Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Jar

Seventy-six years ago, in November 1944, Weird Tales magazine debuted a classic Ray Bradbury short story: "The Jar".



It's a simple short story, involving the purchase of a jar with mysterious, unfathomable contents. Something preserved in formaldehyde, perhaps? No one can be quite sure.

The story remains one of Bradbury's most popular, and it has been anthologised and collected dozens of times over the years. A quick skim of its history at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database indicates about 74 appearances! Nowadays you can find it in two of Ray's books: The October Country and The Stories of Ray Bradbury.

And, of course, "The Jar" is a perennial favourite in adaptation. It was adapted magnificently for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, in a version directed by Norman Lloyd; re-adapted (badly) for the 1980s revival of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, where it was directed by Tim Burton; and adapted again (competently) for The Ray Bradbury Theater, with a script by Bradbury himself. It's also been done for radio and occasionally for the stage.

You can read my reviews of the various TV versions here:

Hitchcock (original)

Hitchcock (revival)



The actual jar from the original Hitchcock version survives to this day. For decades Ray Bradbury had it in his basement office, and after he died it was gifted to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies in Indianapolis. The waters within the jar are even murkier now than they were back in the 1960s when the episode was filmed, but you still get a sense that there's something in there looking out at you...


Monday, November 23, 2020

The Martian Chronicles at Seventy - online now

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a public lecture as part of the University of Wolverhampton's ArtsFest 2020. My topic was Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles at Seventy, marking the seventieth anniversary of the first publication of that book.

Bradbury himself recognised that The Martian Chronicles was a "half-cousin to a novel", being neither a short story collection nor a full novel. In the lecture, I discussed how this came about, and how it influences the way the book has survived these last seventy years.

I released the audio from the lecture as part of a recent Bradbury 100 podcast, but you can now also see the video of the lecture. Given that it was an illustrated talk, this has to be the best way to enjoy it...

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Bradbury 100 - episode 18

Time for another episode of Bradbury 100! And - for now - the last episode.

When I started this series back in July, I expected I might be able to produce a handful of episodes. But I was overwhelmed by the number of Ray's friends, collaborators and fans who agreed to be interviewed. And so I ended up with enough material for eighteen episodes.

But now, with the academic year in full swing (I'm a full-time university lecturer), I have very little free time, and the production cycle of Bradbury 100 needs to stop.

I do hope to return with some one-off episodes, so I hope you will stay subscribed on your podcast app. That way, you will continue to see any new episodes that come along.

To end the regular series, I chose to speak to Howard V. Hendrix, a professional science fiction writer who also happens to be scholar of science fiction. Howard has given public presentations about Ray's work, and published books and articles about Mars in science fiction.

And although Howard is often classed as a "hard SF" writer - putting him at the opposite end of the spectrum to Ray Bradbury - Howard is also a creative wordsmith. With Howard's SF writing chops and critic's insight, I can think of few people better to consider the question of Ray Bradbury's legacy.

Shortly after I interviewed Howard, his suffered the terrible loss of his family home to the California forest fires. Thankfully, Howard and his wife were safely evacuated. Howard, who is himself a volunteer firefighter, shortly afterward wrote a moving but philosophical account of how the fire swept in and wrecked whole communities. You can read his article for the San Francisco Chronicle here.






Show Notes

Howard V. Hendrix is an exceptional writer of science fiction. In the podcast, he discusses his short story collection The Girls With Kaleidoscope Eyes: Analog Stories for a Digital Age, which you can find in all good bookshops, and at Amazon (US) and Amazon (UK).

Howard's other books can be found on his author page, here.

A few years ago, Howard co-edited a book about Mars in science fiction, building on a conference on the same theme. I contributed an article about Bradbury's Mars stories. You can find Visions of Mars here.

Howard's entry in Wikipedia.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Bradbury 100 - Episode 17

 This week's Bradbury 100 is a bit different: instead of a featured guest interview, I present highlights from two Bradbury Centenary events from recent times, as well as summing up some of the key centary events of the year so far.

The first of the highlights is a selection from the discussion in the first (and so far, only)  Bradbury 100 LIVE episode. This was an event I ran on Facebook Live back in September. In this recording, I talk to John King Tarpinian - a friend of Ray Bradbury's who often accompanied him to public events - and educator George Jack.

The second is the audio from a public lecture I gave earlier this week, celebrating seventy years of Bradbury's book The Martian Chronicles.

I hope you enjoy this format!


