Saturday, July 12, 2014
"Kaleidoscope" is a classic SF short story, in which a group of astronauts find themselves flung aimlessly through space when their spaceship is destroyed; each one of them faces a slow, isolated death. As I have noted elsewhere, the premise seems to have inspired part of John Carpenter's movie Dark Star and Alfonso Cuaron's recent Gravity.
This 1991 radio adaptation is unusual, because the script is by Bradbury himself. It's a modified version of his stage play, and based on his own original short story. It was only the second BBC production to have used a Bradbury script (the first was Leviathan '99, which I reviewed here.).
The 1991 "Kaleidoscope" was directed by Hamish Wilson, who later co-produced the Bradbury series Tales of the Bizarre. It was also the first BBC production to use digital sampling technology in a drama production: they used a Synclavier to create the complex soundscape.
As with most BBC Radio broadcasts, the show will be available for streaming on the web for seven days, and should be accessible from anywhere in the world. Here's a direct link to the web page: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0499l5n
Today is also the 91st birthday of science fiction writer, critic and historian James Gunn. I met Jim last year, as I recounted in this blog post. He's still going strong, and last year published a well-received novel, Transcendental.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
Dangerous Visions from BBC Radio 4
Today at 2.30pm UK time, Brian Sibley's dramatisation of The Illustrated Man gets its first airing. You can listen live online from the link below. Alternatively, you can listen on demand for seven days following the broadcast.
The BBC website has some interesting background material on the production, the dramatist and the cast, and the link for listening:
And if you haven't already done so, check out Brian's own blog: every day this week he has posted audio recordings of his previous Bradbury dramatisations - and very good they are, too.
Friday, June 06, 2014
The BBC web pages for the forthcoming Ray Bradbury adaptations have started to appear. The page for The Illustrated Man by Brian Sibley is here!
My original blog post about the shows is here.
Thursday, June 05, 2014
Two Years On
Interest in his work continues, and has perhaps even intensified. Coming soon are:
- the second volume of The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury: A Critical Edition, 1943-1944;
- the second volume of Jon Eller's literary biography Ray Bradbury Unbound; and
- the fourth issue of The New Ray Bradbury Review.
Meanwhile, in Hollywood, Disney is planning its second attempt to film Something Wicked This Way Comes with Seth Grahame-Smith as writer-director. And in just over a week, BBC Radio 4 will be topping and tailing its season of SF dramas with two new productions based on The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles.
In the last year we have seen academic texts about Bradbury's works:
- About the Arizona and Mars connections - Orbiting Ray Bradbury's Mars;
- About one of his most enduring novels - Critical Insights: Fahrenheit 451.
Finally, we have seen Bradbury's office contents shipped to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies for preservation future study, and the sale of the Bradbury house on Los Angeles' Cheviot Drive.
A time of change, to be sure.
Labels: Bradbury Unbound, Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury, Disney, Fahrenheit 451, Orbiting Ray Bradbury's Mars, Seth Grahame-Smith, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Illustrated Man, The Martian Chronicles
Saturday, May 31, 2014
Truffaut's FAHRENHEIT 451
Truffaut happens to be one of my favourite film-makers, so this was a natural theme for the issue. However, I consider Fahrenheit 451 to be one of his weakest films. I attribute this to the peculiar circumstances in which the film was made: it was Truffaut's first and only film in English... a language which Truffaut struggled to learn, and never really mastered. The film was made with a British crew, and Truffaut had to address them through an interpreter. Fortunately, his cinematographer, the legendary Nic Roeg, was fluent in French, so Truffaut was at least able to converse with this one key collaborator.
The New Ray Bradbury Review is a scholarly journal, published by Kent State University Press and produced at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies (Indiana University). But it has always been an accessible journal, not full of obscure academic language. If you feel you have something to say about the Truffaut film, I would welcome you submitting a proposal. Proposals will be considered on their merits, not on the basis of the academic track-record of the writer.
If you're interested in contributing, please read the call for papers here.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Harlan Ellison at 80
He and Ray Bradbury were friends for years, and appeared together at many events. Here's a photo from an NBC Tom Snyder show, which I would guess was taken in the late 1970s. (Left to right: Ray Bradbury, Tom Snyder, Harlan Ellison - and an unknown fourth person. Any guesses?)
