Friday, December 14, 2007

Exclusive! Preview of the new journal

Courtesy of William Touponce, director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University, comes this exclusive sneak preview of the forthcoming new journal The New Ray Bradbury Review:


The cover artwork (click on it to enlarge) is by Bradbury himself. Inside is a collection of articles by various Bradbury scholars, most focusing on this issue's topic of "adaptation". Here's the table of contents:

Among the contributors (click to enlarge) you may notice Profs Eller and Touponce (co-authors of Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction), David Mogen (author of Ray Bradbury), Terry Pace (who has long been associated with Bradbury's work in theatre), and film scholar John C. Tibbetts. Oh, and yours truly has managed to sneak in there with some material on Bradbury's work in the audio media.

The eagle-eyed reader may notice that, although this is a brand new journal, the cover indicates it as "Volume 2". This, says Bill Touponce, is a nod to William F.Nolan, who published the pioneering original Ray Bradbury Review some years ago, and who contributes the preface to this new journal.

As yet, there is no information on how to obtain the journal. As soon as this is decided, I will post the information here.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Exclusive! New Movie in Production

Urban Archipelago Films, producers of 2005's short film A Piece of Wood, have announced their new feature film, Ray Bradbury's Chrysalis. Producer Roger Lay Jr kindly supplied this behind-the-scenes photo (click to enlarge) from the first days of shooting. It tantalisingly gives a glimpse of the special effects which will be key to the concept of the movie. To the right of the photo is director Tony Baez Milan, with producer Lay next to him.

Roger recently spent some time with Ray Bradbury, showing him the work on the movie so far. Both Roger and Ray seem pleased with the movie thus far:


"Chrysalis" was first published in Amazing Stories in 1946, and has appeared in only one of Bradbury's books to date, S is for Space (1966). Back in '46, the story didn't even make the cover of Amazing Stories...


...and it must be one of Bradbury's least re-printed stories. It's pleasing to see a lesser-known piece being filmed, instead of further attempts to film already familiar tales.

Urban Archipelago have a web site for documenting Chrysalis, which you can view here. The most interesting content on the site so far is the conceptual art by D. Hirajeta (click on "gallery" to view).

Here is what Urban Archipelago have to say about the new production in their official press release:

A compelling thriller that transcends both time and space, RAY BRADBURY’S CHRYSALIS is based on the short story written by BRADBURY, the acclaimed writer of such literary classics as FAHRENHEIT 451, THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES and THE ILUSTRATED MAN. The short story was originally published in 1966 as part of the science fiction anthology titled S IS FOR SPACE.

It is precisely Mr. Bradbury's legendary body of work and his numerous contributions to the literary and film industries that solidifies the world-wide appeal for this project.

The script for CHRYSALIS has been developed under the master's guidance and it is the second collaboration between Urban Archipelago Films and this legendary author.

The first product to come out of the filmmakers and Bradbury's joint forces was the critically acclaimed short film A PIECE OF WOOD. The short film has been playing in film festivals nation wide since its Premiere in November of 2005 and is currently available ON DEMAND through AT&T Digital Cable via ILLUSION TV.

About The Film

In the great tradition of past works of literature from one of America’s most revered storytellers, CHRYSALIS presents a compelling exploration into human nature.

In the future: The world is ravaged, a third world war has left our planet in a state of decay. In a research facility a handful of scientists research ways to sustain plant life. Scientist Benjamin Rockwell has been called to this decaying research facility. One of the scientists there, Smith, apparently has died. Smith lies on a table, his body transformed, his eyes and mouth grown shut. After getting over the shock, and completing an examination, Rockwell realizes that there is still a pulse within Smith...

His body continues changing...a Chrysalis has grown around Smith in order to protect him.

Now in earth’s darkest hours these scientists must figure out what mysteries lay inside the CHRYSALIS.

CHRYSALIS is a thriller with a science fictional background and glimmers of hope from the beginning. There is action, as the characters turn against each other’s beliefs at the edge of a world that slowly disappears before they can discover ways to stop or prolong the planet’s demise. Are they struggling hopelessly, trying to reach goals that may be unattainable?

