Sunday, March 01, 2015

Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)

You can't fail to have noticed the widespread tributes to Leonard Nimoy, who died recently at the age of 83. Of course, Star Trek, and of course, Spock. But Nimoy also had an incredibly long career that spanned stage, television, film - and was recognised for his acting, teaching, writing, directing and photography.

It would be impossible for science fiction giants like Nimoy and Bradbury to have never crossed paths, and indeed their paths did cross on several occasions - but curiously the only times when Nimoy acted for Bradbury were all voice work.

Nimoy recorded a couple of spoken-word albums of Bradbury material, which included short stories chosen from The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles. Today, we would call these "audiobooks", but back in the day they were released as LPs.

Later, Nimoy put in an energetic performance as Bradbury's character Moundshroud, in the Emmy-winning animated TV film of The Halloween Tree. On this occasion, Nimoy was performing directly from a screenplay written by Bradbury himself.

It's been interesting to see the tributes to Nimoy, which have come not just from Hollywood, but from NASA, astronauts, and President Obama. He inspired people to dream of space, and of the future; much as Bradbury did. I haven't been able to locate any photos of Bradbury and Nimoy together, but I've sure they met at some point, and no doubt they would have much in common to talk about.


 


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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Last Word on the Demolition?

The fallout following the demolition of Ray Bradbury's former Los Angeles home has continued, but KCRW's DnA architecture show has presented what may be the last word on the topic for now. Trailed online for over a week, the show was finally broadcast two days ago, and is currently online in full.

The report begins with a brief interview with the Manager of the Office of Historic Resources of the City of Los Angeles' Department of City Planning, who explains what would have been needed to have saved the house. Then buyers of the house, architect Thom Mayne and his wife, explain their plans for the property. Finally, Jon Eller of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, who only learned of the demolition after it had happened, presents a philosophical take on where we can go from here.

The show is online here: http://www.kcrw.com/news-culture/shows/design-and-architecture/thom-mayne-shares-plans-for-bradburys-former-home-suburban-la-gets-a-retrofit

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Proposed SOMETHING WICKED film updates story to 1980s

Since the announcement last year that Seth Grahame-Smith was attached to a new film adaptation of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, there has been a period of silence. This week, Entertainment Weekly has provided an update. And the biggest news is that the film itself will update Bradbury's story - to the 1980s. This, Graham-Smith reports, is the era of his own childhood, "the most authentic time that I know how to represent."

This strikes me as incredibly faulty logic - like updating Huckleberry Finn to the 1970s.

The EW article is a survey of Grahame-Smith's current projects - and there are plenty of them: not only Something Wicked but proposed re-boots of Beetlejuice and Stephen King's It, among others. This is one busy writer-producer-director.

Something Wicked is reported as being scripted by David Leslie Johnson, from a treatment by Grahame-Smith. Johnson began his career as an assistant to Frank Darabont on The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and The Walking Dead; his biggest screenwriting credit to date is for The Wrath of the Titans. The earliest the film might go before the cameras is late 2015, but my recommendation (as always) is: don't hold your breath.

The EW report is here: http://insidemovies.ew.com/2015/01/16/beetlejuice-2-something-wicked-gremlins-seth-grahame-smith/2/

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Jon Eller clarifies his position on the Bradbury house demolition

Last week, the news broke that Ray Bradbury's former home was being torn down. Shortly after, reports appeared suggesting that Bradbury's biographer Jon Eller was in favour of the demolition. Frustrated by inaccurate reporting, Eller has now made a direct announcement to clarify his position: he was never consulted by the architect, and the first he knew of the demolition was after the house was torn down. Eller visited Bradbury many times during the last couple of decades of Ray's life, and conducted many hours of research interviews. His announcement indicates the extent of his own personal attachment to "that Old Yellow House".

Jon Eller's statement was published yesterday on the web page of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, which he directs at Indiana University. It was also sent directly to me, to author Steven Paul Leiva, and a few other news outlets.

