Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Bradbury 100 - LIVE!

As we approach Ray Bradbury's one-hundred-and-first birthday, I thought we should celebrate! And so I'm staging another LIVE episode of Bradbury 100 on 21st August 2021 (from 4pm-5pm UK time).

You may recall that the first Bradbury 100 - LIVE was back in September last year. I ran a Zoom meeting and invited people to "call in", and then livestreamed the meeting to Facebook.

Well, nearly a year on, let's do the same again. One difference, though: this time I'll be joined via Zoom by Steven Paul Leiva. Steven was the very first guest on the Bradbury 100 podcast, and had some great stories to tell about his times of working with Ray Bradbury. Steve was also the driving force between the city of Los Angeles' official declaration of "Ray Bradbury Week" back in 2010, and a whole series of events that accompanied that declaration.

If you'd like to take part in the show - ask a question, tell us about your experience of Ray, or tell us which Bradbury item you'd take to the mythical desert island - you will be able to join in via Zoom. I'll post the link to the Zoom meeting nearer to the time.

But if you just want to sit back and watch, you'll be able to watch the livestream on Facebook, in the "Ray Bradbury Fan Club" group. (I'll also post a copy of the video here on Bradburymedia, after the event; and there will be an edited, audio-only version of the show in the normal Bradbury 100 podcast feed.

Here's the link to the Facebook event. More details will be added as 21st August approaches!

https://www.facebook.com/events/2884945031759983




Saturday, July 31, 2021

Bradbury 100 - new episode

Time for another all-new episode of my audio podcast Bradbury 100. This week I'm joined by filmmaker and visual effects artist Christopher Cooksey to discuss the challenges and joys of bringing Ray's work to life in the visual realm.

Christopher is the co-producer of Bill Oberst Jr's stage production Ray Bradbury - LIVE (Forever). Ostensibly a one-person show, it's really a visual feast. Bill, alone on stage (except for one dance scene), is nevertheless able to walk around Bradbury's world with the aid of visual projections and audio effects. This video, from Christopher's Youtube channel, shows some of the work that went into making the visuals for the show.



 

 

To put Bill and Christopher's work in context, in the first part of the podcast I talk about Bradbury's own use of audio-visual elements in his stage plays. You can find Ray's plays in print in a number of books. Dramatic Publishing carries nearly all of them for would-be performers and play producers, and there are some play collections aimed at general readers. The introductions and production notes in these are often as entertaining as the plays.

Find out more about Christopher Cooksey from his extensive Youtube channel and from his website.

And now, enjoy the episode:



Thursday, July 29, 2021

Staying up to date with the Bradbury 100 podcast

 

To make it easier for people to discover my Bradbury 100 podcast, you'll periodically see this page, which gathers all the episodes and shows together.

 

Bonus Video Episode -  video of my public lecture on The Martian Chronicles at seventy

Episode 21 - with Russian author Pavel Gubarev, webmaster of the Russian Ray Bradbury website

Episode 20 - April 2021 update

Episode 19 - introducing my new podcast, Science Fiction 101!

Episode 18 - with science fiction writer and scholar Howard V. Hendrix, on Bradbury's influence and legacy

Episode 17 - with highlights from two centenary events: Bradbury 100 Live and The Martian Chronicles at Seventy

Episode 16 - with writer and friend of Ray, Gregory Miller

Episode 15 - with Emmy-winning actor Bill Oberst Jr, who appears as Ray in a one-person show

Episode 14 - with writer and scholar Jeffrey Kahan on how Bradbury's fiction works

Episode 13 - with storyteller Megan Wells on performing Bradbury's stories and characters

Episode 12 - with writer/director/actor Jerry Robbins, who adapted many Bradbury works for Colonial Radio Theater

Episode 11 - with writer and editor Charles Ardai, who edited the new Bradbury crime story collection Killer, Come Back To Me

Episode 10 - with Ray Bradbury Theatre composer John Massari

Episode 9 - with scholar Miranda Corcoran, talking about Ray's "Elliott family"

Episode 8  - the second part of my interview with award-winning dramatist Brian Sibley, talking mostly about adapting Bradbury for radio

Episode 7 - with writer and broadcaster Brian Sibley, talking mostly about Disney

Episode 6 - continuing my interview with Jonathan R. Eller, Bradbury biographer and scholar

Episode 5 - with Jonathan R. Eller, Bradbury biographer, whose latest book Bradbury Beyond Apollo completes his biographical trilogy

Episode 4 - with photographer Elizabeth Nahum-Albright, who has a current exhibition on Ray Bradbury's house

Episode 3 - with Sandy Petroshius of the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum

Episode 2 - with Jason Aukerman of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies

Episode 1 - with author Steven Paul Leiva, creator of Ray Bradbury Week in Los Angeles

 

And the best way to never miss an episode is to subscribe.




Saturday, July 24, 2021

Bradbury 100 - New Series!


As we approach 22 August, Ray Bradbury's birthday, we come to the end of Bradbury's centenary year. To mark the occasion and to close out the year, I have a new miniseries of Bradbury 100 podcast episodes!

Over the next few weeks, you can hear interviews with scholars, artists and performers who have all worked with Bradbury material. But we start the series with a super fan: Pavel Gubarev.

 

Pavel Gubarev with his shot story collection. And yes, that is Sigmund Freud on the cover...