The debate of science vs. faith is explored as the characters struggle with their beliefs, their doubts, their dreams, and their fears. Can human beings change the course of nature? Could nature intervene as the world is effectively destroyed? Is the world worthwhile? In the darkest hours, would humans deserve another chance?

RAY BRADBURY’S CHRYSALIS features an impressive cast including John Klemantaski (VIVA), Darren Kendrick (DISORDER), Corey Landis (THAT 70’S SHOW), Elina Madison (BROTHERS AND SISTERS), Glen Vaughan (JESSE JAMES: LEGEND, OUTLAW, TERRORIST), and Larry Dirk (DR. QUINN, MEDICINE WOMAN)

The film is produced by Roger Lay, Jr. and directed by Tony Báez Milán. Cheyenne Pesko is the editor and post-production supervisor. Gabriel Diniz serves as director of photography with production design by Gladys Rodriguez. Music is composed and conducted by Brandon Moore

The film features special creature effects by Romaire Studios, the Emmy Award winning FX facility founded by Lee Romaire.

Some of Romaire's recent credits include the TNT series NIGHTMARES AND DREAMSCAPES, based on the short stories of Stephen King as well as the HBO hit Drama series SIX FEET UNDER, for which the team was awarded an Emmy award for outstanding make up effects (prosthethics).

Principal photography on RAY BRADBURY’S CHRYSALIS is set to take place on multiple sets at the Broadcast Production Services Stages in Hollywood with second unit photography in the northern California dessert and the rainforest of El Yunque in Puerto Rico.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Something Wicked This Way Comes

I finally found time to finish my review of the new audio production of Something Wicked This Way Comes. This new CD set is available to buy online from the likes of Amazon and Blackstone.

To read the review - and find out what Mr Halloway, Will, Jim and Mr Dark really look like - click here.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Russian Bradbury

Ray Bradbury's work seems to be quite well known in Russia (and the rest of the former Soviet Union). Several Russian-language films have been based on his works, often without his permission: Vel'd (1987), Trinadtsatyj Apostol (1988), Vino Iz Oduvanchikov (1997).

Two of the short animated films have recently popped up on YouTube. The most interesting of these is There Will Come Soft Rains (1984). In some ways more bleak than the Bradbury original, this film also seems to make some comment on religion, or Christianity, or western values. You can view the film, with English subtitles, here.

Less interesting, and rather primitive in its animation, is Here There Be Tygers. I know very little about this film, except that it is based on the story of the same name (which has been adapted once for live action, in the Ray Bradbury Theater series; Bradbury also wrote a teleplay of the story for the original Twilight Zone series in the 1960s, but it was never filmed). You can view the animated film, with English subtitles, here. Until this version appeared on YouTube, I had never seen a subtitled version; it's nice to be able to understand what's going on in the film!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Colonial's Latest: Something Wicked

Look out! Just in time for Halloween, Colonial Radio Theatre's production of SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES is just about to be released!

It's available to pre-order from Blackstone, here, and should be available from other sources such as Amazon and Borders fairly soon. The official release date is 1st October.

Colonial very kindly supplied me with a review copy, and I can report that this is a rollercoaster of a production, and a worthy successor to their previous release, the award-winning Dandelion Wine. The script is by Bradbury himself - it is essentially his stage play version of SWTWC, ever so slightly modified for radio/audio.

Unlike Dandelion Wine, the SWTWC play is a direct adaptation of the novel, but with many of the introspective chapters (revealing characters' inner thoughts) eliminated. This means the story rolls by at a slick pace. I think those of you who use SWTWC in the classroom will find the audio production to be a useful study aid.