This is what he wrote:

I would like to clarify the reporting of recent days concerning the Bradbury Center's support of Thom Mayne’s plans for Ray Bradbury’s Cheviot Hills home in Los Angeles. I was never in favor of demolishing the Bradbury home; until last week, I had no idea who the new owner was, or what he planned for the home. When I received pictures of the house being torn down, I found out who the new owner was and I learned all I could about his plans.  I was impressed by his decision to preserve the fine details of woodwork for charity donation. I was impressed that he was planning to live in the new house, rather than build and sell it. I later learned that he would be building a low-profile, garden-and-wall home that would prominently honor Ray Bradbury’s legacy on that property. I subsequently supported Thom Mayne’s planning going forward, not because he demolished the Bradbury home, but because I knew he planned to honor Ray Bradbury’s memory in a significant and enduring way. - See more at: http://iat.iupui.edu/bradburycenter/news/center-director-responds-media-coverage-comments-bradbury-house-tear-down#sthash.Nzeg87Mb.dpuf
I would like to clarify the reporting of recent days concerning the Bradbury Center's support of Thom Mayne’s plans for Ray Bradbury’s Cheviot Hills home in Los Angeles. I was never in favor of demolishing the Bradbury home; until last week, I had no idea who the new owner was, or what he planned for the home. When I received pictures of the house being torn down, I found out who the new owner was and I learned all I could about his plans.  I was impressed by his decision to preserve the fine details of woodwork for charity donation. I was impressed that he was planning to live in the new house, rather than build and sell it. I later learned that he would be building a low-profile, garden-and-wall home that would prominently honor Ray Bradbury’s legacy on that property. I subsequently supported Thom Mayne’s planning going forward, not because he demolished the Bradbury home, but because I knew he planned to honor Ray Bradbury’s memory in a significant and enduring way. - See more at: http://iat.iupui.edu/bradburycenter/news/center-director-responds-media-coverage-comments-bradbury-house-tear-down#sthash.Nzeg87Mb.dpuf
I would like to clarify the reporting of recent days concerning the Bradbury Center's support of Thom Mayne’s plans for Ray Bradbury’s Cheviot Hills home in Los Angeles. I was never in favor of demolishing the Bradbury home; until last week, I had no idea who the new owner was, or what he planned for the home. When I received pictures of the house being torn down, I found out who the new owner was and I learned all I could about his plans.  I was impressed by his decision to preserve the fine details of woodwork for charity donation. I was impressed that he was planning to live in the new house, rather than build and sell it. I later learned that he would be building a low-profile, garden-and-wall home that would prominently honor Ray Bradbury’s legacy on that property. I subsequently supported Thom Mayne’s planning going forward, not because he demolished the Bradbury home, but because I knew he planned to honor Ray Bradbury’s memory in a significant and enduring way.

The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies exists on Indiana University’s IUPUI campus to extend the Bradbury legacy, to preserve his writings and books, and to provide extensive research sources and public outreach for scholars, students, and the general public. We are fortunate to have archives and artifacts here at IUPUI in Indianapolis that will allow us to re-create Ray Bradbury’s basement office as it existed for decades in his Cheviot Hills home. It takes the work of many people from all over the country to realize that dream. I’m in the business of building bridges that embrace hope and sadness, loss and recovery, and the celebration of the human imagination. Thom Mayne knows Ray Bradbury’s literary works, and I want the Bradbury Center to be able to help him celebrate and honor the Bradbury legacy in the future. I miss that Old Yellow House more than I care to say publicly, and I never wanted to see it disappear. But it will never be lost, as long as we work together to preserve its memory.
 

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Former Bradbury Home Demolition - New Owner Speaks Up

A quick update to yesterday's post: architect Thom Mayne has spoken for the first time on his motivations and plans in buying Ray Bradbury's former house in Los Angeles.

Alex Shephard briefly interviewed Mayne by phone. Read the details here: http://www.mhpbooks.com/why-was-ray-bradburys-home-demolished-an-interview-with-architect-thom-mayne/

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Building Bridges

Reports of the demolition of Ray Bradbury's former home have gone viral over the last day or two, with many news outlets and bloggers picking up on the original reports which appeared on File770. The news reports have resulted in hundreds of comments, some of them motivated by sadness, anger or disbelief. The architect Thom Mayne - reportedly the purchaser of the house on Cheviot Drive, Los Angeles - has been the target of some hostile reactions from Bradbury followers, but to my knowledge has not yet been drawn into commenting on reports of his plans and intentions.