 

Pavel's Russian website at www.raybradbury.ru is an extraordinary piece of work. It predates Bradburymedia by a good few years, and in its early days it was one of the best Bradbury websites even for non-Russian fans. In those days, it did have a fair bit of English-language content, although today it is largely monolingual.

Pavel is a fascinating guest. Not just a webmaster, he is also an award-winning author. And his unique experience of spending his formative years in the Soviet Union, and then in Russia, gives him great insight into Bradbury's popularity in Russia.

Pavel once created an English-language tribute to Bradbury on a website called Immersion. For this site he collaborated with fans from various countries to produce introductions to Bradbury's work. Although the site itself is no longer extant, a version of it can still be accessed via the Internet Archive.

In this episode of Bradbury 100 I talk about the arcane Soviet copyright system,  and mention a Mikhail Iossel article from the New Yorker.

You can find Bradbury 100 through your podcast app, or you can listen the latest episode below. I hope you enjoy it.


Friday, July 23, 2021

New Bradbury 100 Episodes

Coming soon, to a podcast app near you:

A new mini-series of Bradbury 100 podcast episodes!

 I have several interviews "in the can", and will be dropping the episodes every weekend for the next few weeks. The first will appear on this blog tomorrow (Saturday 24h July 2021).

Look for it here, or on your podcast app.

The first interview guest of the series will be Pavel Gubarev, award-winning writer and creator of the remarkably popular Russian-language Ray Bradbury website.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

The Screaming Woman on Blu-ray

In 1972, there was a TV movie based on Ray Bradbury's short story "The Screaming Woman". It was directed by Jack Smight, who had earlier directed another Bradbury-based film, The Illustrated Man (1969). The TV movie has been difficult to get hold of for years, although it keeps popping up on YouTube, probably illegally. But later this year, it receives an official home-media release, with a Blu-ray edition.

Bradbury's original story centres on a young girl, and when Bradbury later adapted it himself for The Ray Bradbury Theatre in the 1980s, the starring role went to a young Drew Barrymore. But the 1972 version - which Bradbury was not involved with - recasts the central role to an adult woman, with the legendary Olivia de Havilland taking that role. In fact, the TV movie sounds like something from an earlier age, since its other key cast members are Golden Age Hollywood stars Joseph Cotten and Walter Pidgeon.

It's a decent enough TV movie, and a reasonable expansion of the Bradbury story, given that it needs a lot more added plot to bring the Bradbury short up to feature length. It was shot on 35mm film, so should stand up well to a Blu-ray presentation. I have my fingers crossed that the release will be an untampered-with 4:3 scan, and not some misguided attempt to re-format it for modern 16:9 TVs.

The Blu-ray comes from Kino Lorber, who are renowned for bringing obscure classics back into the light. They promise a commentary from leading fantasy media writer Gary Gerani. It should be out in early October, so this might make a neat addition to your Bradbury Halloween screening roster...

Read more here: https://www.blu-ray.com/news/?id=28862


Sunday, June 27, 2021

Moby Dick at Sixty-Five!

Sixty-five years ago today - 27th June 1956 - John Huston's film version of Moby Dick was released, with a screenplay co-written by Ray Bradbury. As regular readers of Bradburymedia will be aware, Ray's experience of working on this film cast a very long shadow.

Bradbury became somewhat obsessive over Herman Melville's story, and was driven to write his own prose version of Moby Dick in the form of Leviathan '99, which was initially a radio play, then a stage play and opera, and eventually a novella.

Bradbury's time in Ireland working on the script inspired him to write a number of Irish stories, initially as short plays and later as short stories. He later gathered up all of his Irish tales and laced them together with fictionalised recollections of his working with Huston, in the novel Green Shadows, White Whale.

Over the years, as I've researched the making of Moby Dick, I've blogged a number of times on different aspects of the film, so here's a selection of posts:

Bradbury's time in Ireland was really quite brief - less than a year - but he became very attached to the city of Dublin and its surroundings. Here's my attempt to follow in Bradbury's footsteps as I wandered around the Irish capital.

Bradbury left Ireland before the filming of Moby Dick began. As far as I know, he never saw any of the Irish locations used in the film. The small town of Youghal was one of the key locations, representing New Bedford in the film. In this post, I show how Youghal still shows distinct evidence of Moby Dick's presence.

Naturally, Moby Dick is full of symbolism of whales and fish. This simple post collects some of the key fishy moments from the film.

There has been some dispute over who exactly wrote what for the Moby Dick screenplay. Bradbury claimed to have written most of it, and fought against Huston's claim of half the screenplay credit. Rumours also circulate that Roald Dahl and others had a hand in the script (Dahl's own account says that he spent very little time on it, and didn't contribute a word). And Orson Welles - famed for re-writing any role he was asked to play - claimed to have written his own lines for the part of Father Mapple. In this post, I dig into Welles' lines and establish the truth of that particular claim.

Bradbury put a lot of detail into his script which Huston eventually removed or ignored. But in this post, I look at a detail which Huston kept, even modifying an existing building to accommodate it in the movie.

Finally, Ray Bradbury wasn't the only person to have a run-in with the larger-than-life Huston. In this post, I run through some of the other writers who fictionalised Huston or otherwise incorporated him into their recollections.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Bradbury's "Witch" Ancestor

It seems to be quite well known that Ray Bradbury's ancestry can be traced to back to Mary Perkins Bradbury, who was charged with witchcraft at Salem in 1692. Sam Weller's biography of Ray, The Bradbury Chronicles, gives a couple of pages to this, and it's referred to elsewhere. But did Ray know about this ancestry, and did he ever write about Mary?

