Saturday, December 30, 2006
Sometime in the 1990s I switched to using miniDisc as my preferred recording format, despite the irritating 80-minute recording limit. (This has been overcome in recent times with the HD incarnation of miniDisc.)
Nowadays its much more convenient to keep everything on computer, so I have slooooooowwwwwwlllllyyy been moving over to MP3 for archiving.
I am reluctant to post complete MP3 recordings on the web, since all of the Bradbury source material is still in copyright. (Some of the older recordings - particularly the American productions - have slipped into the public domain, but the underlying Bradbury writings are still copyrighted.) But there are plenty of other people out there who either don't have my scruples, or who don't know much about copyright laws. Or who just don't care.
I recently came across a rather anonymous site called Acmesoundstation.com. It has no explanations on it of what it is meant to be, or who it belongs to. It carries a large amount of old audio material, including some of Wally K. Daly's BBC science fiction plays (particular favourites of mine for many years).
From trawling through, I have found one Bradbury item (which I already have on CD, as it happens): CBS Radio Workshop's production of 'Season of Disbelief' and 'Hail and Farewell'. This item is unusual in having an introduction written and recorded by Bradbury himself. You can find the MP3 file here, and browse the entire site here.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Switch on the Night (1955) was written for children, as an antidote to children's fear of the dark. According to Sam Weller's biography The Bradbury Chronicles, Ray wrote it a week after the birth of his daughter Susan. The baby slept fitfully and tearfully, and reminded Ray of his own childhood fear of the dark. His original manuscript for this work was in the form of a storyboard, with Ray's own sketches to illustrate the text. The published version is professionally illustrated, originally by Madeleine Gekiere. The 1993 edition was illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon.
Some of the Dillons' superb work can be seen by using the 'Look inside this book' feature at Amazon.com.
I was delighted to hear from Gene Beley, the author of the unauthorised biography of Ray Bradbury. Gene had seen my review comments on his book, and posted a comment on this blog. You can view our exchange of comments here.
Friday, December 08, 2006
So maybe it's not a bad time to mention that Colonial Radio Theatre's CD of Dandelion Wine is nearly ready for release. I have covered this extensively in recent months, so I'll leave you to explore the archives for the relevant stories.
Suffice it to say that Colonial have unveiled the final artwork for the CD (pictured here). Sample clips from the CD, and ordering information, can be found on Colonial's website.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Ray Bradbury says that Williamson was one of the first professional writers to help him in his career. In a 2000 interview he said:
"Jack is a wonderful man, a terrific man. He was very kind to me when I was 19 years old. He read my stuff long before Leigh Brackett did, and it was really bad in those days...Jack started publishing in magazines when I was about 7 or 8 years old...I couldn't afford to buy the magazines, but I borrowed copies from friends on occasion, and I read Jack Williamson first."
[Interview source: SciFi.com]
There is a good account of Jack's life and works here:
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Kneale was one of the great British SF screenwriters, creator of the wonderful Quatermass series from the days of live TV (the greatest instalment of which was Quatermass and the Pit - get the beautifully restored original TV version on DVD, far superior to the Hammer movie remake of the late 1960s). Kneale also did a startlingly good adaptation of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four for the BBC in the 1950s, and some remarkable, prescient single plays through the '60s and 70s: "The Year of the Sex Olympics" has some uncanny resonances with today's television; "The Stone Tape" still packs a few scares and shocks.
Kneale's influence was enormous, and to a large extent he defined the limits of acceptable/respectable SF in British TV. (It's hard to imagine that there could have been a Dr Who without his trailblazing efforts for the genre.)
Like Ray Bradbury, Kneale crossed genres without hesitation. His science fiction was filled with horror, his horror often scientifically rationalised, all of it delivered with an element of fun. In the latter part of his career he even wrote a sitcom, the unusual (and, to be honest, not very funny) Kinvig.
He will be missed.
Wikipedia has a good biography of Kneale, and this obituary from The Independent reminds me that Kneale made significant non-genre contributions to British film, with work on Look Back in Anger and The Entertainer.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
It's summer again! When? Just after Christmas. New Year.
Confused? Then I'll explain.
On 1st January 2007, Colonial Radio Theatre releases its CD audio production of Dandelion Wine. Taken from Bradbury's stage play, rather than directly from his novel, it brings Doug Spaulding, Tom, Colonel Freeleigh and co to life in a lavish audio production. You can hear some clips from the CD on Colonial's web site.
Colonial were kind enough to send me a review copy, so I have written a review which you can read here.