I hope to post a detailed review of the production soon, but for now I'll just say that I found the music and post-production to be lavish, if at times overpowering. The performances are a mixed bag, but Mr Dark and Mr Halloway come across well. The production perhaps lacks some of the intimacy of the later parts of Dandelion Wine, and Bradbury's removal of introspection - desirable for stage, but arguably not so desirable for radio - makes for a less rounded narrative. But this may be outweighed by the gain in pace, which the Colonial team have made the most of.

Colonial have also announced that they are working on another Bradbury piece: The Halloween Tree.

My thanks to Jerry Robbins of Colonial (who plays Mr Halloway, by the way) for the information and sneak preview of the CD cover art.

Friday, September 14, 2007

When Genres Collide

Publishing is quite a slow business. It's over a year since I presented a paper about Bradbury's Leviathan '99 at the Science Fiction Research Association conference in New York... but the book of the conference has only just come out.

When Genres Collide: Selected essays from the 37th annual meeting of the Science Fiction Research Association, edited by Tom Morrissey and Oscar De Los Santos, includes a diverse array of papers on various aspects of science fiction. My paper appears in a section alongside papers on Philip K. Dick and Norman Spinrad. Other delights include Lincoln Geraghty on 1980s Hollywood science fiction, and Adam Frisch on the Byronic hero in science fiction.

The book is now available from Amazon (direct link here) and other fine bookstores.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Illustrated Man - revisited

It is with some trepidation that I read in The Hollywood Reporter that a new film of The Illustrated Man is in the works.

It's a great book, but I've always thought it a mistake to conceive of it as a single work suitable for screen adaptation. It is really just a short story collection with a bit of linking material, and the stories can stand perfectly well on their own.

The 1969 feature film, starring Rod Steiger, was a bit of a botched job. Some great moments, but definitely suffering from an ill-conceived script (by someone who Ray Bradbury described as a real estate agent rather than a screenwriter).

However, the new film is to be made under the direction of Zack Snyder of 300 fame. Although I consider 300 to be laughable in places, it was quite creatively done, so I am willing to trust in Mr Snyder for now. The screenplay will be by Alex Tse.

You can read the Hollywood Reporter story here, and a similar report at Variety.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Birthday Bash

John Sasser very kindly sent me some photos from Ray Bradbury's 87th birthday celebration. When I get a bit of spare time(!), I will add them to the photo gallery. For now, though, here is a pic of Mr B with his dinosaur-themed cake! (Click the photo to enlarge.)

Present at the bash, among others, were Ray's friends and fellow writers William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. Nolan presented Ray with his Pulitzer Prize Special Citation.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Happy Birthday, Ray Bradbury!

Ray Bradbury turns 87 today, and continues his prodigious publishing output. I probably said this last year, but I'll say it again: he's another step closer to fulfilling the instruction given to him by Mr Electrico when he was a child: "Live forever!"

I heard from William Touponce of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies yesterday. The Center's new journal The New Ray Bradbury Review is being prepared for publication, and will contain a number of articles about Bradbury's work as adapted for film, radio and television. It is due to appear early next year, and should have one or two surprises...

Today's New York Times has a rather charming portrait of Ray on his birthday, with an audio clip from an interview. You can read the story here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

More downloads

While trawling the web for Bradbury material, I came across a link for the TV film of The Halloween Tree. Like most such links, this will probably have a very short life expectancy, so grab it while you can. The film is accessed from this page. (You will need DivX installed on your computer: get it for free from here.)

News also reaches me of a download link for a radio production of Fahrenheit 451. For a while, this link held the promise of being a rare 1970s production from Studio 71 in Canada. Unfortunately, this turned out not to be the case. (If anyone reading this actually has a copy of the Studio 71 production, please contact me immediately!)

The download link turns out to be the 1982 BBC Radio 4 dramatisation by Gregory Evans. It's a fine production, which I happened to listen to only a week ago (from an ageing cassette off-air recording I made many years back) when I was researching for a paper on Bradbury and the BBC.

The download link for F451 is here. The play runs for about 90 minutes.

Friday, August 10, 2007

When it's gone, it's gone...

