Award (1988), the Science Fiction Hall of Fame (1970), O. Henry Memorial Award (1947-48) and a special distinguished-career citation from the Pulitzer Prize board in 2007, which was "an enormous nod of respect from the mainstream media," Lou Anders, editorial director of the science fiction and fantasy imprint PYR, told the New York Times.
Bradbury helped plan the Spaceship Earth at Disney's Epcot Center in Orlando, Fla., as well as projects at Euro Disney in France. He was a creative consultant on architect Jerde's projects, helping to design several Southern California shopping malls including the Glendale Galleria, Horton Plaza in San Diego and the Westside Pavilion in Los Angeles.
Even in his later years, Bradbury kept up his 1,000-words-a-day writing schedule, working on an electric typewriter even when technology had passed it by. "Why do I need a computer ... all a computer is is a typewriter."
Though he didn't drive, Bradbury could often be spotted out and about Los Angeles. A familiar figure with a wind-blown mane of white hair and heavy black-framed glasses, he'd browse the stacks of libraries and bookstores, his bicycle leaning against a store front or pole just outside.
A stroke in late 1999 slowed him but didn't stop him.
He began dictating his work over the phone to one of his daughters, who helped to transcribe and edit. In 2007 he began pulling rare or unfinished pieces from his archives. "Now and Forever," a collection of "Leviathan '99" and "Somewhere a Band Is Playing," was published in 2007 and "We'll Always Have Paris Stories" in 2009.