Saturday, June 30, 2012

Welcome!

If you are new to Bradburymedia, you may not be fully aware of what is on this site. Let me give you a quick run through what's here.

First, there's this blog. I tend to post news relating to Ray Bradbury, quality links to other online resources, and any interesting little nuggets of information I find during my research. My research, incidentally, is mainly into Bradbury's media work. Over on the right hand side of the screen, you will see ARCHIVES, which lets you browse the blog contacts over the last six years.

Second, there's the substantial bibliographic and filmographic content, most of which is unique to this site (or was until people started copying it elsewhere...) I have details on Bradbury's books, his work in film & TV, his work in radio, and I have the unique Bradbury Story Finder, which lets you look up a short story and determine where to find it.

Third, there are some detailed reviews of a number of Bradbury media adaptations. These are linked individually from the film & TV and radio listings. Browse around and you will find some fascinating information on the process of adaptation.

Of course, this is a never-ending work in progress. Some of the content desperately needs updating, but that will have to wait until I get the time to do it. 

If you would like to discuss anything you see here, I am always pleased to receive your comments. You can click on the "comments" link at the bottom of a blog post, or you can email directly at:

phil AT bradburymedia DOT co DOT uk

... I'm sure you can figure out how to express that as a proper email address...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Conferring on Bradbury

On Friday 29 June I will be presenting a paper at the SFRA (Science Fiction Research Association) conference in Detroit, Michigan. My paper is about the way Bradbury used the end of the world as a device in The Martian Chronicles screenplays, and in comparison with his original book. When I initially proposed the paper, I envisaged writing about all sorts of other Bradburyan apocalypses, but when it came to drafting it, it became obvious that a twenty-minute paper wouldn't allow room.

Joining me on the Bradbury-themed panel will be Jon Eller of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University, and Adam Frisch of Briar Cliff University (a past-president of SFRA).

The conference guest of honour is Eric Rabkin, who has himself written and lectured about Bradbury in the past.

The last scheduled panel in the conference (on Saturday afternoon) will be a "Bradbury memorial". I will be moderating this session, and will be showing a selection of rare Bradbury video clips.

Full details of the SFRA conference can be found here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Asimov on Bradbury

"What is the name of the Bradbury story where..." is the frequent start to questions on the Bradbury message boards. Some of the time, the description which follows is indeed a summary of a Bradbury story. Surprisingly often, though, there will follow an outline of a story by someone else. Most frequently it will be Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron", but other writers frequently mistaken for Bradbury include Arthur C. Clarke, John Wyndham and Isaac Asimov.

Bradbury and Asimov were completely different in terms of writing style, imagery and themes. And yet they were remarkably similar in a number of ways:

  • They were born in the same year, 1920.
  • They both attended the first ever World Science Fiction Convention, in New York, 1939.
  • They both started their prolific writing careers with short stories in the 1940s pulp magazines before moving into mainstream publications and 1950s hardcovers.
  • From the 1960s onwards, they both became somewhat distanced from the SF genre which had given them their early successes, Bradbury by working in film, theatre and poetry, and Asimov by working on non-fiction works.
  • They both had something of a creative resurgence in the 1980s, with a return to major novel writing.

Oh, and neither of them cared much for flying.

So you'd think they might know each other, or even be the best of friends. And yet I can find very few references to them meeting.

Asimov wrote magnificently detailed autobiographies, based in part on the careful diaries he kept for most of his adult life. In these he makes just a couple of references to Bradbury. The first appears in In Memory Yet Green (pages 320-321), where he mentions Bradbury's first appearance in the leading science fiction pulp magazine Astounding Stories:

On November 17 [1942], the day Campbell took “Bridle and Saddle,” he told me of a plan of his for starting a new department in Astounding, one to be called “Probability Zero”.

This was to be a department of short-shorts, five hundred to one thousand words each, which were to be in the nature of plausible and entertaining Munchausen-like lies. Campbell’s notion was that, aside from the entertainment value of these things, they would offer a place where beginners could penetrate the market without having to compete quite so hard with established writers. They would form a stairway to professional status.

