The Illustrative Man: New Exhibit on Local Speculative Fiction Writer Ray Bradbury


Ray Bradbury’s work and reputation have aged like fine dandelion wine. Unlike many of his fellow 20th century science-fiction and fantasy writers, he’s entered the current millennium fairly woke and relatively unscathed, his stories addressing censorship, racism, and a healthy combination of respect and suspicion of telecommunications and technology.

Furthermore, the Waukegan-born author achieved something more than selling millions of books and garnering multiple film and television adaptations—he became iconic, writing Fahrenheit 451 and becoming part of the American high school curriculum alongside The Grapes of Wrath, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and The Great Gatsby. Small wonder that just a decade after his death Bradbury has gotten his due with two museum exhibits this year and last.

Last summer, the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum (13 N. Genesee St., Waukegan) opened its doors on August 22, Bradbury’s 100th birthday. Exhibits include Bradbury’s typewriter, several murals, and a tour of Green Town, the author’s analog for Waukegan, appearing in his novels, Dandelion Wine, Farewell Summer, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. The museum is currently closed due to the pandemic, but plans to reopen once restrictions are removed.

Until then, the American Writers Museum (180 N Michigan Ave., currently closed but scheduled to reopen May 14), is hosting their on- and offline exhibit Ray Bradbury: Inextinguishable. Coyly, the online exhibition shares a few vintage photographs and images of exhibits like Bradbury’s books, writing desk, letters, paintbrushes, and Buck Rogers action figure, with fleet descriptions that give the gist of Bradbury’s life and literary stature.

Personally, having written for NewCity about Bradbury’s legacy and the potential for a museum many years back, I’m looking forward to visiting both exhibits and seeing if any of my predictions came to pass.

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Dan Kelly

Dan Kelly has been a writer and editor for 30 years, contributing work to the Chicago Reader, Chicago Journal, The Baffler, Harvard Magazine, The University of Chicago Magazine, and others.