UPDATE - 1 JUNE 2014 - Several people have suggested that the person on the right is Gene Roddenberry of Star Trek fame, and that this photo dates is from The Tomorrow Show which aired on August 19, 1974.This sounds highly credible, and I can believe that it's the back of Roddenberry's head that we can see there. Thanks to Brian Sibley, who was the first to point this out!
Thirty years ago, David Gerrold wrote a piece for Starlog magazine in which he attempted to account for the various different ways that people see Harlan Ellison. His explanation for their widely divergent views is simple: it's like the blind man and the elephant. The cartoon accompanying the article put it best, so here is Phil Foglio's "What is an Ellison?" (Click on the image to embiggen.)
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Spielberg's The Whispers = Ray Bradbury's Zero Hour
The trailer for the TV series clearly presents this premise - although it looks as if it rapidly moves to Close Encounters territory - with perhaps a hint of Bradbury's "The Small Assassin" thrown in for good measure.
I don't see anything yet from the ABC network to confirm the Bradbury connection, but it's been mentioned in a number of places such as this announcement in Variety. There's a bit more (but not much) about the series here. And here is the trailer:
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
2001: A Space Odyssey
Two tickets for the West Coast premiere of 2001: A Space Odyssey, complete with invitation to the post-screening champagne reception.
According to the in70mm website, 2001 had begun screening in Washington DC first, then New York City, and then on 4th April 1968 it began its run in Hollywood at the Warner Hollywood Cinerama Theatre. By attending the screening in that first few days of release, Ray Bradbury saw 2001 in its original state, before the film's director Stanley Kubrick had shortened it by nineteen minutes. On 9th April he wrote a review of the film for Psychology Today.
Bradbury's review is mixed. Among his positive comments, there is great praise for his friend and fellow SF writer Arthur C. Clarke: the film's basic idea is "immense and moving". The photography, too, is outstanding: "truly beyond belief"; "probably the most stunning film ever put on screen."
But Bradbury's assessment of the heart of the film, the scenes on the spaceship Discovery, is scathing. He refers to the two astronauts played by Gary Lockwood and Keir Dullea as "two Antonioni people" who give us nothing to care about.
Nevertheless, Bradbury heartily recommends that everyone should see the film, preferably before (as he seems certain will happen) MGM cuts 90 minutes out of its running time. "Forgive it, if you can, its huge and exasperating flaws," he writes, and then mourn "for the experience we so much wanted to have." That missed experience is no less than "the painting, in one night, of the Sistine Chapel" - nearly, but not quite achieved.
Friday, May 02, 2014
Exclusive: New BBC Radio Productions of Bradbury Stories
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
- an almost full script c.1960;
- re-writing it as the novel published in 1962;
- writing an entirely new script based on the novel for Twentieth Century-Fox in 1973;
- substantially revising and reducing the script for Jack Clayton in 1976;
- re-working it again in 1981 for Disney, again with Jack Clayton.
The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies holds manuscripts of most of Bradbury's script work on this project. These are the folders for the 1973 and 1976 screenplays. The Bryna Company is Kirk Douglas's production company, which teamed up with Disney for the 1983 film.
(Photos by Phil Nichols, courtesy of the Bradbury Memorial Archive, Center for Ray Bradbury Studies.)
Friday, April 25, 2014
Center for Ray Bradbury Studies
This is what I wrote about my visit on my Facebook page. Apologies if this seems familiar (especially to anyone reading this blog post on Facebook, who may have already seen this before...):
Just finishing up after three weeks spent at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies in Indianapolis. For the final phase of my PhD research I was given unique access to the new materials recently shipped to the Center: the manuscripts and other materials from Ray Bradbury's basement office.
This photo shows just one drawer of one cabinet. There are 31 cabinets, and I browsed every one, checking and annotating the Center's inventory as I went.
There are also dozens and dozens of boxes, but three weeks isn't enough to have looked through those.
I found what I was looking for, and much much more. But every drawer was a surprise. Just when you think you know the works of Ray Bradbury, you discover ANOTHER variation on a familiar work. I lost count of the number of adaptations of DANDELION WINE, and the number of screenplay versions of THE FOX AND THE FOREST.