Meanwhile, back in the real world of (post-) Halloween, Utah-based radio station KUER-FM has recently broadcast a live dramatic production of Bradbury's short story "Zero Hour". Staged and performed by Plan B Theatre Company, this production used Anthony Ellis' 1955 Suspense script, which can be viewed online here, courtesy of Generic Radio Workshop.
"Zero Hour" was presented as part of the RadioWest show on KUER, as second half of a double-bill with Lucille Fletcher's "The Hitch-Hiker". You can listen to/download an MP3 recording of the entire show here. (I don't know how long KUER keep their archived shows, so best to listen now while it's still there!)
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
If you visit Brian's blog, you can read the true history of Bradbury's The Halloween Tree, and read Brian's review of this autumnal classic.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
The LA Times published a favourable review yesterday - click here to view it. There are links to other reviews in my earlier post.
It has become clear that Bradbury's two other forthcoming titles, Leviathan '99 and Somewhere a Band is Playing will be published together in a single volume. Although Bradbury and others have described them as novels, it looks as if they are really novellas, and too short to justify mass-market publication as separate volumes.
Monday, October 16, 2006
In Eller and Touponce's Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction there is a sketch of Green Town that Bradbury drew in the 1950s. At the suggestion of his publisher, he drew the layout of the town and also wrote out a cast of characters. All this was to help him get a grip on the material, and to help him see one of the problems with his draft of Dandelion Wine, which was that it was really an assembly of short stories, nearly all of them dealing with different characters. The publisher was afraid that the reader wouldn't be able to keep track of what was going on. (This, of course, was well before the coming of 'blockbuster' or 'bestseller' novels, with their casts of thousands.)
Bradbury's sketch shows the layout of fictional Green Town (see below - click on image to enlarge).
What is striking is that if you look at the real Waukegan from the air - courtesy of Google Earth - you get a very similar image (again, click on image to enlarge):
...especially when you realise that the Bradbury family lived on the intersection of Washington Street ('grandpa' on the Green Town sketch) and South St James Street ('Doug and Tom' on the Green Town sketch). Note the similarity of the ravine in both images. The area around the ravine between Sherman Place and North Park Avenue is nowadays called Ray Bradbury Park. This seems to correspond exactly with the bridge over the ravine that Lavinia Nebbs uses to walk Helen Greer home before her encounter with... the Lonely One...
Sunday, October 08, 2006
[ Added 19 Oct 2006: Another production of F451 (in Florida) has been widely reviewed in the local press. One of the lengthier reviews is here. Unfortunately, the reviewer obviously hasn't read Bradbury's novel, otherwise he would know all about the Mechanical Hound... ]
Bradbury's own Pandemonium Theatre Company, which he founded in 1964 with director Charles Rome Smith, is the author's main outlet for premiering his plays. The company is currently presenting Ray Bradbury's Autumn People, which actually consists of two almost unrelated plays: 'Pillar of Fire' and 'Touched with Fire'. This South Pasadena production is reviewed here. Nard Kordell, who tirelessly attends many of Bradbury's productions and public appearances, has some great photos from the show.
Friday, September 22, 2006
This is the latest attempt to get Bradbury removed from the classroom. There is a great irony here: Bradbury has such a deep and intuitive understanding of the child mind, that his stories are ideal for the classroom - and in the US he is very widely taught. But because he writes tales of horror and suspense and often, famously, writes about a future in order to prevent it, he comes under attack from parents and occasionally librarians who would like to protect the innocents.
(Of course, anyone who thinks children are innocent should definitely be reading "The Veldt" and "The Small Assassin", among others.)
For more on the challenge to "The Veldt" (which was rejected, by the way), see this report from the Beaverton Valley Times.
By some quirk of irony, this week is also apparently Banned Books Week, an event sponsored by American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Library Association, Association of American Publishers, American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the National Association of College Stores. Naturally, Fahrenheit 451 springs to mind whenever we think of banning books, and this report makes the customary mention.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
First is that Bradbury's writings are mostly in the short form. Like the storytellers of old, seated around the camp fire, he keeps things short and to the point. He favours short stories. Short poems. One-act plays. Thirty-minute TV dramas. Yes, he has written plenty of novels, some poetry of epic length, and many full-length screenplays. But even his longest works are really quite short, and nearly all are highly episodic.
Second is that Bradbury likes to re-tell his stories. All good camp-fire stories are ones that have been refined, embellished and enhanced through repeated telling to different audiences. All the great stand-up comedians do this, and some of them keep the same comic tales spinning for years, always adjusting the narrative, delivery and timing for optimum delivery. Bradbury re-tells his stories in many ways. He constantly adapts and re-adapts from one medium to another: short story, play, TV script, novel chapter. And in his interviews and public-speaking engagements, he invariably re-tells familiar anecdotes, like the one about Mr Electrico, or the one about how he remembers being born.