One of the earliest commercial recordings of Bradbury stories is a 1962 LP featuring Burgess Meredith reading two stories: "There Will Come Soft Rains" and "Marionettes, Inc."

As far as I know, this has never been released on any other format. The LPs are not exactly rare - they pop up on eBay from time to time.

The estimable Zombie Astronaut, whose blog is a constant source of audio rareties, some classic, some just bizarre, has posted MP3 files of this LP. I don't know how long the link will stay active, so you should listen while you still can: click here.

For more information on Bradbury material released on tape or disc, see my list here.

Monday, August 06, 2007

New Books

It always seems to be the height of summer when a clutch of Bradbury books appears over the horizon. I recently received my copy of Match to Flame, the latest in a series of books from Gauntlet press that reveal the complex history of Bradbury's fictions.

This one, edited by Bradbury's bibliographer Donn Albright, shows how Fahrenheit 451 didn't spring from nowhere, but was the culmination of a line of thought which Bradbury had been following through a number of short fictions in the years prior to F451's publication. Match to Flame includes a contextual essay from Bill Touponce, an essay on the texts themselves from Jon Eller, and an amazing set of stories, some of which appear here for the first time. This volume is also the first opportunity to view what remains of the fragments of Bradbury's first attempt at novel-writing, the never- completed When Ignorant Armies Clash By Night.


Coming soon from Gauntlet is another piece of textual detective work from Donn Albright, Somewhere a Band is Playing. This includes Bradbury's novella, which he developed from a screen treatment he originally wrote for Katharine Hepburn. The Gauntlet book includes pages from the screenplay and various fragments of Bradbury's developing story idea.

You can watch Bradbury tell his Katharine Hepburn anecdote on this YouTube page.

The Gauntlet titles are quite expensive, because they are limited editions. However, if you are lucky enough to live in a country where the dollar is relatively weak (the UK, for instance!), now is the time to get online and pick up these bargains. Match to Flame is already shipping - I received copy number 158 out of 750. Somewhere a Band is Playing is currently advertised for release in "Fall 2007".


If you have no interest in seeing how Bradbury got to his completed story, and just want to read it, you need Bradbury's latest book from his mass-market publisher, Wm Morrow. Now and Forever is an unusual book, being neither a novel nor a short story collection: it contains two novellas, "Somewhere a Band is Playing" and "Leviathan '99".

Both of these stories have been worked and re-worked by Bradbury many times over the years. Leviathan, in particular, has periodically made public appearances as a radio play, stage play and opera. Now, at last, the prose version is being made available. I assume that Bradbury was never able to expand the story to a sustainable novel length, and has settled on the novella as being the most appropriate form for the finished text.

Now and Forever is due for release on 4 September 2007. Here are direct links for pre-ordering:

Now and Forever at Amazon.com

Now and Forever at Amazon.co.uk

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Vision of... the future?

Another of Ray Bradbury's famous friends is comedian Stan Freberg, best known for his parodies. At some point in the dim and distant past, Bradbury and Freberg worked together on a TV commercial...for prunes. This commercial has recently popped up on Google Video (among other places). It's amusing for its apologetic Bradbury performance, but also for its rather well conceived representation of a typical science-fictional future family; almost indistinguishable from those seen in supposedly serious adaptations of Bradbury's stories.

Here's the video:

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Conference Presentation

I nearly forgot to blog this one...

On Saturday I presented another conference paper on Ray Bradbury. This one, at the second Edge Hill Short Story Conference, was about three Bradbury short stories which have been adapted many times for radio, film and television: "Mars is Heaven", "Zero Hour" and "The Veldt".

The aim of the paper was to gather some thoughts on why some stories retain their popularity through repeated re-tellings. There are two areas that intrigued me when I was doing the research for the paper, and I hope to follow up on these at a later date.

The first is that some of the stories work reasonably well even when stripped of their original background or "landscape". This thought occurred to me when listening to various cold-war era radio adaptations of "Zero Hour", which still work (just) without the science fictional background elements that feature prominently in Bradbury's short story.