The answer to both questions is a definite yes. In 1955, Stanley J. Kunitz published a first revision to Twentieth Centry Authors, and it includes an article on Bradbury written by Ray himself. This was Bradbury at the peak of his early fame as a writer. He had several books out, including his masterwork Fahrenheit 451 (1953), was writing for television, and had completed his arduous stint as the screenwriter of Moby Dick (which would be released in 1956). At the time of the article, he would have been grappling with his manuscript for Dandelion Wine (which would be published in 1957), while also working on a script treatment for Gene Kelly - The Dark Carnival, which would eventually emerge as the novel Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962).

The short article - you can see the whole thing below - refers to Bradbury's belief that writers shouldn't slant their work to a particular market, but should write freely and let the work find an an appropriate outlet. It also refers to his belief that science fiction and fantasy "offer the liveliest, freshest approaches" to the problems of the modern world.

And it refers to Mary Perkins Bradbury, to whom Bradbury attributes his belief in "freedom from fear [...] and thought control".

...for which we should, I suppose, say, "Thank you, Mary Perkins Bradbury."

(And my thanks to Hugh, whose question about Mary prompted me to write this post!)

You can find out more about Bradbury's ancestry in this (very old) blog post of mine

 

 

If you click on these images, they should embiggen.





Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Science Fiction 101

My other podcast, which I co-host with Colin Kuskie, is Science Fiction 101. It's a general SF show, with talk about books, short stories, films, TV and more. I even mention Ray Bradbury from time to time (try and stop me!)

In the latest episode, I put Colin on the spot with some fiendish quiz questions, we review two of the Nebula Award short stories, and give our usual run-through of what appeals to us in past, present or future science fiction.

You can pick us up via your podcast app - we're on all the major platforms, and quite a few minor ones. And you can listen via the website:

https://101sf.blogspot.com/2021/06/quizzers-revenge.html


Monday, May 17, 2021

One Year On...

As I was giving Bradburymedia a tidy up, I was quite shocked to discover that it's a whole year since I did any of my Lockdown Choices posts!

I started them during the 2020 lockdown, as a way of contributing something to the Bradbury centenary year - because many of the events planned or proposed for 2020 were cancelled or postponed. So I started working chronologically through Bradbury's books, giving a potted history of each one and passing on my recommendations of which stories are worthy of your time.

Looking back, I see that I managed eleven of these posts, all of which were adopted (with permission) by the official Ray Bradbury website, which is run by the Bradbury estate.

It was never my intention to stop at eleven; it's just what happened. Around that time I got swamped with university work, and when I emerged from that I was off and running with my Bradbury 100 podcast. Somehow, I never quite got back to continuing the lockdown book reviews. Maybe I'll pick it up again this summer...

I don't think I ever pulled all of the Lockdown Choices pages together in one place, so I'm going to make amends below. I have, by the way, now inserted my Bradbury 101 videos into the relevant pages, so everything ties together.

 

Phil's Lockdown Choices:

01: Dark Carnival (1947)

02: The Martian Chronicles (1950)

03: The Illustrated Man (1951)

04: The Golden Apples of the Sun (1953)

05: Fahrenheit 451 (1953)

06: Switch on the Night (1955)

07: The October Country (1955)

08: Dandelion Wine (1957)

09: A Medicine for Melancholy/The Day It Rained Forever (1959)

10: The Small Assassin (1962)

11: Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962)

To be continued...?

Friday, May 14, 2021

Short Story Finder

One of the most useful features of my website is the Ray Bradbury Short Story Finder. It lets you find out which books contain any given story, and where each story made its first appearance.

I've just done an update - adding some missing (albeit obscure) late-career Bradbury books, including Summer Morning, Summer Night.

And I've extended the "Eller References" This is the unique numbering system devised by bibliographer/biographer Jonathan R. Eller: each story receives a two-part numeric code, where the first part denotes the year of first publication, and the second part indicates the publishing sequence within the year. Eller's system is used systematically in the book Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction, and several years ago Jon very kindly gave his permission for me to use the same system here. What I've added today is some additional Eller References which extend beyond The Life of Fiction. 

I hope you continue to find the Short Story Finder useful! 



A Fresh Lick of Paint...

I wonder how many visitors to this site realise that there is more to it than the blog. Do you ever go to the sidebar?

You know, the sidebar:




It's just over there, on the right >>>>>>> 

Unless you're on a phone, in which case it might be hidden under the three dots somewhere...

Anyhoo, I've just re-done the sidebar to add direct links for my associated activities - the podcasts and the Youtube channel. And if you care to explore the Ray Bradbury Books section (for example) you will, I hope, see that I've updated the banner on all pages. At least, I think I have. But I've probably missed some pages.

 


 

If you spot anything missing, banner-wise, do please let me know in a comment.

What's that? Superficial, you say? Yes, I'm afraid all I've done is added a lick of paint. But the underlying cracks remain, watching to be patched-up another day...


Friday, May 07, 2021

Bradbury 101 - new episode: Fahrenheit 451

Time for another episode of my Youtube series Bradbury 101

We've now reached the year 1953, and the release of Ray Bradbury's first true novel, Fahrenheit 451. Except...

The first appearance of Fahrenheit was actually a collection rather than a novel!