Some time in the next couple of years, these materials will be fully catalogued and made accessible to researchers, but for now they are in temporary storage. I am enormously grateful to Prof Jon Eller for allowing me such privileged access while the materials are still in this state.
If you haven't already found me on Facebook, please seek me out here.
I'm also managing the Facebook page for the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, which you can find here. Please visit, and "like" our new page!
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
50th Anniversary of the 1964 New York World's Fair
A detailed description of the experience/ride with its "moving grandstands" can be found on the excellent NYWF64.com website, here.
The same website also reproduces Bradbury's text for the US Pavilion, here.
The same text would appear as an article entitled "Taming the American Wilderness" in The Daily Californian Weekly Magazine on 5 November 1968, but without any reference to the World's Fair.
It was the first of many Bradbury excursions into writing for events, exhibitions and rides, including some for Disney, the California Air and Space Museum, and IMAX Ridefilm.
On my recent trip to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies in Indianapolis, I found Bradbury's scripts for all of these, including the New York World's Fair script:
Labels: World's Fairs
Monday, April 21, 2014
Bradbury Gets Two Retro-Hugo Nominations
Bradbury's 1938 fanzine short story "Hollerbochen's Dilemma" - which appears in the appendix of The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury: A Critical Edition, Vol. I - is among the nominees for Best Short Story of 1938, where Bradbury is in competition with writers such as Arthur C. Clarke, L. Sprague de Camp and Lester Del Rey.
His second nomination is in the category of Best Fan Writer, which recognises his contributions to various fanzines, although his own fanzine Futuria Fantasia wouldn't see publication until mid-1939, outside the nomination window for this round of Retro Hugos. Details of all the Hugo Award nominations, including the Retro Hugos, can be found here.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Ray Bradbury's favourite films (1993)
Later in life he took to writing scripts for television and film, and actively tried to get his books and stories to leading film-makers, in the hope of collaborating with them. Among those he would approach were David Lean, Carol Reed, Akira Kurosawa and Steven Spielberg.
As an active member of the screenwriter's guild, in the 1950s he was instrumental in establishing and running a film club for screenwriters, a venture he undertook because he was astonished by the number of Hollywood screenwriters who were not well versed in the latest film releases.
In 1993, the American Film Institute ran a season of films selected from Bradbury's list of favourites. In the brochure for the event, they posted the full list. Here's what the Ray Bradbury of 1993 considered to be his favourites, listed "in the order in which he first saw them".
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
- The Thief of Baghdad (1924)
- The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
- The Lost World (1925)
- The Black Pirate (1926)
- The Mummy (1932)
- The Skeleton Dance (1929, short animated film)
- King Kong (1933)
- The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1936)
- The Old Mill (1937, short animated film)
- The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
- The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)
- The Thief of Bagdad (1940)
- Fantasia (1940)
- Pinocchio (1940)
- Rebecca (1940)
- Things to Come (1936)
- Citizen Kane (1941)
- The Maltese Falcon (1941)
- Sunset Boulevard (1950)
- The Third Man (1949)
- Some Like it Hot (1959)
- Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
- Moby Dick (1956)
- Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
- Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)
As you can see, the films of his formative years hold most of the places in this list of favourites. And Bradbury somewhat immodestly includes three films (the last three) that he had connections with: he wrote the screenplay for Moby Dick and Something Wicked This Way Comes; and both Something Wicked and Fahrenheit 451 were based on novels by Bradbury. His inclusion of the latter two films is significant, as by the mid-2000s he would speak openly of his feeling of being betrayed by Jack Clayton in the making of Something Wicked, and would accuse Francois Truffaut of "ruining" Fahrenheit 451. His inclusion of the two films is a reminder that, for some time, he had genuine affection for them.
The AFI brochure includes a few comments from Bradbury on his selections. Of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, he is quoted as saying "it caused me to walk strangely for months." The brochure goes on to say that Bradbury "sat through a whole program of films three time just to see [The Skeleton Dance] again and again."
As for Things to Come, Bradbury is quoted as saying it "so stunned me that I staggered forth to attack my typewriter, fearful that the Future would never come if I didn't make it." And of The Third Man: "If I were teaching cinema, The Third Man would be the first film I would screen to show students exquisite writing, casting, directing, composing and editing."