The second is that Bradbury's poetic prose style - throwing out metaphor after metaphor in the white heat of progressing the narrative - invites an "inner life" for the story in the mind of the reader. This, I believe, is part of Bradbury's appeal to his readers. And since each reader will conjure up subtly different mental images as they read, so (possibly) the stories invite multiple, variant adaptations.

I am currently working on some more Bradbury papers (don't ask me how I find the time) for the proposed New Ray Bradbury Review. I understand that this is likely to see print early next year.

Old Friends...and more

Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen, friends since their teens, yesterday signed books together at the Mystery & Imagination bookstore in Los Angeles.

Both Rays were born in 1920, and both were members of the same LA science-fiction group in the 1930s...where they mingled with the likes of Robert A. Heinlein, Leigh Brackett, Edmond Hamilton and many others.

In 1953, Ray H. made a film based on a Ray B. story - The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. In 1990, Ray B. made a fictionalised version of Ray H. into a character in his novel A Graveyard for Lunatics.

Nowadays, Ray Harryhausen makes his home in England, but the two Rays still meet up from time to time. The photo above (click to enlarge) was sent to me by John King Tarpinian, a regular insider at Mr B's book signings. Many thanks, John.



The Planetary Society recently sponsored a performance of Green Town by Ray Bradbury's theatre company. You can read about this - and listen about it - on this page on the Society's website.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

When Alfred met Ray...

Well, I've never been too sure whether Alfred Hitchcock ever met Ray Bradbury, but Mr B certainly worked for Mr Hitch on many occasions: he contributed several scripts to Hitch's TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

By all accounts, Hitch was quite hands-off when it came to his TV show. He diligently and good-humouredly did his bits to camera (scripted by someone else), and made a point of directing a few episodes of the shows each year. For the most part, however, the actual producing work was done by his trusted collaborators Joan Harrison and Norman Lloyd.

Bradbury began writing for the screen in the 1950s, and selling work to the Hitchcock series helped him develop as a screenwriter, and no doubt prepared him in some way for his own monumental weekly anthology series, Ray Bradbury Theatre.

You can read a little more about the Bradbury-Hitchcock collaborations on my Hitchcock series pages.

And if you make your way over to GUBA, you will find that two of the Bradbury episodes are available online:

  • The Jar - adapted by James Bridges from the Bradbury story - is one of the best-remembered of all Hitchcock TV shows
  • The Life Work of Juan Diaz - adapted by Ray Bradbury from his own short story - is the episode Bradbury is most pleased with. This is his last Hitchcock script, and shows that he can handle teleplays just as well as short stories.
Be warned, though: GUBA links tend not to last very long (particularly if the video clip has been uploaded without approval of the copyright holder). Get them while you can!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Photo Gallery

Several months ago John King Tarpinian was kind enough to send me some Bradbury photos. John has been literally working alongside Ray Bradbury for some time - he runs the bookstall at Ray's Pandemonium Theatre productions. It has taken me a while to get round to uploading these images, but they are now well and truly up: visit my new Photo Gallery to view them.

John has also provided some reviews and other information on the Pandemonium Productions, which I hope to incorporate into some new pages on Ray's theatre work in the not-too-distant future. Watch this space...

(You can view more of John's photos on this other Ray Bradbury site.)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Dandelion Wine wins award

Jerry Robbins of Colonial has just sent me this excellent news about their audio production of Dandelion Wine (reviewed on my site here):

Just a quick note to announce that for the second year in a row, Colonial has won "The Ogle Award" for "Best Fantasy Production of The Year" with "Ray Bradbury's DANDELION WINE." This was our first collaboration with Mr. Bradbury, and it's great to have won with his script - he was very happy to hear the news! The award ceremony will be on July 6th in Minneapolis and will be presented by David Ossman of the Firesign Theater. Ray will also be awarded the LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD In Science Fiction Audio, along with Norman Corwin.

The Ogle is named for Charles Ogle, the first actor to play the Frankenstein Monster on film, in Edisons 1910 production, and is presented by The American Society for Science Fiction Audio.

