Monday, January 31, 2011

Live Forever!

There has been a lot of information bouncing around the web about Michael O'Kelly's recent stage production Live Forever: the Ray Bradbury Odyssey. Whereas a number of Bradbury's own books and plays have autobiographical elements, this seems to be the first attempt to present an outwardly biographical play about Bradbury himself, albeit with a fantastical treatment.

The most interesting article I have seen so far is this one from the Ventura County Reporter, which also mentions film director David Zucker and his stated aim of getting a film version of the play off the ground.

Audio update: Colonial's Martian Chronicles audio adaptation now has a release date - 7 June 2011 - and is available for pre-order from Amazon.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Bradbury and Ellison

On Monday, Harlan Ellison mentioned on his website that he has completed a story called "Weariness", and sold it to an upcoming Ray Bradbury tribute book called Live Forever! along with an 1100-word afterword. I don't think I have heard of this book before (if I have, I've forgotten all about it). Shortly thereafter Robert Morales, evidently the editor of said volume, wrote that "the afterword about you and Bradbury [...] is so staggeringly SWEET and funny and poignantly saturated with history".

The image on the left, from 1973, is one of the few online photos to show Bradbury and Ellison together, and is taken from the Los Angeles Science Fiction Fantasy Society website. Bradbury is in the back row, second from left, partially obscured by Ellison.

Random thought: one of the (many) things that connect Ellison and Bradbury is Los Angeles' famous Bradbury Building. Though not named after Ray, the Bradbury Building is featured prominently in the opening credits to The Ray Bradbury Theatre, as Ray (actually a body double!) is shown arriving at his office...which was actually in a totally different building elsewhere in LA:

The Bradbury Building also stars in "Demon with a Glass Hand", an episode of The Outer Limits written by Harlan Ellison. When writing the script, Ellison personally researched a key scene in which his protagonist races an elevator. He hurt his leg in the process, as the final leap to hit the ground before the elevator was rather a long jump. Robert Culp (or perhaps a stunt double) replicates the jump in the finished episode.

There are some good photos of the Bradbury Building today on the Bladezone website, as part of a Blade Runner-themed tour of LA.

Another connection between Bradbury and Ellison is that they are both recipients of the J.Lloyd Eaton Award: Bradbury was the first, in 2008; Ellison is the fourth, and will receive his award at next month's Eaton Conference in Riverside, California.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Update: "The Flying Machine"

News reaches me from Bernard Selling that he is closer to laying hands on a quality print of his "lost" short film The Flying Machine. You may recall that I have blogged about this film before, including Bernard's account of the making of the film. I am hoping that Bernard's quest will be fulfilled, and that the film will see a new release.

Meanwhile, a short clip - which looks to be sourced from VHS - is viewable on YouTube:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

RIP: Jerry Weist

I never met Jerry Weist, but he was one of the most important chroniclers of the work of Ray Bradbury. His classic book celebrating the visual art of Bradbury, Ray Bradbury: an Illustrated Life, helped establish a real sense of the evolution of Bradbury's work over the decades. Before Jerry's book, we just knew Bradbury as a novelist and short story writer, and knew he had dabbled with films, theatre and poetry. But mostly we knew only Bradbury's books. For instance, "The Fog Horn" was just a short story that belonged in Golden Apples of the Sun, and the cryptic copyright notice at the bottom of the page merely tantalised us with some indication that the story had another life.

After Jerry's book, though, we all knew that "The Fog Horn" had an origin in a 1950s magazine. We could see how the original readers of that story were given the story with an entirely different context, a double-page colour spread that explicitly represented the "monster" that Bradbury's considered prose had thoroughly humanised and presented as not really monstrous at all.

After Jerry's book, we could see how Bradbury's work had attracted marvellous illustrators even from the days of the pulps, and how certain key artists like Hannes Bok and Joe Mugnaini had been inspired again and again by Bradbury's words - and how he, in turn, had been inspired by their creative take on his own stories.

The first time I saw An Illustrated Life, I saw it as a coffee-table book. A charming collection of mostly retro images that managed to capture the spirit of the old days of horror, fantasy and SF. It undoubtedly influenced what I decided to do with my own website, and even provided some images that I could find nowhere else. Now, though, I think of An Illustrated Life as one of three books that has changed our view of Bradbury's authorship:

  • Weller's Bradbury Chronicles gives us the life story, filling in the little-told aspects of Bradbury's life
  • Weist's An Illustrated Life gives us a picture of the changing context of of Bradbury's work, and given the extensive interplay of film, TV, theatre and illustration in his work, the picture is incredibly valuable
  • Eller and Touponce's The Life of Fiction painstakingly examines the evolution of Bradbury's texts, speeling out in detail how Bradbury's work so easily spills over from one medium to another, as he constantly re-authors his ideas across media
I'm sorry to say that I only knew Jerry Weist through that one book, but there was a lot more to the man. Perhaps the best obituary is from Gloucester Times. Many thanks to jkt for bringing this to my attention.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fahrenheit 451, Soft Rains

Looking for a good, quick, no-nonsense review of Truffaut's 1966 film of Fahrenheit 451? Look no further than this post from Classic Sci-Fi Movies blog. I might even forgive the typo in the post's title!