Third is that Bradbury is (or has been until recent years, when his health has got the better of him) a great performer of his own stories. He has recorded audio books of The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451 and many others of his works. Although he's not one of the world's greatest actors, he has been one of the best performing writers.
This autumn, Bradbury's home town of Waukegan, Illinois, is staging a storytelling festival in Bradbury's honour. A small town, and a small event. But the emphasis on storytelling is surely correct. This format seems an ideal way to celebrate his works - and to usher in the Bradbury season of Halloween.
Bradbury won't be attending in person, but he is filming a contribution in California.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
I have added Mike's photo album to my Bradbury 13 page: click here to take a look.
As far as I know, many of these pictures are published here for the first time. Many thanks to Mike for his generosity, and for taking the time to scan them for me.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
At some point, I will do a complete review of the book, but I wanted here to record my first responses, having speed-read the whole book, and having read a couple of chapters very closely.
My overall impression is of a book that very much needs a strong editorial hand. It needs some fact-checking (example: it reports events of Bradbury's 86th birthday, even though it was published
before that event). It needs some copy-editing (example: names of people spelled inconsistenly, sometimes within a single paragraph).
It also needs systematically revising to make it a 2006 book, rather than a slowly-accreted collection of items written over a period of years. It is rather disturbing to read that Beley had "last heard of" Charles Rome Smith in a particular place - giving the impression that the author has lost track of the theatre director - and then to read an end-of-chapter note reporting Smith's death. Many of the chapters of the book take the form of an article written ten, twenty or thirty years ago, with an "author's note" tacked on the end to bring it up to date. In chapters where Beley is reporting a specific event, such as a particular speech Bradbury delivered, this would appropriately give us a sense of being at the event, and provide important historical context. However, when the chapter is an interview that has no particular point-in-time value, this seems odd. George Clayton Johnson and Harlan Ellison, both very much alive today and (judging from interviews elsewhere) both highly accessible to interviewers, are quoted extensively on their views of Bradbury's writing and character - but the interview quotes are from the 1980s. Ellison is quoted as saying that Bradbury has done nothing of value for thirty years - but this quote pre-dates Bradbury's flurry of writing activity that would include Death is a Lonely Business, Green Shadow White Whale, Ray Bradbury Theater, The Toynbee Convector...
Apart from these editorial weaknesses, does the book have anything to offer? Well, it has a biography of Bradbury, but necessarily with less detail than Sam Weller's The Bradbury Chroniclesoffers. It reports on some of Bradbury's public speaking, quite successfully giving a sense of what it is/was like to be present at such events. It covers Bradbury's legal action against CBS over copyright infringement of Fahrenheit 451, in more detail than I have read elsewhere. It gives some insights into Bradbury's forays into theatre, revealing/claiming clashes between Bradbury and Smith, and between Bradbury and Shank.
It has some charming quotes from "ordinary people" who knew Ray at various points in his life, and some negative comments about Bradbury from various people who have had dealings with him.
And it sounds slightly unkind when discussing Bradbury's disabilities and his current state of health.
And quite a few photos, rather randomly arranged.
Overall, it's a real mixed bag. Probably essential reading for the Bradbury completist, but for anyone else I would say: buy Weller instead.
My top tip is to buy the ebook version, which is a lot cheaper than the printed edition!
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Bradbury is best known for his short stories and novels, but less well known for his poetry and plays. And yet there seems to be a Bradbury play in production somewhere in the world at almost any given moment. I have only actually seen one production, the British premiere of Fahrenheit 451, but have also read a number of other Bradbury plays. If you want to read them just for pleasure, a good starting point is On Stage: A Chrestomathy of His Plays, which combines three earlier play collections (The Anthem Sprinters and Other Antics (1963), The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit and Other Plays (1972), and Pillar of Fire and Other Plays (1975)) into a single volume. This one volume contains the following plays:
- The Great Collision of Monday Last
- The First Night of Lent
- A Clear View of an Irish Mist
- The Anthem Sprinters
- The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit
- The Veldt
- To the Chicago Abyss
- Pillar of Fire
- The Foghorn
Some of the plays are remarkable for their economy of staging. "Kaleidoscope", for example, dramatises the last minutes of a crew of astronauts after theirship has been destroyed and they find themselves flung apart in empty space. Bradbury's stage directions call for no scenery. The play begins in darkness, and each astronaut appears, one by one, in a single spotlight against the dark stage. There is no need to show anything else.