This was a good idea in theory and even worked a little in practice. Ray Bradbury, who was to become one of the best-known and most successful of all science-fiction writers, broke into the field with a “probability Zero” item half a year later. Hal Clement and George O. Smith also published “Probability Zero” items near the very start of their careers.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work enough. Campbell had to start the department going with professionals, hoping to let the amateurs carry on once they saw what it was Campbell wanted. There were, however, never enough amateurs who could meet Campbell’s standards even for short-shorts of an undemanding nature, and after twelve appearances of “Probability Zero” over a space of 2.5 years, Campbell gave up.

In the sequel volume In Joy Still Felt, Asimov mentions his first ever meeting with Bradbury, which occurred in 1965 (although they could conceivably have met at the 1939 Worldcon without realising it - there were around 185 attendees at the convention). It is the only meeting between the two that he mentions, although I find it hard to believe that their paths crossed only once. Here is how Asimov describes (on page 381) the meeting, which took place on a TV show:

The next day [Oct 8 1965] I went to Newark to tape a talk show with David Susskind. It was my first nationally televised talk show since “The Last Word” with Bergen Evans six years before.

This one was devoted to science fiction, and along with me were Lester del Rey and Ray Bradbury. It was the first time I had ever met Ray Bradbury, though of course we knew each other well enough from our writings to be on a first-name basis at once. Neither he nor I would fly in airplanes, so since I lived in Newton and he in Los Angeles it was clear we couldn’t meet often.

The session was not successful. Lester was in one of his talkative moods and gave neither Ray nor myself much chance to do anything but stare at the ceiling, and Susskind had a list of questions, silly in themselves, from which he lacked the wit to depart. It meant that all the interesting starts that any of us made were muffled and killed when he asked the next silly question.
Bradbury was a Californian for the whole of his adult life. Asimov was a New Yorker. Perhaps this is what prevented them meeting more often. I think today we have this idea that science fiction and fantasy writers all know each other, largely because of the historical importance to the genre of conventions and other social gatherings. It therefore seems odd that these two similar men, whose works were often mistaken for each other's, met so rarely.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Green Town Tribute

As I mentioned a while ago, Bradbury's home town of Waukegan Illinois - fictionalised as Green Town in his books Dandelion Wine, Farewell Summer and Something Wicked This Way Comes - paid tribute to Ray on the day he died. TV news crews were in attendance, and so we have an opportunity to see a little of the event at the city's public library:





There is now gathering momentum for some kind of memorial to Bradbury in Waukegan, and the 1903 Carnegie Library (currently empty and disused) is naturally being looked at as a potential centre for honouring his memory. In his lifetime, Bradbury supported the campaign to save the Carnegie from demolition, and indicated that he would support some kind of Bradbury collection being deposited in the building, perhaps turning it into a museum or tourist attraction.

Though it may be sad to think that Bradbury's death would be the trigger for some action to finally be taken to restore the Carnegie Library to public life, it would be a fitting place to commemorate one of Waukegan's favourite sons.

There is more information about the preservation of the library at the website of the Carnegie Preservation Project. My thanks to Wayne Munn for the link.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bradbury on Disneyland

Holiday magazine was published from 1946-1977, and carried articles by an amazing array of writers. Ray Bradbury was one of them, contributing an essay about Disneyland in 1965. You can read the piece, entitled "The Machine-Tooled Happy Land" on the delightful blog The Astounding World of HOLIDAY.

You can read more about the magazine and its literary legacy in The Paris Review.



Bradbury's fiction is sometimes described as having a unique voice, so I was amused to discover what BookBrowse.com's ReadAlike feature suggests for authors who write like Bradbury.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Amazing Storyteller

Illustrator Jeff Durham posted this "old illustration" of Ray Bradbury to his blog. It's a piece of artwork he did for a magazine c.2003, but which he had forgotten about. The full story is here.



Meanwhile, MGM has apparently announced an intention to film some of Bradbury's oldest stories. His 2002 novel From the Dust Returned is a composite novel, stitched together from numerous short stories about an odd fantasy family. You know them: Cecy, Uncle Einar and their relatives. The MGM announcement is all over the web. Here's one account of it. In mentioning this, I also have to issue that standard warning: just because someone says they're making a film, don't assume they will ever ACTUALLY make it. We're still waiting for Fahrenheit 451 and The Illustrated Man - other major Bradbury works which have been announced in recent years, but which are still lost somewhere in "development hell".

Saturday, June 16, 2012

And the Bradbury Award goes to...