Confused? You will be! Watch and learn below.

You can find out more about Fahrenheit 451 from my blog post on the book, here: https://bradburymedia.blogspot.com/2020/04/lockdown-choices-issue-5-fahrenheit-451.html

 







Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Bradbury 101 - new episode - The Golden Apples of the Sun

Here's another of my Bradbury 101 series, freshly released on Youtube.

This one explores Ray Bradbury's 1953 book The Golden Apples of the Sun, which was the first Bradbury book I ever encountered (in the mid-1970s). It's also the favourite of many Bradbury admirers that I've spoken to.

It has a blend of fantasy, science fiction and "realism" which places it apart from Breadbury's earlier books. And you could argue that this blend is what would characterise most of Bradbury's short story collections from this point forward. Viewed in this way, Golden Apples can be seen as a turning point in Bradbury's published works.

I hope you enjoy this. Let me know in the comments!

You can learn more about Golden Apples in my blog post from last year: https://bradburymedia.blogspot.com/2020/04/lockdown-choices-issue-4-golden-apples.html




Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Science Fiction 101 New Episode


My other podcast, Science Fiction 101 which I co-host with Colin Kuskie, has a new episode out today. There's a very, very brief, passing mention of Ray Bradbury, but most of the time we're talking about science fiction in general. News, a discussion of space and why it's an obsessively recurring motif in science fiction, and our usual round of suggestions and recommendations of what to read and what to watch.

You can find Science Fiction 101 by clicking right here.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Bradbury 100 - April 2021 update

I've produced another brief episode of my audio podcast Bradbury 100, intended to bring you up to date with some things in the Bradbury universe. Listen to the episode below, or through your podcast app.


 

Show Notes

My Bradbury 101 Youtube channel is here.

Orty and Sandy on Ray Bradbury & Comics, and Ray's Waukegan can be viewed here

Listen to Bradbury biographer Jon Eller on Ray and the FBI on the Dead Writer Drama podcast from American Writers Museum.

Listen to Bradbury Center director Jason Aukerman and RBEM's Patrick Mullins on the Nation of Writers podcast from American Writers Museum.


 

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Bradbury (and others) versus John Huston

A well known part of Ray Bradbury lore is the time the author spent working on Moby Dick (1956) with Oscar-winning writer-director John Huston. Bradbury spent less than a year with Huston, yet that brief period had a lasting effect on the rest of Ray's life and career.

The screenplay credit on the film opened doors for him, enabling him to become a screenwriter who had freedom to choose which projects to devote his time to. The historical accident of Huston wanting to work in Ireland (where he had a home) led to Ray falling in love with Dublin and its people, some of whom would turn up as characters in the plays and stories he was inspired to write in the following decades. And the intense engagement with the text of Moby Dick itself led Bradbury to a fascination with the novel's mechanisms and symbolism, a fascination he had to work through for himself in his play, radio play, opera and novella Leviathan '99 - a space-age retelling of Herman Melville's book.

Eventually - about forty years after working with Huston - Bradbury felt compelled to pull together his recollections and his fantasies into a novel: Green Shadows, White Whale. The reader is left wondering how much of the novel to believe. On the one hand, it is a genuinely accurate reminiscence of some of his adventures with Huston, confirmed by third parties who were there at the time. But on the other, there are stories within - such as the ghostly "Banshee" - which can't be anything but the work of a master fantasy writer.



 

Bradbury isn't the only person who felt compelled to put their experiences with Huston on record...

Novelist Peter Viertel fictionalised his adventures in White Hunter, Black Heart, later filmed by Clint Eastwood. It can't be coincidence that the wording and rhythm of Bradbury's title Green Shadows, White Whale matches that of Viertel's.

 


 

Katharine Hepburn, who suffered through Huston's filming of The African Queen, wrote up her experiences in The Making of The African Queen. Bradbury reported that it was Hepburn's book which confirmed that there was a good story to tell of working with Huston.

 


 


But way back before anyone else was writing up accounts of time with Huston, there was Charles Hamblett. He was with Huston in the Canary Islands during the filming of some of the shipboard action of Moby Dick, and found the whole thing so bizarre that he had to write a humorous novel about the whole affair, The Crazy Kill.

 


 


Monday, March 29, 2021

Bradbury 101 - episode 4: The Illustrated Man

 I somehow found time to make another Bradbury 101 Youtube video. This time, it's about The Illustrated Man, Ray Bradbury's 1951 short story collection.

I've gone with another shock-tactic headline for the video: Ray Bradbury, Stuck in Science Fiction. This is because The Illustrated Man is the book which really landed Bradbury with the label "science fiction writer". Although he'd been writing SF from early in his career, he was pretty much done with the genre by 1951; much of his new fiction from this point was anything but science fiction. Think Dandelion Wine, the Moby Dick screenplay, Something Wicked This Way Comes, etc.

And yet, with two books of (arguably) SF in a row - The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man - he gained both a reputation and a label that he found hard to shake off.

Read more about the book here.

I hope you enjoy this quick run through of the Illustrated Man stories. Let me know if you'd like more of this type of thing!


Thursday, March 25, 2021

Science Fiction 101 - episode 2


Just a quick note that the second episode of my non-Bradbury podcast dropped a few days ago. Science Fiction 101 is a general SF podcast in which Colin Kuskie and I review science fiction books, films, TV and anything else that crosses our radar.

