Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Why Mars?

For most of the past year, I have immersed myself in Bradbury's unfilmed (and mostly unpublished) screenplay versions of The Martian Chronicles. One of the outputs from this research was a paper which I presented at the 2012 Science Fiction Research Association conference in Detroit. In the paper I attempted to unpick what Bradbury was trying to do in his early-1960s Chronicles film work.

Although the screenplays are adaptations of his book, each version takes on a different flavour. The published 1965 screenplay (found in the limited edition volume The Complete Martian Chronicles) appears to address, head on, the reasons we might be compelled to explore space. This is not entirely surprising, given that the script was written at the height of the space age, when the successes of the Mercury and Gemini programmes were coming thick and fast, and when Bradbury was himself becoming something of a spokesman for the space programme.

It was interesting, therefore, to see Steven Paul Leiva's excellent recent article "Ray Bradbury, the Masterheart of Mars" in which he identifies three reasons for going to Mars. Bradbury "instinctually understood" two of these, Leiva writes, and "was a poet of the third". Read the article at the KCET website, here. Steven, you may recall, was the organiser of "Ray Bradbury Week" in Los Angeles in 2010.

Steven Paul Leiva, pictured at Bradbury's 90th birthday party.

Steven has also been instrumental in the campaign over the Los Angeles Palms-Rancho Park branch library, which I recently reported on. He has pointed out that my report of the library's potential name change was incorrect: rather than being renamed in honour of Ray (something which isn't possible), the proposal is that the branch be dedicated to Ray.

This is how Steven, writing on Facebook, describes last week's meeting:
I spent the morning attending the monthly meeting of the LA Library Board of Commissioners, which - at the request of Councilmember Paul Koretz - was held at the Palms-Rancho Park Library. Also at Paul's request they gave consideration to the idea of dedicating the Palms to Ray. Several members of the public representing the neighborhood council and home owners association, the Greater Los Angeles Writers Club, and the Friends of the Palms Library spoke at the meeting and all very enthusiastically endorsed the idea. They all gave intelligent, passionate, and moving speeches. One broke into tears. At least one audience member started to weep (you know him, his name is Steven). Then the president of the council spoke, very tearfully, for the measure. It was moved and seconded -- and passed unanimously.

We now have to wait a mandate period of three months for public comment, but, essentially, it's a done deal!

The Palms-Rancho Park Library is very appropriate as this was Ray's local library, close to his home of over 50 years in Cheviot Hills. His daughters have very fond memories of Ray walking them to the library when they were children and spending much time there. Ray spoke there often and was a huge supporter of the library, as he was of all libraries. There is already a Ray Bradbury room at the Palms, but now the whole library will be dedicated to him.

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