At the recent Nebula Awards ceremony, the Ray Bradbury Award was given to Neil Gaiman for an episode of Dr Who. Neil has posted a photo of the award on his blog, showing the trophy sitting next to his Jim Henson Creativity Award - which he describes as "the only other award goofy enough to make me laugh". Here's the photo:



This isn't the only award named after Bradbury. There's also the Ray Bradbury Creativity Award. This was recently given to Kirk Douglas, with the actor Bo Derek standing in for Ray - this was a few weeks before his death, and he was too ill to attend.

Ray and Bo go back a long way. If you Google both names, you will probably find stories about how they met. Ray and Kirk also go back a long way: in the 1950s, Kirk Douglas worked with  Bradbury to prepare a TV series called Report From Space, which was to adapt stories from The Martian Chronicles and other Bradbury books. Unfortunately, the project fell through. Twenty-some years later, Kirk's son Peter Douglas would produce the Disney adaptation of Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes.

The Creativity Award ceremony was filmed by Blair Bones Media. Jeremy Blair kindly sent me a link, so please enjoy the event:




Ray Bradbury Creativity Award 2012: Kirk Douglas from Jeremy Blair on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Fred Pohl on Bradbury

There aren't many writers still active who were exact contemporaries of Ray Bradbury. Ursula LeGuin, Richard Matheson and Brian Aldiss come close, but they all began publishing in the 1950s, around a decade after Bradbury got started as a professional.

Fred Pohl was born about nine months before Bradbury, and he is still active today, writing both fiction and... blog posts.

Fred's blog is The Way The Future Blogs, a play on the title of his autobiographical book The Way The Future Was. In a recent post, Fred blogs some memories of his association with Ray.

I had the privilege of meeting both Fred and Ray, and saw them together on a panel about Mars. They both have a connection to the red planet, Bradbury through his Martian Chronicles, and Pohl through his award-winning 1976 novel Man Plus and its sequel.

Hence, they both delighted in playing with the red planet:


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Leavetaking

Yesterday Ray Bradbury was laid to rest in a small-scale, private ceremony in Los Angeles. He is beside his wife Maggie in Westwood Village Memorial Park. As you can see from the list of others who have been buried there, Ray is also in company with many people he knew: writer Robert Bloch, screenwriter Harry Essex. cinematographer James Wong Howe, and the writer who gave him a huge break by rescuing one of his short stories from the reject pile, Truman Capote.

Discussions are underway for ways of remembering Ray: there is talk of a celebration of his life to be held either on his birthday (August) or at Halloween; there is talk of naming something after him in Los Angeles - something which was already under discussion in his lifetime, but which didn't come to fruition in time for Ray to see it; and calls for the Waukegan Public library to be renamed in his honour. Whether any or all of these tentative ideas come to pass remains to be seen, but I will post updates here if anything tangible emerges.



Tributes to Bradbury continue to appear, too many to link to. As before, I want to link just to the best of these:

  • The Los Angeles Times has a report on the tributes from "ordinary" people.
  • The Guardian carried an article by Margaret Atwood, in which she tries to uncover why Bradbury became such a widely treasured American writer. Atwood, the author of The Handmaid's Tale has had a career which in many ways reflects Bradbury's. Like him, she is novelist, short story writer, poet, screenwriter. Like him, she has had some tussles over whether her work is science fiction or something else. Curiously, her working definition of science fiction is almost opposite to Bradbury's. Bradbury's distinction between SF and fantasy was that SF (such as, for him, Fahrenheit 451) could happen, but fantasy (The Martian Chronicles) was about things that were impossible. Atwood, on the other hand, once dismissed SF by implying that it was about the impossible, famously using the phrase "talking squids in outer space".
  • The organiser of Los Angeles' Ray Bradbury Week tributes in 2010, Steven Paul Leiva, has blogged some photos of himself and Ray, and a link to an interview he gave about Ray on an NPR station in LA.
  • The Los Angeles Review of Books has completed its three day series of reflections on Bradbury's work with articles by (among others) Bradbury scholars Jon Eller, Robin Anne Reid and Bill Touponce, and SF/fantasy critics John Clute, Gary K. Wolfe and Rob Latham. Read all three parts with these links: part one, part two, part three. This last section contains essays which are probably the first since Bradbury's death to refer to shortcomings or disappointments with aspects of Bradbury's writing, and perhaps are a sign of how the scholarly community will now seek to grapple with what Bradbury's work really meant. I have no problem with this at all, but I do wonder whether some of the critics have read much of Bradbury's post-1962 writing.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

LA Review of Books, Colonial Radio Theatre

The Los Angeles Review of Books is running a series of tributes to Ray Bradbury, starting with a 2004 essay "The Bradbury Era" by F.X.Feeney. I understand that a new tribute will be added each day.


