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 Bibliophile, 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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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Orbiting Ray Bradbury's Mars...in Arizona

Orbiting Ray Bradbury's Mars is a new book edited by Gloria McMillan (University of Arizona and Pima Community College, Tucson). Yesterday, McMillan appeared on Tucson public television to discuss the book. You can view the TV show below - the Bradbury book is the headline of the programme, and then the first full report after the news summary.

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.



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Thursday, March 06, 2014

Directing SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES

For my PhD thesis (forever a work in progress...) I am currently studying Something Wicked This Way Comes. You may know it as a 1962 novel by Ray Bradbury. Or a 1983 film scripted by Ray Bradbury. But its origins go right back to the 1940s with a short story called "The Black Ferris", and its development continued well into the 2000s with Bradbury's stage play version.

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!





No. 2: Blake Edwards, who said he wanted to do it, but never seemed to take any steps towards it.




No. 3: Federico Fellini, who Ray Bradbury asked a producer to consider, given Fellini's apparent interest in similar themes. Fellini is pictured here on the set of LA STRADA with Richard Basehart (who performed in the Bradbury-scripted film version of MOBY DICK around the same time as this).

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.




No. 4: Sam Peckinpah. According to Bradbury, Peckinpah's method of filming SOMETHING WICKED was to be as follows: "Rip the pages out of the book and stuff them into the camera". Given that Peckinpah was himself a writer, and had a habit of re-writing the scripts he directed, I suspect that it might not have been so straightforward. Bradbury wrote at last one complete screenplay version of SOMETHING WICKED for Peckinpah, but the production didn't come together.




No. 5: Ray Bradbury! After deciding that he and Fellini wouldn't be compatible, Bradbury seriously proposed directing the film himself. He would tentatively consider directing again later in his career, but didn't get round to it.







And finally, the person who DID direct SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (1983)...



Jack Clayton.

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.



 

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Monday, March 03, 2014

Bradbury Doodles

Anyone who ever corresponded with Ray Bradbury, or had a book signed by him, will likely be familiar with the doodles he was fond of adding, such as the charming little Moby Dick fellow you see here.

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.

Onward!

















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