Jon Eller - Bradbury's literary biographer, author of Becoming Ray Bradbury and Ray Bradbury Unbound, editor of The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury, and director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies - has taken a more philosophical view on the demolition. According to KRCW's Design & Architecture blog, Eller believes that both Bradbury and Mayne are futurists, whose view of the transformative power of architecture show parallels. Eller hopes to draw Mayne into dialogue, so that the reported family-home construction planned to replace the Bradbury house will be in some way informed by Bradbury's legacy.

KRCW has recorded an interview with Jon Eller, and is planning to interview Thom Mayne. The Design & Architecture blog promises that these interviews will be heard in an upcoming episode.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Soft Rains

It's been the oddest of weeks.

Ray Bradbury's former house, located on Cheviot Drive in Los Angeles, has been recreated along with Ray in a graphic treatment of a Bradburyesque fiction - and in real life has been pulled down.

Ray passed away in 2012, and in 2014 his house was finally put up for sale. It was bought by an architect who, apparently, has the intention of using the land for building a new family home. It was only a matter of time before the Bradbury house, a curious yellow bungalow built into a hillside, would be redeveloped. I don't think anyone close to Bradbury was quite prepared for how devastating this would seem.

Ray and his family moved into the house over fifty years ago, and countless newpaper interviews, magazine profiles, news reports and documentary films have shown the house, so much so that the house and Bradbury became synonymous. His basement office, overloaded with books, toys and exotic masks, was for many years a particular focus of published profiles of Ray; and in the last years of his life, it was his "den" that became the focus, where he would entertain visitors surrounded by sculptures of dinosaurs, an Ice-Cream Suit, Halloween paraphernalia and original artworks.

In 2014, not only was the house sold off, but many of Ray's possessions also went up for auction. And this week, the demolition team moved in. There are pictures of the remains of the house in this report on Mike Glyer's File770 website, accompanying an article written by Ray's longtime friend and helper John King Tarpinian.

By coincidence, this week also saw the publication of the third issue of Shadow Show, the comic book based on the Bradbury tribute book of the same name. Issue 3 includes a graphic adaptation of Bradbury biographer Sam Weller's short story "Live Forever!" - a story which includes Ray as a character, and uses the house as the arena in which this Bradburyesque tale unfolds. Sam tells me that the comic's producers went to great lengths to achieve accuracy in depicting the house. The result is very successful. Here's one page from the comic, and you can see more in this preview.





Note that even the artworks hanging on the walls are reproduced with accuracy in Mark Sexton's comic strip - in the page above, the final frame shows the classic cover art for Bradbury's The Illustrated Man.

It is a great irony that these two events should have coincided: the celebration of Bradbury's house as one source of his literary strength, and the destruction of that same house. Friends of Bradbury who were present around the time of the demolition have reported a further irony. The day they knocked the roof off the Bradbury house, it rained. Not exactly a common occurrence in Los Angeles. Inevitably, it brings to mind Bradbury's classic short story "There Will Come Soft Rains", which poignantly depicts an empty house after a nuclear war:


The house shuddered, oak bone on bone, its bared skeleton cringing from the heat, its wire, its nerves revealed as if a surgeon had torn the skin off to let the red veins and capillaries quiver in the scalded air. [...]

The crash. The attic smashing into kitchen and parlor. The parlor into cellar, cellar into sub-cellar. Deep freeze, armchair, film tapes, circuits, beds, and all like skeletons thrown in a cluttered mound deep under.[...]

Dawn showed faintly in the east. Among the ruins, one wall stood alone. Within the wall, a last voice said, over and over again and again, even as the sun rose to shine upon the heaped rubble and steam:

"Today is August 5, 2026, today is August 5, 2026, today is . . ."








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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ray Bradbury: From Science to the Supernatural

Ray Bradbury: From Science to the Supernatural is a film screening event taking place in Bloomington, Indiana, from 24th-29th March 2015. For the last few months, I have been working with Indiana University Cinema and the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies on the programme of events, and can now reveal the contents of the screenings.

The images below are taken from the Spring 2015 programme book from IU Cinema. Click on them to enlarge, and you will see the full blurb for each of the events.

All being well, I will be attending all screenings - introducing some of the events, and participating in disussion panels for some of them. Jon Eller, author of Becoming Ray Bradbury and Ray Bradbury Unbound will be co-hosting. Jon and I collaborated on the basic "wishlist" for the screenings, and IU Cinema's Jon Vickers has done the real work in sorting out screening rights and securing prints and recordings of the films and TV shows in the programme. (No mean feat, especially when Jon Eller and I desperately wanted to include the extremely rare "A Sound of Different Drummers".)