Colonial Radio Theatre, which has produced some fine audio adaptations of Bradbury works including The Martian Chronicles, The Halloween Tree, and Something Wicked This Way Comes, also has a podcast. The most recent instalment (episode 21) is a special tribute to Ray Bradbury in which writer-producer-director-actor Jerry Robbins talks about how his magnificent collaborations with Ray came about. You can listen to the podcast here.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Poetry Please

UK publisher PS Publishing has announced a new book of Bradbury poetry. Greentown Tinseltown is described as a collection of  "vignettes and poems, partials and notes", and is edited by Bradbury's bibliographer Donn Albright. The cover art is by Bradbury himself.

The slim volume is now available for pre-order and due for release in July 2012. Full details are here.



This might also be an appropriate place to put in a good word for Rosebud magazine, whose subtitle is "the magazine for people who like good writing." It's something of a digest-sized magazine, containing fiction, poetry and essays. Issue 52 - the only one I've ever read - showcases an essay/true story by Bill Goodwin, a friend and neightbour of Ray Bradbury. I've mentioned Bill here before, and posted some of his illustrations.

It turns out that Bill writes as well as he draws, and his piece "Citizen Ray" is a charming portrait of his friendship with the older Ray. In the last few days there have been plenty of retrospective accounts of Bradbury's life and works, but they have all tended to focus on the young Ray, or the Ray of the Fahrenheit 451 years. Well, in "Citizen Ray" Bill gives us a view of Ray in late life - an inspired and inspiring figure who doesn't let age, illness and disability get in his way. This is the only Ray I ever met, and I am struck by the accuracy of Bill's account.

"Citizen Ray" is accompanied by two illustrations by Bill, and the cover of issue 52 of Rosebud echoes "Citizen Ray". The cover price is $8.95 (but readers outside the US can expect to pay approximately double this when shipping is added), and Rosebud can be ordered here.



Speaking of poetry, the following video turned up on YouTube. Filmed in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, by the grave of Gerard Manley Hopkins,  it includes a reading of a Bradbury poem dedicated to Hopkins, taken from the 2001 book A Chapbook for Burnt-Out Priests, Rabbis and Ministers.


Saturday, June 09, 2012

Ray in the Archives

Perhaps more than any other writer, Ray Bradbury attracted documentary film-makers, journalists and reporters. His processes of writing and his attitudes to life were endlessly fascinating, and we are fortunate that we have a partial record of his views and opinions captured on film at key stages of his career.

Here is one from 1969, made for Canadian television. It's from around the time that The Illustrated Man was being made - a Hollywood feature film starring Rod Steiger and Clare Bloom, and directed by Jack Smight. Bradbury had nothing to do with the making of the film, and would later be very critical of it. (I seem to recall that he accused the screenwriter of being a real estate agent. It sounds like an insult, but Bradbury's point was that the script wasn't written by a writer, but by a real estate agent who was playing at being a writer. Whether this is factually accurate I have no idea, but it's what Bradbury always said.)

Anyway, this is Bradbury at the age of 48 or 49, in the year that Apollo 11 landed on the moon. An author who has well and truly broken out of the genre ghetto he started in. An author whose works are now famous enough to be made into major movies. An author who, for nearly a decade, has been a spokesman for "science fiction" and a commentator on the space race. Enjoy:

Ray Bradbury, Illustrated - from CBC

Friday, June 08, 2012

Brian Sibley pays tribute to Ray - UPDATED!

Award-winning dramatist, biographer and blogger extraordaire Brian Sibley put together a fine personal tribute to Ray.

He is now following it up with a tribute on BBC Radio 4. He will be in conversation on the obituary programme Last Word at 4pm British time this afternoon.

The programme will then be available to listen to for at least seven days on the BBC iPlayer. You will find a direct link to the broadcast on the programme's web page, here.



Other excellent tributes to Ray Bradbury have been appearing in the last couple of days. Here are some of the best:


UPDATE: Neil Gaiman has also uploaded a recording of himself reading his story "The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury" at an event last November. The recording is here, and Neil blogs about it here.