Show Notes

Find out more about the many Bradbury Centennial events - both past and future - by visiting the Centennial page on the official Ray Bradbury website.

Read more of my assessment of The Martian Chronicles here.

JKT - John King Tarpinian - is a frequent contributor to Mike Glyer's File 770, where he often provides news stories relating to Ray Bradbury. View his posts here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Martian Chronicles at Seventy

Today - Tuesday 10th November - I am giving a talk on Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles at Seventy. It's online, entirely free, and open to all. But you do need to register to receive the link. (The talk will be delivered via a Zoom webinar.)

It will also be recorded, and made available for future viewing, but this could take a few weeks.

The talk is part of the University of Wolverhampton's annual ArtsFest. Here's the official blurb for the event:

This year saw the widely celebrated one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), the American author whose best-known work Fahrenheit 451 stands alongside Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four as a classic of twentieth-century dystopian fiction, and still holds relevance today.

But this year also saw the seventieth anniversary of Bradbury’s earlier The Martian Chronicles, a book which better captures the breadth and fragmentary nature of Bradbury’s many styles and interests, and one which more clearly reveals the irony of Bradbury’s association with the science fiction genre. For all its reliance on science-fictional tropes, The Martian Chronicles is a work which builds dream-like fantasy on top of Bradbury’s own fantastical influences. And, while projecting and warning about our future, it relies heavily on a rear-view mirror to reflect on colonialism, invasion and occupation.

In this illustrated lecture, Phil Nichols recounts the history of The Martian Chronicles, and shows how this short-story collection masquerading as a novel has constantly evolved with our changing times. He considers the long shadow the book has cast over television, radio and film science fiction, and shows how Bradbury’s unscientific book has nevertheless inspired several generations of real-life scientists and astronauts.

The online lecture will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

Dr Phil Nichols, Course Leader for Film & Television Production at the University of Wolverhampton, has been called “the leading scholar on Bradbury's media adaptation history" by Bradbury biographer Professor Jonathan R. Eller (Bradbury Beyond Apollo, University of Illinois Press, 2020). Phil has spoken about Bradbury on the BBC World Service and National Public Radio, and has published and presented widely on Bradbury’s work in all media. He currently produces and presents a podcast, Bradbury 100, which explores Bradbury’s centenary.

Click the link below to sign up for the talk!

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Bradbury 100 - Episode 16

In this week's episode of Bradbury 100, I discuss Ray Bradbury as both a mentor and a mentee. I talk about a few of the major influences on Bradbury's development as a professional writer, and some of those younger writers who he helped once he was established as a writer.

My guest is such a younger writer, Gregory Miller. Greg knew Ray in the last few decades of his life, and benefitted from Ray's advice and guidance.

While I interviewed Greg over Zoom, he was watched-over by an unusual Godzilla figure (which Greg explains in the interview)...






Show Notes

Find out about some of Ray's mentors here:

Henry Kuttner - Leigh Brackett - Norman Corwin - Bernard Berenson - Charles Laughton

Visit Greg Miller's website

Buy Greg's books on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Bradbury 100 - Episode 15 - Happy Halloween!

Halloween - a fine day to celebrate Ray Bradbury!

In today's new episode of my Bradbury 100 podcast, I talk about Ray Bradbury's use of October and Halloween in his fiction and non-fiction. With three October-based books in his body of work (The October Country, Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Halloween Tree), you'd be right to think that Bradbury loved the Autumn months, and claimed Halloween as his favourite holiday.

To match the frightful Halloween theme of the episode, I have as my interviewee this week the Emmy Award-winning actor Bill Oberst Jr, who has been dubbed both the "King of Horror" and the "nice guy of horror". Bill is renowned for his amazing roles in independent horror films, but has also appeared in a broad range of roles in film and TV.


But the real reason for speaking to Bill is that he plays the part of Ray Bradbury in his one man show Ray Bradbury: Live Forever!





Show Notes

Bill Oberst Jr's website is here:

And the website for his remarkable stage show Ray Bradbury: Live Forever is here:

His achievements are detailed on his Wikipedia page:

His extensive credits in film and TV are on his IMDB page:

And his Facebook page is here:

Finally, Bill's own podcast is the glorious Gothic Goodnight:



Saturday, October 24, 2020

Bradbury 100 - episode 14

Time for another episode of my podcast Bradbury 100! So far, the series has accumulated around 2000 listens, so we must be doing something right...

My guest this week is Jeffrey Kahan, the writer, scholar and educator. I know Jeffrey from his work on last year's issue of the journal The New Ray Bradbury Review, which he guest-edited. We discuss the journal in the podcast, and you'll find links to it in the show notes down below.