According to the IU Cinema catalogue, all screenings in the Bradbury series will be FREE, but you will need tickets to attend (IU Cinema is limited to 260 seats). Details of how to book are included in the images below. 








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Monday, December 01, 2014

Ray Bradbury and THE TWILIGHT ZONE

Marc Scott Zicree, the writer-producer, and author of the excellent Twilight Zone Companion,  is working on a book about his ten-year-long friendship with Ray Bradbury. The working title is My Ray Bradbury.

When Zicree was working on The Twilight Zone Companion, he attempted to interview Bradbury about his involvement with that classic Rod Serling TV series. Bradbury wrote just one completed episode of the series, "I Sing The Body Electric," but also wrote a couple of unfilmed episodes. Bradbury also claimed a significant contribution to the very existence of the series: he reportedly introduced Serling to the writers Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont, each of whom would write many episodes of the series.

Zicree's attempt to draw information out of Bradbury was thwarted back in the 1980s, but the two later became friends. Long after The Twilight Zone Companion was published, Zicree finally heard  Bradbury's account of how the relationship between Serling and Bradbury soured. Zicree recounts all of this in his latest "Mr Sci-Fi" video on YouTube.

Zicree slightly overstates things when he claims that none of this has been discussed before. In fact, much of Bradbury's account of events is given in Sam Weller's biography The Bradbury Chronicles. Nevertheless, Zicree's encyclopedic knowledge of Twilight Zone and Serling, and his friendship with Bradbury, make his telling of events fascinating and compelling. You can see the entire 24-minute video below.

There is, in fact, yet more to the Serling-Bradbury conflict. The Zicree video presents the Bradbury interpretation, but I have seen correspondence from the time which suggests an entire other dimension to the argument between the two great writers. Indeed, Jon Eller's new book Ray Bradbury Unbound (chapter 28) reveals much more of the Serling-Bradbury relationship, based on both the surviving correspondence and his own extensive interviews with Bradbury, giving the most detailed and insightful account yet published.

One day, perhaps, a fuller version of the story may emerge - but for now, Zicree's recounting of Bradbury's view is one of the best you will find.

(This blog post has been updated to include the reference to Ray Bradbury Unbound - 7 January 2014.)


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Friday, November 14, 2014

Bradbury Auction - Round Two

The auction for the Ray Bradbury Estate is on again, with unsold lots from the previous auction now somewhat reconfigured, and with lower starting prices in many cases.

Among the curios still on offer are a genuine Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, from one of the productions of Bradbury's story/play; a herringbone jacket which Ray wore in Ireland while working on Moby Dick for John Huston back in the 1950s; and many items of artwork from Bradbury's personal collection.

Perhaps the standout item is the official commemorative plaque from Ray Bradbury's Hollywood Star, which was presented to him in 2002.

When the first auction was on, I suggested that it would be rather neat if someone would bid-and-donate: to bid on an item and then donate it to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. The Center, in Indianapolis, houses the largest collection of Bradbury materials: manuscripts, correspondence, books, pulp magazines, awards and other artefacts - including the furniture from Ray's former basement office. It's primarily a research collection (as the "Studies" in its title implies), but it also has plans for more public outreach and for a visitor reception/exhibition area. While the Center's collection is extensive, the Center isn't exactly awash with funds, and isn't in much of a position to extend its holdings, except by donations.

So, with the round two auction now underway - with just under a week left to run - I would once again like to suggest bidding-to-donate. That Hollywood Star would look quite magnificent in, say, a reconstruction of RayBradbury's basement office...

The Hollywood Star lot is viewable here: http://natedsanders.com/ItemImages/000032/47585h_lg.jpeg

And the entire auction catalogue is online here: http://natedsanders.com/Category/Ray_Bradbury_Estate-66.html

Happy Bidding!

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Wednesday, November 05, 2014

RIP: George Slusser (1939-2014)

Some sad new to report: George Slusser has died.

George wrote one of the earliest studies of Ray Bradbury's work, The Bradbury Chronicles (Borgo Press, 1977). This short study, written in an accessible style, concentrated mainly on Bradbury's early short stories, and drew out the key themes that seemed to be Bradbury's preoccupation in those classic weird tales.