Congratulations to Jerry, Ray and all involved. And watch this space for news of their forthcoming production of Something Wicked This Way Comes...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Veldt: New Radio Adaptation

"I wrote The Veldt because my subconscious knew more about children than has often been told." Ray Bradbury wrote these words in his introduction to his stage play version of his classic story.

"The Veldt" tells the story of a futuristic nursery, where children are kept occupied by a virtual reality environment, which can conjure up any world they can imagine. The children's parents ultimately pay the price for offloading childcare responsbilities onto a machine.


Bradbury seems to have concocted this tale primarily as an observation on the potential for "evil" inherent in children. As such it is a companion piece to "Zero Hour", "The Small Assassin" and "The Playground". In all of these tales, children conspire to do bad things.


"The Veldt" has remained one of Bradbury's most popular stories, and has been adapted for radio, television and film many times. Its popularity back in the 1950s was giving a huge helping hand by the radio adaptations. These, no doubt, came about in part because Bradbury's nursery is an obvious analogy for the then new - and, to radio, threatening - medium of television.


Bradbury has little interest in technology, and probably didn't care that his story was criticised for technological implausibility. However, the story has been used many times over the years as an exemplar of virtual reality, and today's technology (particularly in interactive media) seems to have at last caught up with Bradbury's once implausible concept.


A "modernised" version of Bradbury's story has just been produced by BBC radio. It builds in some of our modern day concerns about how children waste/spend their time. In my view, little modernisation is really necessary, since Bradbury got the issues spot on in the original story. However, playwright Mike Walker has created a vibrant new version on the story. And anyway, I am always pleased to encounter a new dramatisation of a Bradbury story.


If you are quick, you can catch the play via the BBC's "Listen Again" feature by clicking here. The link will be valid until 28th May, after which the BBC will replace it with a different play.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Pulitzer Surprise

Ray Bradbury adds another award to his collection this year, as the Pulitzer Prize Committee have just given him a Special Citation. The official press release declares:

"SPECIAL CITATIONS
A Special Citation to Ray Bradbury for his distinguished, prolific and deeply influential
career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy."

A full list of prize winners can be viewed at the official Pulitzer site.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Editing Ray Bradbury

Ever wondered what's involved in establishing the definitive version of a text, when that text has passed through a series of editorial hands? Professor Jon Eller specialises in this field, and has made substantial contributions to Bradbury scholarship.

Jon's contribution to Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction (co authored with Bill Touponce; Kent State University Press, 2004) was primarily in tracing the textual history of Bradbury's major works, revealing for the first time the extent of Bradbury's continual re-writing and re-development of his fiction.

Jon also edited the handsome Gauntlet Press edition of The Halloween Tree, which presented several variant texts of Bradbury's short novel alongside his award-winning teleplay version.

At the end of April, Gauntlet should be issuing Match to Flame. This volume, edited by Donn Albright, traces the roots of Fahrenheit 451. Jon has edited and annotated the texts presented in this volume.

Jon recently gave an account of his work editing Bradbury in a lecture at Indiana University. A video of the lecture (lasting just under an hour) is available here.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Adaptations

I'm currently researching adaptations of three Bradbury stories: "Mars is Heaven!", "Zero Hour" and "The Veldt". It's for a paper I'm preparing to deliver at a conference in July.

I've chosen these particular stories because they seem to be recurringly popular, with repeated adaptations for radio and television.

"Mars is Heaven" is an interesting case because Bradbury himself has adapted it on more than one occasion. The original short story appeared in Planet Stories in 1948. Bradbury then converted it into "The Third Expedition", a chapter of his novelised story cycle The Martian Chronicles. In the 1960s he wrote the first of several screenplays of the Chronicles, and in the 1970s the stage play version. And in the 1980s he wrote a teleplay for Ray Bradbury Theater.

The story is unusual, in that it combines the small-town USA sensibilities of some of his other work (Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes) with a Martian setting.

