Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I was shocked to learn of the death of writer and director Michael Crichton. All the news stories I've seen have referred to him as "Jurassic Park creator Michael Crichton". Which is, of course, correct.

But he was also the creator of The Andromeda Strain, The (First) Great Train Robbery, Rising Sun, Congo, Airframe and lots of others. All of them high-concept, all of them told at breakneck speed, all of them meticulously researched, and many of them putting forward a concept or concern that would shortly afterwards become real news. (Only this week, journalists got all excited by the idea that we might clone a mouse that has been dead for sixteen years; the first step toward a Jurassic Park scenario.)

What I loved about Crichton was how he was able to create an air of authority in his fictions. The Andromeda Strain is thoroughly, academically referenced. It just so happens that the documents referenced are all made up.

He took it a step further in Congo, by not only making it all up, but by trying to make it as implausible as a Victorian adventure novel.

Many of his books were turned into films, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. Adaptation is always a tricky business, but most of Crichton's novels were structured and paced like a movie. Where the adaptors followed his blueprint, they usually achieved a successful dramatisation. Where the adaptors thought they knew better, embarrassment would often result.

. What were they thinking?

Crichton was a million miles from Ray Bradbury in style and working methods. Crichton's writing was undecorated, swift and transparent. Bradbury's is poetic, laying a strawberry window between reader and page. Crichton could turn out a novel in a couple of weeks. Bradbury focuses on short bursts of fiction, and has been known to agonise for years over his longer works.

But Crichton, like Bradbury, understood that the magical is what makes us remember a story or film. It may be the verisimilitude and documentary realism that made his books page turners, but it was the T. Rex that made us remember Jurassic Park, the Yul Brynner character on the rampage that we recall from Westworld, the people whose blood has turned to crystals that haunts us from The Andromeda Strain.

So maybe it is all right to remember Michael Crichton as "the creator of Jurassic Park", if we remember him for the magic of it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bits and/or Pieces

Halloween moves ever closer. It holds little personal interest for me in real life, but I appreciate a good Halloween depiction in literature or film. So, too, does this Guardian book blog, one of the few general Bradbury appreciations I have seen in the British press.

Out of sync with the season, I today received my copy of Summer Morning, Summer Night. This is the missing link between Dandelion Wine and its sequel Farewell Summer. Literally. Bradbury conceived of one large work, but back in the '50s decided to publish only half (DW). Just recently the second half (FS) was published, and as a follow up SM, SN is now available from Subterranean Press - but order soon, as it sounds like stocks will sell out.

Just over a half of SM, SN is material previously published in short story form. The remainder is material previously unpublished, mostly in the form of short fragments, episodes that somehow didn't fit into the text of either of the other two books. There are some longer stories, however, and I have enjoyed the tiny amount of the book I have read so far. However, it feels like a book that will only make sense to a completist, someone already familiar with both DW and FS.

Last weekend I saw the Catherine Wheels/National Theatre of Scotland production of Something Wicked This Way Comes. A splendid production of one of Bradbury's most awkward stage plays. If you get the chance to see this production, I highly recommend it. However, abandon your preconceptions of what SWTWC should be like, and be prepared for a fun, energetic and inventive piece of theatre. I hope to post a full review soon.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Welcome to Bradburyville

Bradburyville is a new town (for want of a better word, and no doubt there is a proper word for it) in Second Life. There were some opening events yesterday, albeit too late in the day for UK residents to enjoy, but the place remains open for you to wander around and explore. The landscape is dotted with familiar Bradbury places: a place to get dandelion wine, a carousel, a porch where you can just sit and swing. The most shocking element is Mr Electrico's electric chair. If you see it, think twice before sitting!

Second Life requires you to register and adopt a fictional identity. It also requires you to download the Second Life client, which is around 34MB.

I spent some time in there yesterday, but didn't have time to explore thoroughly. It was slightly deserted when I visited, but I did see someone I knew. Although, of course, he looked different, being an avatar.

The following link will take you there, and provides further instructions if you haven't a clue what I'm talking about!

Friday, September 19, 2008

More Bradbury Celebrations

Any day now is the official start of Autumn. At least, if you live in the northern hemisphere. And abide by the astronomical definition of the seasons.

Halloween is coming.