George Slusser was an academic at the University of California Riverside, where he built the J.Lloyd Eaton Collection into the world's largest research collection for science fiction, fantasy and horror. He also organised or helped organise many of the Eaton Conferences, and edited and co-edited many of the books that collected the proceedings of those conferences.

As well as writing about Bradbury, George wrote books on Ursula Le Guin, Arthur C. Clarke, Harlan Ellison, Robert Heinlein and many others. He collaborated frequently with Eric Rabkin, and helped shape the academic study of SF.

In 2008, I submitted a conference paper proposal about Bradbury to the Eaton Conference, and was surprised to get a personal response from George. I was even more surprised when he told me my paper had been accepted - and that Ray Bradbury was to be a guest of honour at the conference. That conference would be my first meeting with both George and Ray.

Both the Eaton collection and the Eaton conference look set to continue in the future. Both are a fitting legacy for George Edgar Slusser.


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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Re-Unite Bradbury's Hugo Award with his Manuscripts!

It took fifty years for Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's classic novel of book-burning firemen, to be formally honoured by the science fiction community. The first Hugo Awards - voted for by members of the World Science Fiction Convention - were given in 1953 (covering the year 1952), too early for Fahrenheit to be in consideration. They weren't given again until 1955, by which time it was too late for Fahrenheit. But in 2004 the "missing year" of 1954 was finally covered with the "Retro Hugos", an opportunity for Convention-goers to select the best works of 1953 for special awards.

Ray's Retro-Hugo is currently up for auction, along with more than 400 other artefacts offered by the Bradbury estate. The starting bid was $5000. Unfortunately, this is beyond what the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, which holds (in original or digitised form) many manuscripts related to Fahrenheit 451, could afford to spend. So I would like to make a simple proposition to put the Hugo back with the manuscripts:

Bid-to-donate.

Is there someone out there who could bid for the Retro-Hugo, and donate it to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University?

If this idea appeals to you, please visit the web site of Nate D. Sanders Auctions of Los Angeles (link below); or email auction@natedsanders.com; or phone 310 440-2982. The auction instructions and registration pages of the website explain the online, phone, and mail bidding process.

The bidding period runs until 5:00 p.m. PDT on Thursday, September 25th, 2014. The Bradbury Hugo Award is lot number 293 in the Bradbury online auction catalog. Here's a direct link:

http://natedsanders.com/Ray_Bradbury_s_Hugo_Award_for___Fahrenheit_451____-LOT31626.aspx

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bradbury "Ice Cream Suit" Event in California

If you are near Pomona, California, in mid-October, here's a unique event: a screening of The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, with a panel on the making of the film. It's to support Pomona Public Library.

The film was scripted by Ray Bradbury, based on his short story and play, and was directed for Disney by Stuart Gordon - a director better known for his work in the horror genre. Gordon will be on the discussion panel, along with two of the film's stars: Joe Mantegna and Edward James Olmos.

And if that weren't enough, the panel will be joined by Bradbury's authorised biographer Sam Weller, and chaired by organiser of Los Angeles' Ray Bradbury Week, Steven Paul Leiva.

Full details of the 12th October event are here.

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Saturday, September 06, 2014

Auction for the Ray Bradbury Estate

After Ray Bradbury's death in 2012, it naturally took a while for his estate to be distributed. As I have reported previously, the bulk of his papers and correspondence, and most of his office contents, found their way to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies in Indianapolis; and his Cheviot Hills home was sold earlier this year. But Ray's house was also full of personal effects and possessions, including a great deal of artwork - and these remaining objects are now up for auction.

The full catalogue for the auction is online, and the auction house appears to be open to online bidding. There are hundreds of lots, ranging from rough sketches by Bradbury collaborators such as Joe Mugnaini, through to the commemorative plaque for Ray's Hollywood star. Even if you don't intend to bid on anything, the catalogue is fascinating to browse through, and in most cases includes quite detailed photos of the lots. View the catalogue here.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Bradbury Unbound

Jon Eller's second volume on the life and writing of Ray Bradbury - Ray Bradbury Unbound - is due out in a few days. In addition to his recent blog post for Biographile, Jon has written one for Locus, the science-fiction news magazine. Here, he talks about the discoveries made in researching the book, and the creative challenge of documenting a career in a limited number of pages. The Locus blog is here.