Listening to various radio adaptations, I have been intrigued that Ernest Kinoy's 1950s Dimension X/X Minus One script uses a rooster as the first signifier that the Earthmen might still be on Earth rather than on Mars. This element isn't present in Bradbury's short story, nor in The Martian Chronicles. However, in Bradbury's 1980s teleplay for Ray Bradbury Theater there's that rooster again. Has Bradbury borrowed from Kinoy? Or was Kinoy working from a different draft of Bradbury's story?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Piece of Wood

Several weeks ago I got to see the short film A Piece of Wood, thanks to producer Roger Lay Jr who kindly sent me a review copy. You can read my review of the film here.

Roger and director Tony Baez Milan tell me they are in negotiations for a feature film with a Bradbury connection. I know nothing else about this project, but am hopeful that they will soon be able to tell us more...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Bradbury 13 news? And a Bradbury documentary.

A company called Strategicom have contacted me, saying that they are working with Mike McDonough on licensing of Bradbury 13. It sounds as if moves are afoot - finally - to get this classic piece of radio drama officially re-released.

As I have blogged previously, Bradbury 13 (most of it, anyway) was once released on cassette, but a CD or official download version has never appeared. I hope this is now about to happen. Watch this space!


Meanwhile, I spotted a new Bradbury documentary DVD on Amazon. Ray Bradbury: Dancing Among the Muses sounds, from a customer review, a rather cheap affair. However, the producers' web page for the DVD makes it seem rather more professional. They have a trailer online (which friend Nard also found on YouTube), which includes Ray telling the familiar Mr Electrico tale. This might be worth further investigation...

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Small Assassin - premiere screening

I can't get there myself - on account of a few thousand miles of ocean being in the way- but the short film adaptation of "The Small Assassin" is shortly to be premiered.

I have some information and links on the film here.

The film is being shown as an evening of shorts from Beverly Ridge Pictures in Chicago, Illinois.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Early Bibliography

I wonder how many Bradbury readers are familiar with William F. Nolan. A successful writer in his own right, Nolan is probably best known as the co-creator of Logan's Run, the popular SF novel (and film, and TV series, and series of books).

But Nolan (pictured left with Forry Ackerman and Ray Bradbury in 1953) was also one of the first to begin keeping detailed bibliographical records of Ray Bradbury's work. In the 1950s, he launched a fanzine/journal called The Ray Bradbury Review. Twenty-odd years later he published a collation of much of this work in a book, The Ray Bradbury Companion. For years, this was the most detailed book on Bradbury's publishing history, and in many respects it is still unsurpassed. Nolan's vast collection of Bradbury materials has been donated to Bowling Green University, Ohio, where it is is accessible to researchers.

Just the other day I stumbled across one of Nolan's earliest Bradbury biblographical pieces, onthe web. FANAC, dedicated to preserving and celebrating the history and publications of SF fandom, has uploaded a 1953 fanzine called Shangri-LA, which includes Bill Nolan's "Ray Bradbury Index".

This particular bibliography is fascinating to me because it captures Bradbury at the peak of his early success: by this time, he had broken out of genre publications and into the "slicks"; he had several books behind him; he had had works adapted for radio and early TV; and he was just breaking into movies. (For more on Bradbury's early experiences of film, see the Spaceman article here.)

"The Ray Bradbury Index" is also remarkable for its detail and accuracy. It gave me cause to cross-check the detail on my own website.

Bill Nolan is still active, and has his own website at www.williamfnolan.com. Last year he was named as Author Emeritus by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. And he has been named a member of the Advisory Board of the proposed new Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Spring Clean

I've been re-arranging the Books section of my site, to make it more useful and easier to navigate. You can now browse books by decade and by type.

I've also added a section on books about Ray Bradbury. This is fairly comprehensive, and includes everything from popular non-fiction books to PhD-style learned treatises, with some High School study guides in there as well.