Anyone interested in staging a Bradbury production would be well advised to visit the website of Dramatic Publishing. They supply single plays at reasonable prices, and will also manage the licensing arrangements, and publicise productions on their site.
They currently list the following current and imminent productions (to which I have have added links to the theatres or companies staging the shows):
(Talent, Oregon, October to November)
(Civic Theatre of San Juan, Puerto Rico, October to November)
The Martian Chronicles
(Seattle, until 26th August)
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Bradbury has, on many occasions, written of time machines. Some of these are more or less literal transports, such as the device that takes Eckels and Travis back to the Jurassic for a touch of dino hunting. Others are more metaphorical. In "The Toynbee Convector" (1984), a man in an ice-cream white suit claims to have travelled to a glorious future world, and by so preaching of it causes such a world to come into existence. This man sounds very much like Ray Bradbury.
In the much earlier Dandelion Wine (1957), Douglas Spaulding and his friends sit and listen in awe of Colonel Freeleigh, an old man whose reminiscences are so vivid that they feel transported back to the American Civil War. The old man is a time machine.
In this recent interview, Bradbury is conscious that, at eighty-six, he is now such a time machine. It is remarkable to think, as you read Dandelion Wine, that the book's author (thirty-seven years old at the time it was published) is able to project himself into the characters of young Doug and old Freeleigh, is capable of simultaneously being the child and the time machine.
Birthday greetings for Ray are being gathered on his official message board. Brian Sibley offers a birthday tribute to Ray on his ex libris blog.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Although episodes of the series were once available on audio cassette, there has never been a CD release of the show. Aficionados have had to make do with relatively poor quality recordings, many of them unauthorised. The good news is that Mike is still in possession of the original studio master recordings (and the copyright on the series), and has recently transferred them to a digital format to preserve them for posterity. He still hopes that he can one day secure a commercial release on CD, or as high-quality, official MP3 downloads.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Publisher's Review's text is posted on the Amazon page for the book. Kirkus Review's text is available on their site, but only to paying subscribers. However, over at the Ray Bradbury Message Board, Walloon has posted the Kirkus text. Many thanks, Walloon.
There are some interesting Bradbury-related video clips on YouTube these days. Nard has alerted me to Exposure Three: a short behind-the-scenes feature on the making of The Small Assassin. And then there is this quirky little piece: The Adventures of Ray Bradbury. This is a little comedy that parodies the persona of Bradbury - not so much his fiction or writing style, but his Ray Bradbury Theater persona. Until I saw this, it had never occurred to me that Bradbury was a celebrity capable of being parodied, but I guess he is!
Other Bradbury-related material on YouTube can be found here.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Feigelson took Bradbury's story, looked at the central metaphors - the idea of evil being perpetually reborn, like locusts that return every seventeen years; and the idea that we all go a little crazy in the heat - and ran with them. This is by far the best way to capture the spirit of Bradbury; instead of slavishly keeping the plot but losing the imagery, you cling to the imagery and let the plot slide where necessary.
As it happens, Feigelson made very few changes to the story, just enough to vary the pace and, more importantly, to emphasise the drama in the dialogue.
Bradbury's story may be flawed (is it locusts that rise up out of the earth, or is it cicadas?), but Feigelson has captured the look and the feel of Bradbury's original. It has marvellous performances, particularly from Roberts Blossom as the crazy old guy.
"The Burning Man" features characters called Aunt Neva and Doug (probably Douglas Spaulding, although this isn't specified). Both names are familiar from other Bradbury stories. Bradbury really did have an aunt called Neva - there is a picture in Nard's gallery ("Ray Bradbury Personal Photos #2").
Monday, August 14, 2006
"The Small Assassin" is directed by Chris Charles, and brings to life Bradbury's classic tale of paranoia (mother becomes convined her newborn is out to kill her). The story has been adapted several times in the past, most notably as one of the British episodes of Ray Bradbury Theater. Judging by the trailer for this new production, it will rival the TV version.
"A Piece of Wood" is directed by Tony Baez Milan, and is an adaptation of Bradbury's anti-war fantasy. For a while this film was apparently viewable online, but seems to no longer be available outside of the short film festival circuit.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Suspense is also being collected on Internet Archive, but so far only one episode ("Riabouchinska") has been uploaded. This 1947 episode has the distinction of being adapted from a Bradbury story that was unpublished at that time; it later appeared in print under the title "And So Died Riabouchinska", and was also dramatised for the television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
I have updated my Audio pages to provide links directly to the Bradbury episodes on the Internet Archive, and will continue to add links for any episodes that become available in the future. I have also added links to other downloads currently available, although my experience has been thatMP3 links tend not to stay live for very long.
