Next month, BBC Radio 4 launches a new week of science fiction drama, starting and ending with dramatisations of two of Ray Bradbury's most celebrated works.
On Saturday 14th June at 2.30pm, The Illustrated Man opens the series. This all-new production is written by award-winning radio dramatist Brian Sibley, whose previous works include the 1990s series Ray Bradbury's Tales of the Bizarre as well as the classic BBC Radio adaptations of Lord of the Rings, Gormenghast and The History of Titus Groan. Brian knew Ray personally, and tells me he is particularly pleased that the new production airs forty years to the week since he received Ray's first letter. (Brian is also a doodler, as you can see from this "Sibleytoon" of Ray.)
Of course, The Illustrated Man is not a novel, but a collection of short stories linked loosely together with the framing device of a tattooed man whose tattoos have a life of their own. As with previous adaptations, due to limitations of time it has been necessary to select which stories to adapt. Brian has chosen (in this order): 'Marionettes Inc', 'Zero Hour' and 'Kaleidoscope' - and has managed to also include passing references to other stories in the collection, as well as the separately published short story 'The Illustrated Man'.
Studio recordings were completed last week, with Ian Glenn playing The Illustrated Man and Jamie Parker the Youth who meets him and hears his story. The drama is currently in post-production.
The broadcast launches a short season of dramas entitled 'Dangerous Visions' that runs for the week with a two-part classic serial (beginning on Sunday 15th June) of Philip K Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and five thematically-linked afternoon plays from Monday to Friday (details yet to be announced)
And to end the season: The Martian Chronicles will be aired on Saturday 21st June at 2.30pm. Unlike the in-house BBC production of The Illustrated Man, The Martian Chronicles is an independent production created by B7, the team behind the radio adaptation of Blake's Seven. The dramatisation is by Richard Kurti and Bev Doyle, produced by Patrick Chapman and directed by Andrew Mark Sewell. While I don't have full details on this production yet, early notes on the dramatisation suggest that the stories selected from Bradbury's book will include: '...And the Moon be Still as Bright', 'The Off Season', 'The Long Years' and 'The Million Year Picnic'.
These new productions, acting as bookends to such a major new series, promise to add to the already impressive BBC Radio track record for Bradbury productions (as you can see from my Bradbury radio list). Radio 4 streams live on the web, and can be accessed from anywhere in the world - and their shows usually remain online for catch-up listening for seven days after broadcast. The Radio 4 web page is here.