This time next week it will be Halloween - so be prepared for a Halloween-themed episode!




Show Notes

The New Ray Bradbury Review is a journal published by the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. Jeffrey's issue, no. 6, can be ordered via Amazon.

Jeff's books, such as Shakespeare and Superheroes, are also listed on Amazon, on his author page.

His own conversational podcast is Mentors and Roles Models. I even appeared on an episode myself, though I am neither mentor nor role model. If you want to hear more of Jeff & Phil chatting (we talk about Bradbury, plus Harlan Ellison and Robert Bloch), find it here.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Bradbury 100 - episode 13

If it's Saturday (and it is), it must be time for another episode of my podcast Bradbury 100.

We're up to episode 13, if you can believe it!

This week, a discussion of storytelling and "the oral tradition", which naturally leads me to talk about Ray Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451.

All of which is preamble for my interview with Megan Wells, a professional storyteller. Now, you may have heard me refer to Ray Bradbury as a storyteller, but that's a different thing. Megan stands (or sometimes sits) before an audience and will literally tell them a story. Not read, tell.

In the interview, Megan explains the differences, from the point of view of both the performer and the audience.


Show Notes

Megan Wells' website has full details of her repertoire.

You can also follow Megan on her Megan Wells Tells Facebook page.

I wrote a book chapter about Fahrenheit 451 being adapted to different media. It includes a bit more discussion of David Calcutt's radio play.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Bradbury 100 - episode 12

This week on my podcast Bradbury 100 we take another look at Bradbury on radio - but American radio this time.

Bradbury's radio credits date back to 1946, when Mollé Mystery Theatre dramatised his story "Killer, Come Back To Me". During the 1940s and 1950s Bradbury submitted many stories to radio networks, just as he submitted stories to magazines. Occasionally, a story would sell.

But as Bradbury became better known, with appearances in "slick" magazines and in books, so his stories became sought-after by radio producers. His short stories in particular became regular fare on shows like Suspense and X Minus One.

In the podcast, I talk about various production companies which continued both the tradition of American radio drama and the tradition of adapting Bradbury. My guest is the multi-talented and prolific Jerry Robbins of Colonial Radio Theatre.



Show Notes

Find out more about Colonial Radio Theatre...

...and specifically their productions of Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Halloween Tree and The Martian Chronicles. (This link will take you to a page which includes ordering links.)

I also mentioned Bradbury Thirteen, the 1980s series produced by Mike McDonough. The series no longer has an official web presence, but you can find episodes just by Googling. (But don't for one minute believe anyone who tells you the series is "public domain" or "out of copyright". It isn't.)

And I mentioned Peggy Webber's California Artists Radio Theatre, which also no longer has an official eb presence. But you can read my review of one of their Bradbury productions, and this report on CART's production of Leviathan '99.

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Bradbury 100 - episode 11

On this week's new episode of Bradbury 100, I'll be talking about the brand-new Ray Bradbury short story collection Killer, Come Back To Me, published by Hard Case Crime.

My guest on the podcast is the man who put the book together, author and editor Charles Ardai.

All of the stories in the new book have been published before, but a couple of them have only appeared in the academic-press Collected Stories series, and a number of others haven't been reprinted since 1984's A Memory of Murder.

Speaking of A Memory of Murder, I have to point out that this new book is not a reprint of that 1980s collection. It does have some overlap - six of its twenty stories appeared in the earlier book. But this is a carefully curated collection which sets out - as its cover subtitle indicates - to present "the crime stories of Ray Bradbury". Which sounds somewhat definitive. And the collection comes close to being that, since it does contain some of Bradbury's very best work in this field.

A few weeks ago, I published the table of contents of Killer, and I think it's worth displaying it again here:



You'll see that there are some quite familiar stories here - "The Small Assassin" and "Marionettes, Inc." are among those which have been reprinted many times. But by mixing the "classics" with the best of the Memory of Murder stories, Killer is able to strike a good balance between the classic stories and the less familiar ones.


And I'm guessing that some readers will come to this book not specifically because it is Bradbury, but because it is from a well-established publisher of crime fiction.

Anyway, listen to the podcast, and I'll tell you much more about Bradbury's crime fiction, and Charles Ardai will tell us all about the book.

Show Notes

Killer, Come Back To Me is in hardcover in the US. And in the UK, there is a paperback version from HarperCollins:

Order from Amazon US.

Order from Amazon UK.