When time permits, I will be adding more details about some of these books.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Thomas Petitpas

I've recently been in touch with Thomas Petitpas. Tom, pictured left with Ray, until 2004 ran Bradbury's Pandemonium Theater Company, and produced all of the plays. I hope shortly to probe Tom's knowledge of Bradbury on stage, with a view to improving my coverage of this neglected area.

Tom sells comics and assorted stuff through his eBay store. He has a nice line in Bradbury rareties, some of them related to the Pandemonium productions.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Iconic images

A question on the official Ray Bradbury Message Board got me looking at illustrations of the short story "A Sound of Thunder" (1952). This, you may recall, is Bradbury's classic dinosaur-hunting tale: travel back in time and enjoy the thrill of hunting T.Rex. (Image is by Richard Corben, from The Ray Bradbury Chronicles.)

This is a compelling fantasy. So much so that other writers have trodden the same ground, most famously L. Sprague de Camp in "A Gun for Dinosaur".

Bradbury makes the tale slightly different, by bringing in one of those time paradoxes that the true science fiction fan will happily spend hours debating. Bradbury's twist is that one of the time-travellers steps on a butterfly and screws up the subsequent course of evolution.

Now many have criticised the story for its logical flaws - most famously the editors of Fantasy and Science Fiction who rejected the story on those grounds. (Bradbury didn't care - he sold the story to a 'slick' magazine instead, and made a whole lot more money.) However, defenders of the story, myself included, will tell you that the details of the time travel don't matter one jot. It's the symbolism that's important. Bradbury seems to be saying that little things are important: the way he sets the story up, the fate of the dinosaur is trivial; it's the butterfly that really matters.


Looking at various visual interpretations of "A Sound of Thunder", I find that most illustrators have gone for the big picture. They show the T.Rex, sometimes dwarfing our time-travellers. That's certainly true of Frederick Siebel, the original illustrator of the Collier's magazine version of the story (June 1952, above). Notice that Siebel gives us the thrill of the hunt. He does also show the all-important pathway which our heroes must stick to - and one of the hunters fatally stepping off the path.



Franz Altschuler, who illustrated the story for Playboy (June 1956, above) follows the same idea, although the chrononauts don't seem quite so concerned in his vision.



Even the Game Boy game (above) bearing the title of Bradbury's story lingers on the hunt.



The poster and publicity for the recent film version (not a film I recommend you rush out and see) did get one thing right: emphasising the butterfly. I think this adds to the intrigue of the advertising campaign, especially when the movie trailer hints at sub-Jurassic Park dinosaur CGI. (Image shows the movie poster graphic used on a re-issue of a Bradbury short story collection.)

[For the record, I find the low budget adaptation for TV's Ray Bradbury Theatre to be vastly superior to the Peter Hyams movie. And the radio production for Bradbury 13 is pretty good as well.]



Full marks go to Joe Mugnaini, the quintessential Bradbury illustrator, for achieving such a perfect balance in his line-drawing. Created for The Golden Apples of the Sun, the short story collection that first contained "A Sound of Thunder", his illustration (above) seems to focus on the dino hunt - and his composition uses the pathway as a flourish that frames the tyrannosaur. But look again. See how the butterfly, all translucent wing, dominates the scene.

This, for me, is precisely why Mugnaini worked as Bradbury's best illustrator. He found a way of getting narrative into a single frame, and always gives a new way of looking at a story.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

More Short Films

A remarkable number of Ray Bradbury's stories have been made into short films. Many of these are independent productions, often made by film-makers who are just starting out. Examples include the recent A Piece of Wood and The Small Assassin.

But there have also been quite a few "educational" films, usually aimed at children, and presumably intended for classroom use. Examples include the Learning Corporation of America productions The Electric Grandmother and The Invisible Boy.

I thought I knew about all of these shorts, but new information keeps turning up. I recently had my attention drawn to The Flying Machine, a 16-minute short starring Blade Runner's James Hong (left), and Diane Haak's 1979 version of The Veldt (24-minutes). I haven't seen either of these, and have very little information on them. I hope to see them one day, and would welcome hearing from anyone who knows more about them.