Friday, June 25, 2021

Bradbury's "Witch" Ancestor

It seems to be quite well known that Ray Bradbury's ancestry can be traced to back to Mary Perkins Bradbury, who was charged with witchcraft at Salem in 1692. Sam Weller's biography of Ray, The Bradbury Chronicles, gives a couple of pages to this, and it's referred to elsewhere. But did Ray know about this ancestry, and did he ever write about Mary?

The answer to both questions is a definite yes. In 1955, Stanley J. Kunitz published a first revision to Twentieth Centry Authors, and it includes an article on Bradbury written by Ray himself. This was Bradbury at the peak of his early fame as a writer. He had several books out, including his masterwork Fahrenheit 451 (1953), was writing for television, and had completed his arduous stint as the screenwriter of Moby Dick (which would be released in 1956). At the time of the article, he would have been grappling with his manuscript for Dandelion Wine (which would be published in 1957), while also working on a script treatment for Gene Kelly - The Dark Carnival, which would eventually emerge as the novel Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962).

The short article - you can see the whole thing below - refers to Bradbury's belief that writers shouldn't slant their work to a particular market, but should write freely and let the work find an an appropriate outlet. It also refers to his belief that science fiction and fantasy "offer the liveliest, freshest approaches" to the problems of the modern world.

And it refers to Mary Perkins Bradbury, to whom Bradbury attributes his belief in "freedom from fear [...] and thought control".

...for which we should, I suppose, say, "Thank you, Mary Perkins Bradbury."

(And my thanks to Hugh, whose question about Mary prompted me to write this post!)

You can find out more about Bradbury's ancestry in this (very old) blog post of mine



If you click on these images, they should embiggen.

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