You can pick up episode 2 through your podcast app, or via the Science Fiction 101 blog: https://101sf.blogspot.com/2021/03/its-about-time-episode-2-of-podcast.html


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Bradbury 101 - New Video!

I've just put up another video in my Bradbury 101 Youtube series. In this one I reveal some of the items in my Bradbury collection, all the while protesting that I'm not a collector!

My reasoning - as you will see - is that collectors are much more systematic, exhaustive, thorough and consistent in their collecting. Whereas I will only pick up things that have some specific use for me.

Specifically, I don't go chasing after special editions of books I already have a version of. So, for example, I'm not particularly drawn to those Folio Society editions of Bradbury books.

But what I do go after are one-offs, like It Came From Outer Space - which presents Bradbury's original typescript for that film's treatment.

And I do have a few magazines, including a grand total of three - count 'em, three! - pulp magazines. Watch the video, and I'll show you a couple of them.







Thursday, March 04, 2021

New Podcast: Science Fiction 101!

I'd like to introduce you to a new podcast I've been working on: Science Fiction 101.

It's something of a spin-off from Bradbury 100 (podcast) and Bradbury 101 (Youtube series)... but without the Bradbury specificity. That doesn't mean that Ray is off-limits; on the contrary, he gets mentioned a couple of times in the first episode!

If you already subcribe to Bradbury 100 on your podcast app, you will shortly be served up with the first, sample episode of Science Fiction 101. If you like it, you can then search for it and subscribe separately.

You can also pick up new episodes of Science Fiction 101 directly from  the companion blog, which is here: https://101sf.blogspot.com

And to make it even easier, here's the first episode, right here:

 





Do please let me know what you think of this first episode - and if you have suggestions of what you'd like to hear in future episodes,  please send them my way!

 


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Bradbury 101 - Bradbury's Lost Book

Dark Carnival is something of a lost book. It was Bradbury's first book, published way back in 1947, but allowed - by Bradbury - to go out of print.

In the latest episode of my YouTube series Bradbury 101, I pick some of the best stories from Dark Carnival and explain why and how it became a lost masterpiece.

You can read more about Dark Carnival in my Lockdown Choices series, here. And learn more about the book it evolved into - The October Country - here.

I've also blogged about The Small Assassin, a UK-only book which is something of a bridge between Dark Carnival and The October Country. Read all about it here.

I hope you are enjoying the Youtube series. After you've watched the latest episode, let me know what you think!





Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Bradbury 101 is here!

Last year, Ray Bradbury's centenary, was the year of Bradbury 100 - my audio podcast celebrating his life and works.

This year, I switch to Bradbury 101 - a new series that gets back to basics and offers suggestions of how to get started with Ray Bradbury. The first episode is on Youtube now - see below - and future episodes will include more video episodes and some audio-only podcasts. I'll always post them here, but you can also pick the video episodes up from Youtube and the audio episodes via your existing Bradbury 100 podcast subscription

So without further ado, here's the first episode, in which I give recommendations of how to get started with Ray Bradbury stories, books, films and biography.



 

Here are links for current editions of the various books etc recommended in the video:

The Stories of Ray Bradbury - Amazon US - Amazon UK

Bradbury Stories - Amazon US - Amazon UK

The Illustrated Man - Amazon US - Amazon UK

Fahrenheit 451 book - Amazon US - Amazon UK

The Bradbury Chronicles biography - Amazon US - Amazon UK

Fahrenheit 451 bluray - Amazon US - Amazon UK

The Ray Bradbury Theater DVD  - Amazon US - Amazon UK

 

 

 

Friday, January 08, 2021

Coming soon...

Happy New Year!

With 2020 well and truly over, we can say goodbye to Ray Bradbury's centenary year. Although, as I have pointed out previously, you could legitimately say that Ray's centenary year runs from 22 August 2020 through to 22 August 2021...

But let's not confuse matters!

In any case, the centenary-style celebration of Ray can continue. We don't need any excuse for that. And so, with a minor little drum role, I will introduce you to this year's successor to my Bradbury 100 podcast.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome -


 

Bradbury 101 is not simply clicking the year on and saying, "Oh, we're celebrating Ray's 101st year now." No, it is a sort of sister podcast to Bradbury 100. Think of it as "Bradbury for beginners", or "introducing Ray Bradbury".

It's going to be a while before I launch the first episode, but you'll be the first to hear about it here on Bradburymedia. The episodes will be shorter than the Bradbury 100 episodes, more in the way of bite-sized examinations of Ray's work. And it will adopt a more-or-less chronological approach, talking about each of Ray's major works in turn. I think you're going to like it!


Friday, December 25, 2020

Ray Bradbury's Christmas Gift

 Re-posting this blog post from 2013 has become a Christmas tradition here at Bradburymedia!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Seasons greetings, everyone!

I've noted previously that Ray Bradbury wrote very few Christmas-themed stories, but one of his best-known is "The Gift". It was first published in Esquire magazine in 1952. The artwork above (click to embiggen) is by Ren Wickes, and in the child's face beautifully captures the good old "sense of wonder" people used to talk about in science fiction stories.

To find out why the child is so astonished, read "The Gift" here.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

RIP James E. Gunn (1923-2020)

The great science fiction writer, historian, editor and educator James E. Gunn has passed away at the grand age of 97. Jim was still an active professional author, with his Transcendental trilogy being published in the 2010s, and his latest short fiction appearing in Asimov's magazine just this year.