Finally, of the mighty King Kong, the AFI quotes Bradbury as follows: "When Kong fell off the Empire State he landed on me. Crawling out from under his carcass I carried on a lifelong love affair with that fifty-foot ape."
Sunday, April 13, 2014
The Illustrated WOMAN
Today, you can find the story in the Bradbury collections The Machineries of Joy and The Stories of Ray Bradbury, but here is how she looked in magazine publication. (Click to make her even more immense!)
Thursday, April 10, 2014
THE ILLUSTRATED MAN on Film
For various reasons, his own scripts were not filmed. But in 1969, Warner Bros released a feature film based on the book, written by somebody else (Howard Kreitsek) and starring Rod Steiger. The film is oddly incoherent, so much so that some reviewers have called it surreal. My own view is that they are mistaking incoherence for surrealism! Bradbury always maintained that the screenplay was written by a real estate agent, which might explain its incompetence.
Director Jack Smight probably did the best he could with the materials he had to hand, and managed to make the linking scenes with the tattooed Steiger moderately interesting, although they have little in common with the linking scenes in Bradbury's book.
Here is the programme/press book from the 1969 screening of the film. Click on the images to enlarge.
Tuesday, April 08, 2014
Bradbury, Cover Star
Sunday, April 06, 2014
From the Bradburymedia Archive: THE WORLD OF RAY BRADBURY
Friday, March 21, 2014
Ray Bradbury on THE HAUNTING (1963)
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Time is so much present in one way or another in my work. The aging process. Death. The urgency one feels to celebrate before it’s too late.
Last night there was a warm wind at midnight. I thought, ‘I should roll down the lawn like I did with my daughters when we were young.’
But I could savor it, freeze it with my art, get it on paper.
- Ray Bradbury, interviewed by Aljean Harmetz. New York Times, 24th April 1983, page H1.
Thursday, March 13, 2014
Something Wicked Turns Round and Comes Back for More
Deadline Hollywood is reporting that a new film is to be made based on Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. Disney has attached Seth Grahame-Smith to the project as director - his first feature film in this role - and he is due to produce a treatment, after which a writer will be assigned. The story is here.
Well, it IS the twenty-first century, that period in history when Hollywood is only interesting in re-treading old product (as this fascinating infographic makes plain).
Whenever I hear of a new Bradbury-based film, I always say two things.
First, don't hold your breath. The history of Hollywood is one of options being taken out, traded and dropped; of scripts being written, rejected, rewritten, thrown away and written again from scratch; and of change in management that make one day's hot property the next day's embarrassing liability. Whatever happened to the Frank Darabont Fahrenheit 451? The Zack Snyder Illustrated Man? That proposed version of Dandelion Wine?
And second, don't pre-judge. The history of SF and fantasy film is that, based purely on announcements and rumours prior to release, fans get up in arms about who is attached to a project (they will ruin it!), changes to the story (that's not in the book!) and changes to the characters (he wouldn't do that!). Sometimes the adaptation will work despite such misgivings, sometimes not. The only way to find out is to wait and see.
That said, who exactly is Seth Grahame-Smith, the neophyte film director who is being entrusted with this undertaking? None other than the creator, writer and director of the MTV sitcom The Hard Times of RJ Berger (2010-1), the screenwriter of Dark Shadows (2012), the author and screenwriter of novel and film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2010 & 2012 respectively), and writer of the book (and forthcoming film) of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009 & 2015 respectively). More information here.
On the plus side, an association with darker themes. On the minus side, someone whose entire cinematic oeuvre to date is dependent on re-tooling existing stories and characters in a "quirky" way.
Hmm. Let's wait and see.
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Orbiting Ray Bradbury's Mars...in Arizona
The accompanying web page refers to the book as "kaleidoscopic", because of the many facets of Bradbury that it tries to bring out. The book's subtitle claims for it "biographical, anthropological, literary, scientific and other perspectives", which does indeed sound multi-faceted. So far, I have only dipped into the book, more or less at random, but at some point I will post a review of it.
The original call for submissions to the book mentioned the Arizona connection, suggesting that the book would be "keyed to the fact that Ray Bradbury spent a formative teen year in Tucson, Arizona, that impressed his young mind, largely shaping his metaphorical Mars" and it is precisely this aspect that Arizona's AZ Illustrated picks up on here, leading off with the scientific view of Mars.
