When he was growing up, the famous science fiction author Ray Bradbury spent time in Tucson. He later told a reporter that it was here that his writing career began at the age of 12.
Because he couldn’t afford to buy the real thing, Bradbury’s first work was a sequel to the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ book “Gods of Mars.” The year was 1932.
Born in Illinois, Bradbury lived in Tucson at two different times when he was young. First when he was 6 and later when he was 12. He attended both Roskruge School and Amphitheater Junior High. “I’ve always had a very special love for Tucson,” he said. “It was while I lived here that I decided where I wanted to go. I’ve gone there and I’ve gone beyond.”
In a 1970 interview, Bradbury said in Tucson he was quickly spellbound by a neighbor’s collection of pulp science fiction magazines with titles like Amazing Stories and Wonder Stories. He described reading about giant ants, bug-eyed monsters, scaly things from another world and daring raygun wielding spacemen who calmly rescued terrified maidens from alien clutches.
“Of course I was hooked,” he said. “I was creating my own fantasies on brown rolls of butcher paper by then, writing in pencil – until, on my 12th birthday, I was given a toy-dial typewriter. I then switched over to this machine which typed only capitals, and began writing sequels to the stories I’d read. It was then I determined to become a writer because I couldn’t imagine a more wonderful life. In fact, I still can’t!”
Over the years, Bradbury made several return visits to Tucson. In 1974, before a state library meeting, he talked of his love for the Tucson Library. He spent lots of time there and confessed that he often “ran amuck in the library.”
At one time, Bradbury considered being a professional magician, then he decided it would be a radio personality. He started hanging Tucson’s KGAR radio station hoping for his big chance. Finally, they relented and he was assigned the job of reading the Star’s comic section over the air.
He would change his voice depending on the character and he brought life to Tailspin Tommy, Jiggs and Maggie and even had a German accent for the Katzenjammer Kids. He did that for about five months and then moved on to becoming a sound man and bit part actor on other programs. But, he was frustrated that he could not write the scripts.
Eventually, he took his budding radio career to California, when his family again relocated. But, as he said on a 1987 visit to Tucson “You never get over your nostalgia for your beginnings.”