I had the privilege of reading some of the book while Jon was finalising it, and it is a thorough piece of work which captures the whirlwind of Bradbury at his peak, following the successes of Fahrenheit 451 and his film work for Moby Dick and leading into the 1960s.

Ray Bradbury Unbound is available for pre-order in all the usual places: click here to order on Amazon (US); click here to order on Amazon (UK); click here to order from the publisher.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Asteroid 9766 Bradbury

On 24th February 1992, an average-sized asteroid was discovered by Spacewatch observers at the Kitt's Peak Observatory, and designated 1992 DZ2. Eight and a half years later it was given a name: 9766 Bradbury.

Dr Jeffrey Larsen of the Spacewatch Project and the University of Arizona wrote to Ray Bradbury to tell him of this astronomical re-naming. He provided technical details of the asteroid's orbit, and more graspable information such as its size (three to nine kilometres in diameter) and distance from the Sun (2.45 astronomical units). Dr Larsen also informed Ray that the asteroid had not been observed for its physical composition, and thanked Ray "for inspiring me in my youth" through his writing.

Ray immediately faxed Dr Larsen back, exclaiming "Holy Magoly!" He thanked Larsen for "this wonderful baptism" and felt sure that this would earn respect from his four daughters.

Ray Bradbury had been similarly honoured by the Apollo 15 astronauts, who named a crater on the Moon as "Dandelion Crater" in 1971. Shortly after his death, he was astronomically honoured once more, when the Curiosity landing site on Mars was named as "Bradbury Landing".




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Friday, August 22, 2014

Ray Bradbury's Birthday






Ray Douglas Bradbury was born ninety-four years ago today.

Even now, two years after he passed away, the fascination with his life and work continues. In a few weeks' time, a second volume of literary biography will be published: Ray Bradbury Unbound by Jon Eller. Shortly after, the second volume of The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury: a Critical Edition will appear. The successful tribute volume Shadow Show is being developed into a comic-book series. Film composer John Massari has developed his Ray Bradbury Theater music into a symphonic suite. Dramatic Publishing is expanding its list of Bradbury-authored theatre plays with Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Illustrated Bradbury. And this week, the Indianapolis Public Library inaugurated an annual Ray Bradbury Lecture in conjunction with Indiana University's Center for Ray Bradbury Studies.

I think that deserves a round of applause!




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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Comic-Book Series: Ray Bradbury Tribute SHADOW SHOW

Comics publisher IDW has announced a five-issue series of comic books based on the Shadow Show anthology.

The original anthology, edited by Mort Castle and Ray Bradbury's biographer Sam Weller, was created as a tribute to Bradbury, and included stories from leading fantasists such as Neil Gaiman and Harlan Ellison.

The new comic will adapt a selection of the anthology's stories, including those by Gaiman, Ellison, Joe Hill and Alice Hoffman.

Full details are on IDW's web page, here.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bradbury Wins Retro Hugo

The problem with awards is that they don't always go to the right people. The Hugo Awards - decided on a ballot of the year's World Science Fiction Convention membership - have a way of correcting for this: the Retro Hugos, typically given for overlooked works... but many years after the event.

At this year's Loncon3 convention, the Retro Hugos have been given for the year 1939. This, of course, is long before most of the convention's members were born. But it has given Ray Bradbury a second opportunity to have his works considered for recognition.

Bradbury was on the ballot in two categories:

"Best Short Story" - his amateur story "Hollerbochen's Dilemma" lost out to Arthur C. Clarke's "How We Went To Mars". Perhaps the UK location of this year's Worldcon helped Clarke to win this category...

"Best Fan Writer" - Ray won in this category, where the award is not given for a specific named work, but for a general body of work. Of course, in the late 1930s Bradbury was contributing to a number of fan publications, and was producing his own fanzine, Futuria Fantasia.

I find it quite amusing that Ray Bradbury should win as "best fan writer", particularly since back in 1939 he attended the very first World Science Fiction Convention in New York.

Full details of the Retro Hugo ballot can be found at Tor.com.

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Monday, August 04, 2014

Harlan Ellison story dedicated to Ray Bradbury

Harlan Ellison, who turned 80 just a few weeks ago, has a new short story in the online Subterranean Press Magazine. Titled "He Who Grew Up Reading Sherlock Holmes", the story alludes to both  Conan Doyle's "The Red-Headed League" and Ray Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder". The story is also dedicated to the memory of Bradbury. Read the story here.

