Bradbury was a reader and writer throughout his youth. He knew as a young boy that he was "going into one of the arts." In 1931, at the age of eleven, young Ray began writing his own stories. The country was going through the Great Depression, and sometimes Bradbury wrote on butcher paper.
In his youth, he spent much time in the Carnegie library in Waukegan, reading such authors as H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Edgar Allan Poe. At age twelve, Bradbury began writing traditional horror stories and said he tried to imitate Poe until he was about eighteen. In addition to comics, he loved Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan of the Apes, especially Burroughs' John Carter of Mars series. The Warlord of Mars impressed him so much that at the age of twelve he wrote his own sequel. The young Bradbury was also a cartoonist and loved to illustrate. He wrote about Tarzan and drew his own Sunday panels. He listened to the radio show Chandu the Magician, and when the show went off the air every night he would sit and write the entire script from memory.
In Beverly Hills, he often visited the science fiction writer Bob Olsen for mentorship as well as friendship while Bradbury was a teenager. They shared ideas and would keep in contact. In 1936, at a secondhand bookstore in Hollywood, Ray Bradbury discovered a handbill promoting meetings of the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society. Thrilled to find there were others with his interests, at the age of sixteen Bradbury joined a weekly Thursday-night conclave.
When he was seventeen, Bradbury read stories published in Astounding Science Fiction, and said he read everything by Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and the early writings of Theodore Sturgeon and A. E. van Vogt, but cited H. G. Wells and Jules Verne as his big science fiction influences. Bradbury identified with Verne, saying, "He believes the human being is in a strange situation in a very strange world, and he believes that we can triumph by behaving morally."  Bradbury admitted that he stopped reading genre books in his twenties and embraced a broad field of literature that included Alexander Pope and poet John Donne. Bradbury had just graduated from high school when he met Robert Heinlein, then 31 years old. Bradbury recalled, "He was well known, and he wrote humanistic science fiction, which influenced me to dare to be human instead of mechanical."
The family lived about four blocks from the Uptown Theater on Western Avenue in Los Angeles, the flagship theater for MGM and Fox. There, Bradbury learned how to sneak in and watched previews almost every week. He roller-skated there as well as all over town, as he put it "hell-bent on getting autographs from glamorous stars. It was glorious." Among stars the young Bradbury was thrilled to encounter were Norma Shearer, Laurel and Hardy, and Ronald Colman. Sometimes he would spend all day in front of Paramount Pictures or Columbia Pictures and then skate to the Brown Derby to watch the stars who came and went for meals. He recounted seeing Cary Grant, Marlene Dietrich and Mae West, who he would learn made a regular appearance every Friday night, bodyguard in tow.
Bradbury relates the following meeting with Sergei Bondarchuk, director of Soviet epic film series War and Peace, at a Hollywood award ceremony in Bondarchuk's honor:
They formed a long queue and as Bondarchuk was walking along it he recognized several people: "Oh Mr. Ford, I like your film." He recognized the director, Greta Garbo, and someone else. I was standing at the very end of the queue and silently watched this. Bondarchuk shouted to me; "Ray Bradbury, is that you?" He rushed up to me, embraced me, dragged me inside, grabbed a bottle of Stolichnaya, sat down at his table where his closest friends were sitting. All the famous Hollywood directors in the queue were bewildered. They stared at me and asked each other "who is this Bradbury?" And, swearing, they left, leaving me alone with Bondarchuk…