Ray Bradbury’s (1920-2012) published writings include a vast array of science fiction and fantasy short stories, some of which are inspired by his fascination with time machines and time travel. Bradbury has created lasting images of a futuristic world in which people visit the past. His stories often focus more on the concern with the moral aptitude of people who are given the opportunity to experience scientific advances, rather than on the scientific advances in and of themselves. Born in Waukegan, Illinois, Bradbury moved with his family to Los Angeles, where he graduated from high school in 1938. Bradbury first published his short story “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma” (1938) in a Los Angeles Science Fiction League’s fanzine Imagination! In 1941, he broke into the professional market when he published the short story “Pendulum” in Super Science Stories.
Bradbury began writing full time in 1943, emerging first as a science fiction author and later moving into fantasy, mystery, nonfiction essays, children’s literature, and even comic books. Over the course of a long career he has written over 500 works, including short stories, poems, novels, and plays for theater and television.
Many of Bradbury’s short stories depict time travel and time machines. In “A Sound of Thunder,” first published in Collier’s magazine in 1952 and reprinted in his collection The Golden Apples of the Sun (1953), Bradbury uses time travel to emphasize the profound effect actions occurring in the past can have on the future, when present-day Earth unravels after hunters inadvertently kill a prehistoric butterfly when on their safari expedition.
In “The Fox and The Forest” (The Illustrated Man, 1951) Bradbury wrote about a married couple living in a dismal and dehumanizing future overrun with war and bomb-building efforts. They attempt to flee their world by taking a time travel holiday in Mexico, circa 1938. In “Forever and the Earth” (Long After Midnight, 1976), Bradbury uses a time machine to transport Thomas Wolfe from his deathbed into the future. Concepts of time travel also exist in his children’s book The Halloween Tree (1972). Another story that deals with time machines or concepts of time travel is “Last Rites” (Quicker Than the Eye, 1996).
In his novel Dandelion Wine (1946), he told of a human time-machine, Colonel Freeleigh, who could transport other people back in time by his ability to tell stories. Bradbury republished this story as “The Time Machine,” in Golden Apples of the Sun.
“The Kilimanjaro Device,” first published in Life magazine as “The Kilimanjaro Machine” and later reprinted in I Sing the Body Electric (1969), is about an encounter with Ernest Hemingway. Ahmed and the Oblivion Machine (1998) is a children’s fable about a young boy gifted to travel through time and experience life’s sorrows and joys.
It is not only his concepts of time travel that made for fantastic stories. Bradbury often tells tales with futuristic vision, not only of what life would be like but how humankind would take advantage of, or misuse, future technological advances because of moral lapses, greed, neglect, and corruption.
See also Arthur C. Clarke; Futurology; Time in Novels; Time Travel
Bradbury, R. (1980). The stories of Ray Bradbury. New York: Knopf.
Weller, S. (2005). Bradbury chronicles: The life of Ray Bradbury. New York: Morrow.