Jim was one of the few surviving writers from the original heyday of science fiction: he had two short stories published in pulp magazines in the 1940s (one in Startling Stories and one in Thrilling Wonder Stories). He was just three years younger than Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov.

Back in the 1980s, when I was heavily into science fiction literature, Jim's novel The Listeners was one of my favourite books. Not only did it have a great science-fictional premise - scientists listening out for signals from other star systems - it was clearly informed by what was going on in the real field of SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. It was a lot less flashy than Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but a lot more convincing.

But where James E. Gunn had the greatest effect on me was with his historical study of origins and development of science fiction. His terrific anthology series The Road to Science Fiction not only told the story of SF, it set out to demonstrate it through judicious selections of text from early, proto-SF through to modern day works.

Seven years ago, I was delighted to meet James Gunn at a conference, and I blogged about it afterwards. I can think of no better tribute than to re-run that blog post. So here it is, from 26 August 2013.

 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

 

(Pictured at the James Gunn panel are (from left to right) Nathaniel Williams, Michael Page, James Gunn, Chris McKitterick.)   

 

One of the delights of this year's Eaton Conference in Riverside, California, was the opportunity to meet the incredible James Gunn.

What's so incredible about James Gunn? For starters, he's ninety years old this year, but could easily pass for twenty years younger. More importantly, though, he is what one conference speaker called "a triple threat": not only a successful author of science fiction, but a successful teacher of SF and creative writing, and a successful critic and historian of SF.

While other significant genre figures were associated with the Eaton Conference because they were to receive awards - Ray Harryhausen, Stan Lee and Ursula Le Guin all received Eaton Awards this year - Gunn was present because there was going to be a panel discussing the three strands of his career. The panel was part academic study, part reminiscence from those who have worked with Jim , and all celebration of his life and work. (The panel organisers told me they were inspired to do this by the Ray Bradbury tribute events I organised for last year's SFRA conference in Detroit.)

Apart from my ongoing interest in Bradbury and Harlan Ellison, who in any case I see as master fantasists rather than science fiction writers, I have been quite distant from the science fiction field for a number of years. But there was a time when I was fascinated by the genre, and particularly by its history as a literary genre that seemed to emerge alongside the industrial revolution. Around 1980, when I was a student (for the first time; I still am a student!) I discovered Gunn's book The Road to Science Fiction: From Gilgamesh to Wells. This was a remarkable book, which suddenly gave me that historical insight, where previously I just had a fractional and fractured knowledge of what SF was. Gunn wrote a clear history, in plain English and short chapters, and then gave the reader substantial excerpts from key texts to illustrate the points he was making about the emergence of the genre. It was, and remained, and excellent way of learning about how and why the genre came into existence. I would later learn that there are other interpretations of the emergence of the genre, but that doesn't matter.

Shortly after, I discovered there was a second volume to The Road to Science Fiction, subtitled From Wells to Heinlein; and a third, From Heinlein to Here. (And a fourth, and some time later there were yet more.) For anyone looking for a history of the genre, I still recommend this series, and they have remained in print.

One additional stroke of genius in the first volumes of the series was Gunn's inclusion of lists of recommended SF works and SF writers for further reading. I worked through these lists systematically over the next couple of years, a far more difficult task in those pre-internet days than it would be today.

I don't recall whether Gunn included any of his own works in the suggested reading category, but for some reason I was prompted to also sample his fiction. The Listeners appealed to me from its plot description as an account of scientists engaged in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and when I read it I was blown away by both the ease and artistry of the book, particularly its first chapter. Later I would track down as many other Gunn books as I could, and have fond memories of The Joy Makers, The Immortal, Crisis, and This Fortess World (which I was fortunate to find in a hardcover first edition from 1955).

At the Eaton Conference, Gunn explained that his career wasn't planned, but he just took opportunities as they arose. His response to each offer that came his way was, "Why not?" Thus it was that he came to be working at Kansas University by the mid-1960s, and later set up the first academic courses in SF, and the first research centre for SF (take a look at About SF for the present incarnation of what he developed at KU).

I took the opportunity of asking Jim Gunn how he came to collaborate with the legendary Jack Williamson, on the 1954 novel Starbridge. Jim explained that he attended a convention and, somewhat starstruck, recognised Williamson from a photograph on the back of a book. He pointed at Williamson and blurted, "You're Jack Williamson!" Later, he learned that Williamson was suffering a bout of writer's block, and Williamson turned over a partially complete version of Starbridge, which Gunn then completed. It was published by Gnome Press, and became Gunn's first published novel.

I couldn't resist mentioning to Jim that I had recognised him in the lift (elevator!) the day before - and that part of me had wanted to blurt, "You're James Gunn!", but I was too starstruck to say anything.

As it turns out, Jim Gunn is a charming, modest fellow, and it was exciting to meet him. It prompted me to take a look again at his books - and I still find The Listeners to be a remarkable work. Although it is fantastical, it has one of the best portrayals of scientists and scientific discovery I've ever seen in a work of fiction. Speakers on the Gunn panel also commended this as one of his best works - and both they and the audience members echoed my experience regarding The Road to Science Fiction. It seems James Gunn has been the gateway to SF not just to me, but to a couple of generations of SF fans and scholars. Jim talks about his own involvement with the genre in this recent interview in the Kansas City Star.

And now, in his 90th year, James Gunn has produced a new novel, Transcendental, and he's a Guest of Honour at the World Science Fiction Convention in San Antonio, Texas. Is this what they call a third act?