And in case you thought time travel was an impossibility, you should check out the Archive's fabulous Wayback Machine.
The Vix Audio Show podcast (#5) features the 1980s radio series Bradbury 13, and includes an interview with the producer Mike McDonough. You can read more about the series here.
Finally on the Bradbury audio front, Colonial Radio Theater on the Air have announced that they have recently completed production of the first audio dramatisation of Bradbury's Dandelion Wine, due for commercial release towards the end of 2006. They have also announced a forthcoming audio production of Something Wicked This Way Comes.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
I am reminded that the illustrator most closely associated with Bradbury, Joe Mugnaini, was a visual artist who was able to not just visualise what Bradbury had written, but extend it, interpret it, add twists and depth to it. Mugnaini's line illustrations are deceptively simple, and have (in many cases) created a permanent image in the reader's mind, an image which is inseparable from the Bradbury story.
If only there were a film-maker with the vision of a Mugnaini...
There's very little on the web about Mugnaini - lots of references to him, but very few dedicated pages. A Google Images search will turn up lots of his work, however. The best pages on Mugnaini I can find are:
Saturday, August 05, 2006
One of the better download sites for old radio shows is Zootradio. You have to register (for free) for access to the downloads, but it holds a wealth of material that in my view beats any other free site on the web. For Bradbury material, you should head straight for Dimension X and X Minus One. These series presented a number of Martian Chronicles stories, and other gems such as "Marionettes, Inc".
Unfortunately, another site that was good for the occasional Bradbury gem, Gwangi's Blog, looks like it's closing soon, at least as far as live download links are concerned.
Friday, August 04, 2006
The latest addition is a section of Ray's own photos. It's fascinating to see some of the famous people Ray has met and worked with, and of family members. Did you know there really was an Uncle Einar?
[Uncle Einar image from Charles Addams' cover art for From the Dust Returned, taken from a Booksense interview with Bradbury.]
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Brian's blog also links to an excellent interview he conducted with Ray in 2004.
Unfortunately for the true Bradbury fan, most interviews - certainly most recent interviews - have been rather repetitive. Journalists only seem to want to ask Ray whether we will ever get to Mars, or when his next book is coming out. An exception, however, is this recent interview in the Ventura County Life & Style magazine, which 'rifraf' very kindly uploaded to the official Ray Bradbury Message Boards. The interview is long, which helps. And beautifully illustrated, which also helps. Most important, the interviewee asks questions which are not hurried, and which don't just cover the obvious.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
But given that Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is often read as a statement against censorship, maybe this biography has hit upon an appropriate title, even for a non-salacious volume.
I haven't read the book yet, but being a completist I couldn't help but order a copy. I fear the worst, however, since it is published by iUniverse.com, which appears to be a high-tech vanity press.
First to be released will probably be Farewell Summer. This is a sequel of sorts to Bradbury's classic Dandelion Wine. In fact, the two books were originally conceived as one, but Bradbury was persuaded to split it into two...and then took around fifty years to polish the second part. Farewell Summer is out in hardcover in October 2006.
Around the same time, Match to Flame: the Fictional Paths to Fahrenheit 451 should appear. This is the latest in a series of volumes from Gauntlet Press. It's rather a costly volume, but for the Bradbury completist it will be a must-have. Edited by Bradbury's bibliographer Donn Albright, the book includes essays by Jon Eller which show that Fahrenheit 451 didn't spring fully formed from Bradbury's creative genius, but rather had a long gestation through various precursor short stories. This volume should be a perfect conpanion piece to (and extension of) Eller & Touponce's Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction. The book contains "The Fireman", the short story that developed into Fahrenheit 451, plus a long list of other precursors.
After that should come Somewhere a Band is Playing. I believe that this is another "Green Town" novel, but don't know much else about it. The last information I heard about this wasthat Guantlet Press would be publishing it in 2007.
And finally... according to Bradbury himself in a number of recent interviews, the long-in-development novel version of Leviathan '99 is now with his publishers, and is likely to see publication in 2007. Leviathan '99 is Bradbury's space age version of Moby Dick. Having spent a year adapting MD for the screen, Bradbury was unable to let go of the mythic white whale. In the early 1960s he began the novel, but soon turned it instead into a radio play...and then a stage play... and now it's come full circle and is to appear as a novel.
I am delighted (and flattered) to have been invited to act as an adviser to the Center, alongside the far more illustrious Bradbury scholars David Mogen, Robin Anne Reid and William F. Nolan.