Thursday, March 06, 2014
Directing SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES
It's something you might call Bradbury's life work...
As part of my research, I've been tracking the changes in all the different versions - including a number of screenplay versions which have neither been filmed nor published. Along the way, I've been keeping tally of who might have directed the Something Wicked movie at various points in history. Here's a quick summary. (If you also follow me on Facebook, you may have seen me post this on there recently.)
People who might have directed SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, if things had played out slightly differently...
No. 1: Gene Kelly, pictured here directing the "Circus" section of INVITATION TO THE DANCE - the film which triggered Ray Bradbury's creating SOMETHING WICKED in the first place!
Bradbury subsequently realised that, as a writer-director auteur, Fellini would have little use for a Bradbury script - but the two would meet and become good friends, although they never worked together.
And finally, the person who DID direct SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (1983)...
Ray Bradbury and Jack Clayton had been friends since Bradbury's visit to England in the 1950s. For decades they had talked about working together, but were unable to find anything that worked for both of them. Clayton rejected THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, saying that he liked the book but it wasn't the kind of film he felt he could make. Given that one of Clayton's great successes was THE INNOCENTS (based on TURN OF THE SCREW), it should have been obvious that he was a perfect match for SOMETHING WICKED.
SOMETHING WICKED got off to a false start with Clayton as director, and the production nearly evaporated like so many other Hollywood projects. Eventually, it got back on track and was finally made, with ANOTHER Bradbury screenplay.
The Bradbury-Clayton relationship, cordial for decades, was unfortunately soured when Clayton had Bradbury's script re-written (without his knowledge or permission). RUMPOLE creator John Mortimer was Clayton's uncredited script doctor.
When SOMETHING WICKED was previewed, the audience didn't respond well, causing Disney to re-work the film. With Bradbury's involvement (and with Clayton effectively sidelined), new material was shot - which is why the two child stars inexplicably age in a couple of scenes - some visual effects were added, and a new music score was commissioned.
The film, then, was a compromise. But it might have been similarly compromised with Gene Kelly, Blake Edwards, Sam Peckinpah or Federico Fellini at the helm!
Jack Clayton is pictured here on the streets of "Green Town, Illinois" during the making of the film.
Monday, March 03, 2014
Frank Palumbo and his students kept up a correspondence with Bradbury for a decade or more, and Frank kept not just Bradbury's letters, but the envelopes they came in. Thanks to Frank's generosity, I am able to share some of them with you here.
One or two items have been tidied up a little (by me), mostly to remove folds, creases and inkblots. (The whale above is one of my Photoshop efforts, but you can see the untouched Bradbury original below, with the original message.) The most common items in the Bradbury doodle repertoire are faces and animals. The humans sometimes look angry, sometimes perplexed, sometimes just grotesque. The animals are a bit more straightforward.
The last item is a simple Bradbury annotation of the Edgar Allan Poe postage stamps on the envelope, indicating Bradbury's idea of the familial relationship between the two authors.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation
Here are the nominees:
Doctor Who: ‘‘The Day of the Doctor’’ (Nick Hurran, director; Steven Moffat, writer) (BBC Wales)
Europa Report (Sebastián Cordero, director; Philip Gelatt, writer) (Start Motion Pictures)
Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, director; Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, writers) (Warner Bros.)
Her (Spike Jonze, director; Spike Jonze, writer) (Warner Bros.)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Francis Lawrence, director; Simon Beaufoy & Michael deBruyn, writers) (Lionsgate)
Pacific Rim (Guillermo del Toro, director; Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro, writers) (Warner Bros.)
It will be interesting to see what the SFWA membership makes of this. Gravity would seem to be the natural winner, but my impression is that it has had quite a critical reception among SF types. While the general filmgoing audience might have found it novel, seasoned SF old-timers see Gravity as 1930s or 1940s SF, the kind of story that Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke (or Bradbury) could have bashed out in an afternoon.
Winners will be announced later in the year. Details of all the Nebula nominees can be found on the SFWA website. Previous winners are listed on Wikipedia, here.
Monday, February 24, 2014
Ray Bradbury Miscellanea
Click the image to enlarge.
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Ray Bradbury Interview
Click on the image to embiggen.