Harlan is also one of the latest additions to the Archive of American Television's oral history programme, with a video interview conducted in early 2013, covering most of the steps in Ellison's screenwriting career. Interviews in this series are usually continuous and chronological, but for some reason this one has been broken into short, top-and-tailed segments. While this has created some fun sections, it doesn't seem quite as carefully controlled as the rest of the series, and the sense of chronology is sometimes lost - as when Harlan talks about The Twilight Zone from the 1980s in between his comments on the 1960s series Ripcord and The Flying Nun. You can watch the interview here.

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

KALEIDOSCOPE returns...

Following hot on the heels of Brian Sibley's radio dramatisation of Bradbury's "Kaleidoscope" (as part of The Illustrated Man for Radio 4's Dangerous Visions season), the archive radio channel BBC Radio 4Extra is today broadcasting a 1991 production of the same story. 4Extra's web page thinks it's a new production, but it isn't.

"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


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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.

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Dangerous Visions from BBC Radio 4

Today sees the start of BBC Radio 4's week-long season of science drama Dangerous Visions, which is topped and tailed with adaptations of classic Ray Bradbury books.

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:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b046j2jc

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.

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Friday, June 06, 2014

BBC Bradbury



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.

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Thursday, June 05, 2014

Two Years On

 It's now two years to the day since Ray Bradbury died.

Interest in his work continues, and has perhaps even intensified. Coming soon are:

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:

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.

Onward!



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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Truffaut's FAHRENHEIT 451

I will be guest-editing a forthcoming issue of The New Ray Bradbury Review, devoted to the Francois Truffaut film adaptation of Fahrenheit 451. The issue will be published in 2016, timed to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the film's release.

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.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Harlan Ellison at 80

I find it impossible to believe, but Harlan Ellison is eighty years old today. And still writing and publishing like crazy (visit www.harlanellisonbooks.com to see his most recent new publications, and www.openroadmedia.com/harlan-ellison for his past works - all still in print).

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.)



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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Spielberg's The Whispers = Ray Bradbury's Zero Hour

Somehow this one just snuck up on me: a new TV series from Spielberg's people, inspired by Bradbury's classic short story "Zero Hour". The premise of the story is that an alien invasion takes place through children's play, and the story has been adapted for radio and TV countless times.

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:


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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

2001: A Space Odyssey

During my recent treasure hunt in the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies archives, what was my coolest find? Some long-lost manuscript? A previously unknown screenplay?

No.

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.






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Friday, May 02, 2014

Exclusive: New BBC Radio Productions of Bradbury Stories

Next month, BBC Radio 4 launches a new week of science fiction drama, starting and ending with dramatisations of two of Ray Bradbury's most celebrated works.
On Saturday 14th June at 2.30pm, The Illustrated Man opens the series. This all-new production is written by award-winning radio dramatist Brian Sibley, whose previous works include the 1990s series Ray Bradbury's Tales of the Bizarre as well as the classic BBC Radio adaptations of Lord of the Rings, Gormenghast and The History of Titus Groan. Brian knew Ray personally, and tells me he is particularly pleased that the new production airs forty years to the week since he received Ray's first letter. (Brian is also a doodler, as you can see from this "Sibleytoon" of Ray.)

Of course, The Illustrated Man is not a novel, but a collection of short stories linked loosely together with the framing device of a tattooed man whose tattoos have a life of their own. As with previous adaptations, due to limitations of time it has been necessary to select which stories to adapt. Brian has chosen (in this order): 'Marionettes Inc', 'Zero Hour' and 'Kaleidoscope'  - and has managed to also include passing references to other stories in the collection, as well as the separately published short story 'The Illustrated Man'.
Studio recordings were completed last week, with Ian Glenn playing The Illustrated Man and Jamie Parker the Youth who meets him and hears his story. The drama is currently in post-production.