And on release now is Colonial Radio Theatre's latest Bradbury dramatisation, The Halloween Tree. Officially it's out on 1st October, but Amazon and other suppliers have actually been shipping it for a couple of weeks.

So now, as promised, here is my review of the new CD.

Meanwhile, the Scottish National Theatre/Catherine Wheels stage production of Something Wicked This Way Comes previews in Glasgow tonight. The Scotsman recently published this article about the production, which includes an interview with the director and some interesting detail on some of the technical details of the staging. I hope to be seeing the play when it begins touring in a couple of weeks. I will post my review shortly afterwards.

Bradbury continues to be presented with all manner of honours and awards. Last night the library of UCLA unveiled a plaque at a special dinner, commemorating Bradbury's use of the typewriter rental facility to create his masterpiece Fahrenheit 451. There are pictures from the event at the official Bradbury message board, thanks to jkt who was there with his camera.

Finally, an anonymous poster to this blog has reminded me that Bradbury will be honoured with a lifetime achievement award at the forthcoming Ojai Film Festival in California.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Bradbury Season

October is a rare month for boys... according to the opening lines of Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, at least. But it's far from a rare month for Bradbury. As Halloween approaches, it always feels like Bradbury Season.

To help make it so this year, two significant adaptations are on their way. In audio, Colonial Radio Theatre's production of The Halloween Tree - scheduled for a 1st October release - is now available on CD via Amazon. (And this isn't just a theoretically-available item, they really are shipping it now.) I have been writing a review of this lavish production, but have been caught on the hop by its early, unheralded release. Watch this space for my review, which is coming real soon now, honest.

And on stage, the National Theatre of Scotland in conjunction with Catherine Wheels Theatre Company will shortly be touring (mostly Scotland, but one venue in England) with a new production of Bradbury's own stage play version of Something Wicked. I hope to catch the play when it makes its brief visit south of the border.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Sound Thinking

I have always maintained that audio media are best suited to Ray Bradbury's work. Because he works with such strong images, the visual media seem doomed to create nothing but pale imitations of his finest prose. But radio and audiobooks still leave the listener to create images in the mind. Plus, a lot of Bradbury's sentence constructions seem to have a definite rhythm, which makes them seem as if they are written to be read alound.

The above paragraph was really just an excuse to introduce a couple of sound-related weblinks:

  • Now and Forever is now available as an unabridged audiobook. There is a review at, here.
  • News of a performance of music inspired by The Illustrated Man.

I should also mention that today is Ray Bradbury's birthday - he is eighty-eight years old today!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Small Assassin

One of Ray Bradbury's most successful stories of his early career is "The Small Assassin". First published in 1946, it has been anthologised countless times, and appears in no less than five of his own short story collections. It has also been imitated and ripped off in several feature films and made-for-tv movies.

As far as official adaptations go, however, there seem to have only been two so far. The first was for Bradbury's own TV series in 1988. In this version, which Bradbury scripted himself, there were a few changes from the original story, but a strong central performance from Cyril Cusack as Dr Jeffers. My review of the episode can be read here.

The second adaptation is the more "faithful" version directed by Chris Charles in 2006. It is interesting to compare the two attempts to bring Bradbury's story to the screen. There are a lot of challenges. Should the film-maker show the baby as evil, or leave it to be judged from the responses of the parents? (Bradbury's own adaptation show's us the baby's point-of-view, which tips us off that something is up; Charles' version has an innocent child throughout) How to handle the complex shifts of viewpoint that the short story uses? (Bradbury re-writes, casting Jeffers as the strong central thread, condensing the parents' deaths into a single event; Charles follows the original text, passing the focus of the story from one character to the next).

Although I posted a page for the Chris Charles version of The Small Assassin over a year ago, I have only now got round to writing a review - click here to read it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Story of a Writer

One of the most frequently asked questions on the official Ray Bradbury Message Board is about a strange short film from the early 1960s in which a telephone line gains a life of its own. People who enquire about the story usually have a dim memory of this being a black and white film (and often report that the film scared the life out of them when they were little).

The mysterious film is actually a film-within-a-film. It is a dramatisation of "Dial Double Zero", and features in a short documentary about Ray Bradbury, The Story of a Writer. Produced by David L. Wolper and directed by Terry Sanders, the documentary shows Bradbury's approach to writing. We see him at his typewriter, giving a lecture, researching, cycling around the Venice, California canals, and reading his story to a writers' group.