Thursday, June 07, 2012

Tributes to Ray

Yesterday was just a crazy day. I heard about Ray's passing quite early in the day, but didn't want to report it or comment on it until Ray's family had made an official announcement. It was Ray's grandson, the actor Danny Karapetian, who first broke the news via Twitter. After that the web was awash with messages of remembrance, condolence and tribute.

The message boards on the official Bradbury website (where I am deputy moderator) were lit up like I've never seen. My own humble blog got more hits in a day than it usually gets in a month. Even non-Bradbury sites filled up with tributes, such as Harlan Ellison's message board.

I have no wish to link to every tribute out there, but I thought it would be worth linking to some of the best content about Ray.

Author Joanne Harris (writer of Chocolat) was interviewed about Ray's influence on her. You can read what she says, and listen to part of the interview here.

The great and the good from the UK - everyone from Mark Gatiss to Jonathan Ross, Duncan Jones to Edgar Wright - offered tributes to Ray, and you can read some of them here.

BBC Radio 4's PM programme had a report on Ray's death, and a short feature on his life and work:

  video


Ray's friend Brian Sibley posted a beautiful tribute to Ray, drawing on a friendship and correspondence that stretched back over thirty-some years. Read it here.

Finally, Jon Eller of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies has posted an obituary, and was also interviewed about Ray's life and work for Minnesota Public Radio. Read and listen here.






Wednesday, June 06, 2012

R.I.P. Ray Douglas Bradbury (1920-2012)

There's no other way to say it: Ray has died.

My condolences to Ray's family, and to all his many thousands of friends.

I was in the same room as Ray on no more than four occasions, two of them public events and two of them private meetings. This means I hardly knew the man at all, and yet since I first read "The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl" at the age of twelve I felt that I knew him well.

The last decade has seen a small explosion of published works by or about him, helping to keep him in the public eye, and helping to reveal and establish the true nature and extent of his extraordinary authorship. First published in the 1930s, this man wrote for almost every conceivable medium: short stories, novels, essays, poetry, plays, screenplays, radio scripts, multi-media exbihitions. Some of these, by their nature, are somewhat transitory. Others, however, have had an amazing lifespan. Stories he wrote in the 1940s are still being anthologised today. Novels he published in the 1950s are still being optioned for movies. He helped define the genres of science fiction, fantasy and modern horror - and he helped break down the barriers that genres create, and allow other authors to follow him to the freedom of mainstream publishing.

Ray may have passed away, but through his work he will surely Live Forever.

Me and Ray, Eaton conference, California 2008. Photo by John Sasser.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Sage Advice



The website Venture Galleries has put together "Ray Bradbury's Primer for Writers", a neat summing up of typical advice Bradbury gives to would-be authors, based on his life's experience and achievements. There's not much here that's new, and most of the points can be found in Bradbury's book Zen and the Art of Writing and in the many interviews Bradbury has given over the years. Nevertheless, this is a neat encapsulation of the best points.Or, you could read an almost identical encapsulation here!

Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life is slightly different: famous writers are asked to respond to a Snoopy Cartoon. You can read more about the book - and Ray Bradbury's contribution to it - here.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Bradbury News

Stuart Gordon is a film director best known for Re-Animator and other horrors of a Lovercraftian variety. Somewhat incongruously, he was also responsible for a Los Angeles stage production of Ray Bradbury's play The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, and he subsquently directed the Disney feature film from a screenplay by Bradbury himself.

Gordon answers questions about his work and life in relation to his adopted home of Los Angeles on the website of KCET.



Bradbury's hometown of Waukegan is once again celebrating the Ray Bradbury Dandelion Wine Fine Arts Festival. Now in its thirteenth year, it involves a day of creative activities in the city's Bowen Park. Details can be found here.



Website iPulpFiction.com is running a summer reading celebration on the theme of 90 stories in 90 days. Stories can be read online for a small fee (typically 50 US cents each). Two rare Ray Bradbury tales are included:

The1944 short story "The Silence"  - an uncollected story which has rarely seen print since its debut in Super Science Stories in October 1944.

The 1949 short story "The Changeling" - more familiar, this one is available in Bradbury Stories, but made its debute in Super Science Stories in July 1949.

There is a press release about this event here, and you can access the stories here.