The broadcast launches a short season of dramas entitled 'Dangerous Visions' that runs for the week with a two-part classic serial (beginning on Sunday 15th June) of Philip K Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and five thematically-linked afternoon plays from Monday to Friday (details yet to be announced)
And to end the season: The Martian Chronicles will be aired on Saturday 21st June at 2.30pm. Unlike the in-house BBC production of The Illustrated Man, The Martian Chronicles is an independent production created by B7, the team behind the radio adaptation of Blake's Seven. The dramatisation is by Richard Kurti and Bev Doyle, produced by Patrick Chapman and directed by Andrew Mark Sewell. While I don't have full details on this production yet, early notes on the dramatisation suggest that the stories selected from Bradbury's book will include: '...And the Moon be Still as Bright', 'The Off Season', 'The Long Years' and 'The Million Year Picnic'.
These new productions, acting as bookends to such a major new series, promise to add to the already impressive BBC Radio track record for Bradbury productions (as you can see from my Bradbury radio list). Radio 4 streams live on the web, and can be accessed from anywhere in the world - and their shows usually remain online for catch-up listening for seven days after broadcast. The Radio 4 web page is here.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bradbury's drafts

It's a good job that I like reading film scripts... I've lately been working through all of Ray Bradbury's script versions of Something Wicked This Way Comes. Although he didn't see it as such, this was a monster project, started as an outline for Gene Kelly in 1954, and then developed through at least five stages of work:
  1. an almost full script c.1960;
  2. re-writing it as the novel published in 1962;
  3. writing an entirely new script based on the novel for Twentieth Century-Fox in 1973;
  4. substantially revising and reducing the script for Jack Clayton in 1976;
  5. re-working it again in 1981 for Disney, again with Jack Clayton.
When the film was finally made (and released in 1983) it was from Bradbury's screenplay, but with uncredited script doctoring by John Mortimer of Rumpole fame. After supposedly disastrous previews - I say "supposedly", because I never trust reports that a film did badly in previews - Disney went into damage-limitation and spent a year on re-editing and re-shooting.

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.)

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Center for Ray Bradbury Studies

What with posting here on Bradburymedia and posting on Facebook, and bits and pieces for various other websites I contribute to, it's easy to lose track of what information I have posted where. Yesterday I realised I hadn't posted anything here about my latest visit to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, Indianapolis. I spent three weeks there during March/April, and could have done with three or four more.

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...):

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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.

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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!

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

50th Anniversary of the 1964 New York World's Fair

Ray Bradbury conceived and scripted the United States Pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair, which opened in New York fifty years ago today.

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:



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Monday, April 21, 2014

Bradbury Gets Two Retro-Hugo Nominations

Between 1938 and 1941, Ray Bradbury emerged as a significant voice in the developing world of science fiction fandom. Now, seventy-five years after the first World Science Fiction Convention, his early contributions to the field are recognised in not one, but two nominations in the Retro Hugo Awards, which this year are being given for works first published in the year 1938. The Award winners will be announced at the 2014 World Science Fiction Convention in London.

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.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ray Bradbury's favourite films (1993)

Ray Bradbury was in love with movies. He claimed to have vivid memories of the entire film of the Lon Chaney Hunchback of Notre Dame - from seeing it in a cinema with his mother when he was three years old in 1923.

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".


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."

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Illustrated WOMAN

Many people are familiar with Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man - but not so many know of "The Illustrated Woman". It's a short story which first appeared in Playboy in March 1961, and concerns a woman who is covered with tattoos... or is she?

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!)



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Thursday, April 10, 2014

THE ILLUSTRATED MAN on Film

The Illustrated Man is one of Ray Bradbury's finest short story collections, first published in 1951. Bradbury wrote a number of screen adaptations based on the book, starting in 1960 - and ending in the mid 2000s. In each case, he selected a few of his short stories to make a portmanteau film - making the selection not just from The Illustrated Man book, but from across his whole body of short stories - and then wrote framing scenes involving the character of the tattooed man.

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.





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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Bradbury, Cover Star

Look who's on the cover of the February 1967 issue of Writer's Digest:


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Sunday, April 06, 2014

From the Bradburymedia Archive: THE WORLD OF RAY BRADBURY

This is the programme from a Pandemonium Theatre production of The World of Ray Bradbury. The cover art contains clues to the one-act plays making up the production. As usual, I highly recommend that you click to embiggen!






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Friday, March 21, 2014

Ray Bradbury on THE HAUNTING (1963)

From The Times, 12 December 1998, Ray Bradbury gives a hearty recommendation to Robert Wise's classic understated horror movie The Haunting:



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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Time Intervening


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.’

I didn’t.

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.

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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.

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