Visit the website of Hard Case Crime

Learn more about editor/author Charles Ardai.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Bradbury 100 - episode 10

On this week's Bradbury 100, I talk about Ray Bradbury's long-running TV show, The Ray Bradbury Theatre. And my interview guest is the composer of the theme music for that show, John Massari.

I've often referred to The Ray Bradbury Theatre as Ray's own personal Twilight Zone, and I guess there's some irony in that. Ray did actually write for The Twilight Zone, both the original 1950s/60s version and the 1980s revival. But even if he hadn't written for it, TZ would still have felt quite Bradburyan. There are so many episodes which either take ideas from Bradbury, or situations, or inspiration. And so it shouldn't be too surprising to learn that Bradbury was more than once invited to do his own show. Listen to the podcast, and I'll tell you more about how it came about.

And John Massari - composer for Ray Bradbury Theater and Killer Klowns from Outer Space and Prison Break, to mention just a few - will also let you in on how his music demo ended up being used at the official theme for RBT for the whole seven years. John is pictured below with Ray Bradbury.

Show Notes

Read more about John Massari.

John Massari's music can be found on Soundcloud

You can also find a lot of his work on his Youtube channel.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Staying up to date with the Bradbury 100 podcast

To make it easier for people to discover my Bradbury 100 podcast, you'll periodically see this page, which will gather all the episodes and shows together.


Coming soon (26 September 2020) will be episode 10, with my guest John Massari, the amazing film and TV composer who wrote the theme music for Ray Bradbury Theatre.


And previously on Bradbury 100:

Episode 9 - with scholar Miranda Corcoran, talking about Ray's "Elliott family"

Episode 8  - the second part of my interview with award-winning dramatist Brian Sibley, talking mostly about adapting Bradbury for radio

Episode 7 - with writer and broadcaster Brian Sibley, talking mostly about Disney

Episode 6 - continuing my interview with Jonathan R. Eller, Bradbury biographer and scholar

Episode 5 - with Jonathan R. Eller, Bradbury biographer, whose latest book Bradbury Beyond Apollo completes his biographical trilogy

Episode 4 - with photographer Elizabeth Nahum-Albright, who has a current exhibition on Ray Bradbury's house

Episode 3 - with Sandy Petroshius of the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum

Episode 2 - with Jason Aukerman of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies

Episode 1 - with author Steven Paul Leiva, creator of Ray Bradbury Week in Los Angeles


The best way to never miss an episode is to subscribe.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Bradbury 100 - episode 9

Time for episode 9 of my Bradbury 100 podcast. This week, we look at Ray Bradbury's popular "Elliott family" stories - you know, his characters Cecy, Uncle Einar, Timothy and so on. Ray started writing these stories way back in the 1950s, and returned to them periodically until he eventually wove the stories into a novel, From the Dust Returned (2001).

My guest is Miranda Corcoran, who is co-editor (with Steve Gronert Ellerhoff) of a new book called Exploring the Horror of Supernatural Fiction: Ray Bradbury’s Elliott Family.

Until now, scholars and critics have paid little attention to the Elliotts, but their time has come! This book is from an academic publisher, so the cover price is high. It's the sort of book you need to persuade your local friendly librarian to buy...

Exploring the Horror of Supernatural Fiction : Ray Bradbury’s Elliott Family book cover

Show Notes

Exploring the Horror of Supernatural Fiction: Ray Bradbury’s Elliott Family on Amazon UK, and on Amazon US.

From the Dust Returned on Amazon UK, and on Amazon US.

The Charles Addams connection - how the Elliott family met the Addams Family.

Miranda Corcoran's blog, Miranda the Middle-Aged Witch.

Follow Miranda on Twitter.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Bradbury 100 - episode 8

Time for another episode of my podcast Bradbury 100. This week, a topic very close to my heart: radio drama. I continue my interview with dramatist Brian Sibley, and we talk mostly about adapting Ray Bradbury for radio.

Brian talks about adapting to different media, and the need for compression (and occasional expansion) of stories in the process. We cover especially The Illustrated Man, "The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl" and "The Next in Line".

Show Notes

See my list of Bradbury's radio credits.

I've written a number of articles about Ray's work on BBC Radio. Read them here and here.

Brian contributed many scripts to the 1990s BBC series Ray Bradbury's Tales of the Bizarre, which continues to be repeated periodically on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Brian's own Soundcloud channel includes a vast amount of his work, including his episodes of Tales of the Bizarre.

Friday, September 11, 2020