Looking for a brief overview of Sara Teasdale, author of "There Will Come Soft Rains", the poem that inspired a Bradbury short story? Try here.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Charles Binger - and a Colonial update

A California gallery is currently exhibiting work by the late Charles Binger, the first time in 45 years that his works have been on display. Binger was a British-born painter, and did some of his best work as cover art for paperback books in the 1950s and 1960s, including covers for books by Bradbury and Aldous Huxley.

On the left is his cover design for the first paperback edition of The Illustrated Man (Bantam, 1954).

For a selection of his science-fictional paperback covers, see this listing on the ISFDB website.

There is a biography of Binger here, and an online gallery of his works - with details of the physical exhibition - at the website of La Luz de Jesus, here.

According to Jerry Robbins' Facebook page, recordings are underway for Colonial Radio Theatre's production of The Martian Chronicles. This is the latest in a string of Bradbury productions from Colonial; previous dramatisations have been very good and picked up a few awards. I have my fingers crossed for this one, due for release later this year.

On the left is the poster/CD artwork - click on it to see full-size. You can follow developments at Colonial on Jerry's Colonial blog.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fahrenheit 451 in Birmingham, Alabama

Fahrenheit 451 continues to be a popular piece of theatre. The latest production to have come to my attention is one in Birmingham, Alabama, at the Theatre Downtown. It uses Bradbury's own script, first published in 1986 by Dramatic Publishing.

The official website is here, and there is a report in a local news website here.

Update: there is a brief review of the production on Dr Robert M. Woods' blog.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Confused on how you should feel about the death of the book and the rise of the e-reader? Concerned that buying an iPad might be, to some extent, the equivalent of bringing about the untimely end of traditional books?

Let M-Edge help you... with their Fahrenheit 451 cover for iPads:

More information here.

Maybe this cover would be of interest to Evgeni, a poster to youthVOICES: a place where students share, distribute and discuss their digital work online. This young letter writer posts a letter to Ray Bradbury, praising the influence of Fahrenheit 451 on his enjoyment of books...and suggesting that e-books are preferable to those pesky paper ones that destroy trees.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Censoring Twain?

The blogosphere is awash with comments on the recently announced plan to issue a modified version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, one in which the N word is replaced by the word "slave".

My own view is that this is a mistake, because it erodes the link between the work and the historical context that produced it.

Naturally, as with any act of censorship, people turn to Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 as a reference point - a couple of the better posts I have seen are here and here.

What is not always being reported is that Alan Gribben, the Twain scholar behind this new edition, is supposedly doing it in order to encourage US schools to start using Huckleberry Finn again, after a serious rapid decline in take-up of the book due to the presence of the N word; an interesting strategy which is explained in this Daily Telegraph blog.

I think Gribben is wrong, but the debate reminds me of two aspects of Bradbury's F451. One, obviously, is censorship of great literature. But the second is something that Bradbury has said many times: "You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them." I like to think that this latter point is what has been motivating Gribben.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Time Capsule

Although I am a child of the 1960s, imagery from the 1950s and earlier is quite fascinating to me. One of the wonders of studying a writer like Bradbury is that his peak output dates from earlier decades. While his texts are readily available between modern covers, there is a distinct charm in finding an earlier edition of his work. The 1940s pulp magazines are particularly interesting, as they place the familiar short stories - works we know best from Bradbury's books - in their original publication context.

On a related note - stay with me! - I was amazed to see some recently discovered 1950s posters, which have been found undisturbed in their original context. Part of a London Underground station, Notting Hill Gate, has been closed to the public since the 1950s - and yet advertising posters from the era have miraculously survived intact and undisturbed for fifty years or more. You can see these fascinating images on mikeyashworth's Flickr page.

Monday, January 03, 2011

An Unlikely Friend

Ray Bradbury, it seems, has met almost everyone. Katherine Hepburn? Yes. George W. Bush? Yes. Aldous Huxley? Yes.

Bertrand Russell? Actually, yes.

Superman? Well, apparently, yes!

At least, according to David Surridge, posting on Black Gate: Adventures in Fantasy Literature. Surridge reviews the movie tie-ins and other writing of Elliot S. Maggin, author of Miracle Monday (1981), in which Ray Bradbury appears - fleetingly - as a fictional character, along with his late wife Maggie and a certain Walt Disney.

I thought Harlan Ellison's recent screen appearance alongside Scooby Doo was amazing, but it seems Bradbury got there first, appearing alongside a fictional character nearly thirty years ago!