 

Monday, December 14, 2020

SF Does Christmas, Lacks Character

Ray Bradbury is associated more with autumn and Halloween than he is with Christmas, but he did write a couple of stories with a Christmas theme. Well, sort of...

 


 

"The Man", first published in Thrilling Wonder Stories in February 1949 (and later collected in The Illustrated Man, S is for Space and Bradbury Stories) tells of a space crew which arrives on an alien planet expecting to be celebrated or greeted. But the local inhabitants have no interest in them. They've arrived with very poor timing, as the aliens are in awe of some much more interesting guy who arrived yesterday. Not just any guy, but "a remarkable man, [...] good, intelligent, compassionate, and infinitely wise!"

A man for whom they had waited a very long time...

Once convinced of the special capabilities of "The Man" (healing is involved...), the captain vows to follow him from planet to planet, hoping to one day catch up with him. The story never actually says who "The Man" is, but you're clearly supposed to see him as Jesus (or some deity of your choosing).

Curiously, a couple of years later in another pulp magazine, a lesser writer tackled the same idea. But in a most literal and obvious way. Charles E. Fritch wrote "Night Talk", published in Startling Stories in September 1952. In this story, a rocket ship makes a bumpy landing on Mars, and the pilot makes his way to the nearest hotel - like you do - and tries to get a room for the night. The hotelier tells of how he once made a mistake in turning away a couple from Earth, telling them there was no room at this particular inn.

 


 

Fritch's story is quite forgettable, but thankfully brief. If you're interested it, you can find it at the Internet Archive, here. Amusingly, SF writer and critic James Blish at first believed this to be a Bradbury story published under a pseudonym. Mars? Check. Primitive but metaphorical description of a rocketship? Check. Earth destroyed so everyone's trying to get to Mars? Check. Re-use of the idea of a messiah travelling from planet to planet? Check. All the clues were there. But Blish was wrong.

Blish can be forgiven. Fritch had begun publishing only in 1951, and his Bradbury-influenced Mars story could easily have been a lesser Bradbury; and Bradbury had published under pseudonyms. However, Fritch turned out to have a long, if not particularly illustrious career, publishing his last works in the 1990s. Blish's error - and correction of the error - can be found in his collection of SF reviews, The Issue at Hand (1964, under Blish's critic pseudonym William Atheling Jr.)

Blish's reason for discussing the two stories - the Bradbury and the Fritch - is to make a point about the importance of characters in good fiction. Fritch's central character, just called "the traveller", has no distinguishing characteristics. Bradbury's central character, Captain Hart, is just your average 1940s pulp magazine space hero. Blish suggests that both Fritch and Bradbury could have learned a thing or two from Anatole France's story "The Procurator of Judea", which brings to life one Aelius Lamia and a certain Pontius Pilate. France's story has no plot connection to "The Man" or "Night Talk", but like both of those stories it places the Christian Jesus into the background of a story for the purposes of irony or awe, depending on your religious persuasions.

You can read "The Procurator of Judea" here.



Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Jar

Seventy-six years ago, in November 1944, Weird Tales magazine debuted a classic Ray Bradbury short story: "The Jar".

 


 

It's a simple short story, involving the purchase of a jar with mysterious, unfathomable contents. Something preserved in formaldehyde, perhaps? No one can be quite sure.

The story remains one of Bradbury's most popular, and it has been anthologised and collected dozens of times over the years. A quick skim of its history at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database indicates about 74 appearances! Nowadays you can find it in two of Ray's books: The October Country and The Stories of Ray Bradbury.

And, of course, "The Jar" is a perennial favourite in adaptation. It was adapted magnificently for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, in a version directed by Norman Lloyd; re-adapted (badly) for the 1980s revival of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, where it was directed by Tim Burton; and adapted again (competently) for The Ray Bradbury Theater, with a script by Bradbury himself. It's also been done for radio and occasionally for the stage.


You can read my reviews of the various TV versions here:

Hitchcock (original)

Hitchcock (revival)

Bradbury

 

The actual jar from the original Hitchcock version survives to this day. For decades Ray Bradbury had it in his basement office, and after he died it was gifted to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies in Indianapolis. The waters within the jar are even murkier now than they were back in the 1960s when the episode was filmed, but you still get a sense that there's something in there looking out at you...




 

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Martian Chronicles at Seventy - online now

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a public lecture as part of the University of Wolverhampton's ArtsFest 2020. My topic was Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles at Seventy, marking the seventieth anniversary of the first publication of that book.

Bradbury himself recognised that The Martian Chronicles was a "half-cousin to a novel", being neither a short story collection nor a full novel. In the lecture, I discussed how this came about, and how it influences the way the book has survived these last seventy years.

I released the audio from the lecture as part of a recent Bradbury 100 podcast, but you can now also see the video of the lecture. Given that it was an illustrated talk, this has to be the best way to enjoy it...


Saturday, November 21, 2020

Bradbury 100 - episode 18

Time for another episode of Bradbury 100! And - for now - the last episode.

When I started this series back in July, I expected I might be able to produce a handful of episodes. But I was overwhelmed by the number of Ray's friends, collaborators and fans who agreed to be interviewed. And so I ended up with enough material for eighteen episodes.

But now, with the academic year in full swing (I'm a full-time university lecturer), I have very little free time, and the production cycle of Bradbury 100 needs to stop.

I do hope to return with some one-off episodes, so I hope you will stay subscribed on your podcast app. That way, you will continue to see any new episodes that come along.

To end the regular series, I chose to speak to Howard V. Hendrix, a professional science fiction writer who also happens to be scholar of science fiction. Howard has given public presentations about Ray's work, and published books and articles about Mars in science fiction.

And although Howard is often classed as a "hard SF" writer - putting him at the opposite end of the spectrum to Ray Bradbury - Howard is also a creative wordsmith. With Howard's SF writing chops and critic's insight, I can think of few people better to consider the question of Ray Bradbury's legacy.

Shortly after I interviewed Howard, his suffered the terrible loss of his family home to the California forest fires. Thankfully, Howard and his wife were safely evacuated. Howard, who is himself a volunteer firefighter, shortly afterward wrote a moving but philosophical account of how the fire swept in and wrecked whole communities. You can read his article for the San Francisco Chronicle here.


https://i.ytimg.com/vi/R9q8pYq8KMM/maxresdefault.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Show Notes

Howard V. Hendrix is an exceptional writer of science fiction. In the podcast, he discusses his short story collection The Girls With Kaleidoscope Eyes: Analog Stories for a Digital Age, which you can find in all good bookshops, and at Amazon (US) and Amazon (UK).

Howard's other books can be found on his author page, here.

A few years ago, Howard co-edited a book about Mars in science fiction, building on a conference on the same theme. I contributed an article about Bradbury's Mars stories. You can find Visions of Mars here.

Howard's entry in Wikipedia.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Bradbury 100 - Episode 17

 This week's Bradbury 100 is a bit different: instead of a featured guest interview, I present highlights from two Bradbury Centenary events from recent times, as well as summing up some of the key centary events of the year so far.

The first of the highlights is a selection from the discussion in the first (and so far, only)  Bradbury 100 LIVE episode. This was an event I ran on Facebook Live back in September. In this recording, I talk to John King Tarpinian - a friend of Ray Bradbury's who often accompanied him to public events - and educator George Jack.

The second is the audio from a public lecture I gave earlier this week, celebrating seventy years of Bradbury's book The Martian Chronicles.

I hope you enjoy this format!


 
 

Show Notes

Find out more about the many Bradbury Centennial events - both past and future - by visiting the Centennial page on the official Ray Bradbury website.

Read more of my assessment of The Martian Chronicles here.

JKT - John King Tarpinian - is a frequent contributor to Mike Glyer's File 770, where he often provides news stories relating to Ray Bradbury. View his posts here.



Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Martian Chronicles at Seventy

Today - Tuesday 10th November - I am giving a talk on Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles at Seventy. It's online, entirely free, and open to all. But you do need to register to receive the link. (The talk will be delivered via a Zoom webinar.)

It will also be recorded, and made available for future viewing, but this could take a few weeks.

The talk is part of the University of Wolverhampton's annual ArtsFest. Here's the official blurb for the event:

This year saw the widely celebrated one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), the American author whose best-known work Fahrenheit 451 stands alongside Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four as a classic of twentieth-century dystopian fiction, and still holds relevance today.

But this year also saw the seventieth anniversary of Bradbury’s earlier The Martian Chronicles, a book which better captures the breadth and fragmentary nature of Bradbury’s many styles and interests, and one which more clearly reveals the irony of Bradbury’s association with the science fiction genre. For all its reliance on science-fictional tropes, The Martian Chronicles is a work which builds dream-like fantasy on top of Bradbury’s own fantastical influences. And, while projecting and warning about our future, it relies heavily on a rear-view mirror to reflect on colonialism, invasion and occupation.

In this illustrated lecture, Phil Nichols recounts the history of The Martian Chronicles, and shows how this short-story collection masquerading as a novel has constantly evolved with our changing times. He considers the long shadow the book has cast over television, radio and film science fiction, and shows how Bradbury’s unscientific book has nevertheless inspired several generations of real-life scientists and astronauts.

The online lecture will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

Dr Phil Nichols, Course Leader for Film & Television Production at the University of Wolverhampton, has been called “the leading scholar on Bradbury's media adaptation history" by Bradbury biographer Professor Jonathan R. Eller (Bradbury Beyond Apollo, University of Illinois Press, 2020). Phil has spoken about Bradbury on the BBC World Service and National Public Radio, and has published and presented widely on Bradbury’s work in all media. He currently produces and presents a podcast, Bradbury 100, which explores Bradbury’s centenary.


Click the link below to sign up for the talk!

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/artsfest-online-ray-bradburys-the-martian-chronicles-at-seventy-tickets-124686527761

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Bradbury 100 - Episode 16

In this week's episode of Bradbury 100, I discuss Ray Bradbury as both a mentor and a mentee. I talk about a few of the major influences on Bradbury's development as a professional writer, and some of those younger writers who he helped once he was established as a writer.

My guest is such a younger writer, Gregory Miller. Greg knew Ray in the last few decades of his life, and benefitted from Ray's advice and guidance.

While I interviewed Greg over Zoom, he was watched-over by an unusual Godzilla figure (which Greg explains in the interview)...

 


 

 

 

 

Show Notes

Find out about some of Ray's mentors here:

Henry Kuttner - Leigh Brackett - Norman Corwin - Bernard Berenson - Charles Laughton

Visit Greg Miller's website

Buy Greg's books on Amazon US or Amazon UK.