For many years, this film was hard to get hold of. Then it was released on VHS and DVD by the American Film Foundation. And now, it's available to view and download - for free - from

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Farewell Summer and other news

So it took me two years to get round to reading Bradbury's 2006 release Farewell Summer. Partly because I had a whole load of other stuff to do, but if truth be told it was also partly because I feared it would be one of his lesser works. It is, after all, the left-over portion of Dandelion Wine, the part the original publisher didn't want.

In fact, I found the book a brisk read, with some interesting elements, but not exactly a classic. Click here to read my review.

Further to my recent post about tidying up my Short Story Finder, I have another item to remove from the Finder. One of the mystery items in there has always been "Affluence of Despair". Someone, somewhere, must once have caused me to think "Affluence" was a short story. Indeed, it was once anthologised in a SFWA Grand Masters book edited by Frederik Pohl - a book I have never laid hands (or eyes) on.

However, friend Eric has seen this book, and he has confirmed that "Affluence of Despair" is not a short story. It is, in fact, an essay. The very same essay is to be found in Bradbury's essay collection Bradbury Speaks.

I have also updated the links to the magazine covers in the Short Story Finder. These point to external websites, in some cases to commercial sites that sell back issues. All the Playboy cover links are now fixed, and I have added cover links for Dime Mystery and The Saturday Evening Post. CAUTION: Those of a delicate disposition should avoid clicking on the Playboy links, as the external site I link to carries random ads of an adult nature. You have been warned!

The Nebula-winning author Sheila Finch (pictured) has just posted a guest blog at the Nebula Awards site where she compares Bradbury's Dandelion Wine to Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood. It's a short article, but gets right to the heart of how Bradbury's prose works.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Short Story Finder

I found some time to update my Short Story Finder. In case you've never used it, I should perhaps explain that it lists every known short story published by Ray Bradbury, then tells you where you can find it. In many cases, the story will show up as being in one of Bradbury's short story collections. In some cases, Bradbury has never collected the story, and the only way of reading it is to trace the original magazine publication, or hope that some anthologist has picked the story up and put it in a book.

(By the way, Bradbury has also written a lot of stories which have never been published anywhere. His basement and/or garage are, legend has it, full of filing cabinets and storage boxes. Every now and again, someone like Donn Albright will find a perfectly good story which has somehow languished in storage for decades. This is partly why Bradbury has been publishing so many new books in the last few years!)

Among Bradbury's earliest published stories were those he put in his own fanzine. Called Futuria Fantasia, it first appeared in Summer 1939, when Bradbury would have been eighteen years old. He produced just four issues, although he began preparation for a fifth. The complete run of Futuria Fantasia was published in a facsimile book last year by Craig Graham (Vagabond Books).

It is from reading these marvellous facsimiles that I realised I should now delete a story from my Short Story Finder.

Some sources (and at this stage, I have lost track of what these sources are/were) list "The Record" as being written by Bradbury with Forrest J Ackerman. Forry (pictured left) is a renowned writer, publisher and collector best known as the creator of Famous Monsters of Filmland. He and Bradbury have been friends since their teens. The facsimile edition of Futuria Fantasia is dedicated to Ackerman.

Well, the evidence from Futuria Fantasia is that "The Record" is NOT a collaboration. It is credited there solely to Ackerman. What's more, it is prefaced by a paragraph written by Bradbury which clearly states its origin as a tale written when Forry was sixteen years old.

So I acknowledge this Ackerman original, and remove any claim that Bradbury wrote any part of it. From today, there will be no record of "The Record" in my short story finder!

I have also - finally - updated the Short Story Finder to include all of the materials gathered together in Match To Flame: The Fictional Paths to Fahrenheit 451 - which also gets it own page here.

The companion chapbook, The Dragon Who Ate His Tail, also now has its own page, here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New Interview with Ray

Ray Bradbury talks about books, bookshops, politics and more in a new interview (in video and transcript) at Truthdig.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The NEXT Eaton Conference

Plans have begun for the next Eaton Conference, to be held in May 2009. It's themed around Jules Verne.

The breaking news is: the second Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award will be going to...(roll on the drums, please)... Mr Frederik Pohl!

This latter information comes from an interview with Melissa Conway, published here. Official conference details are to be found here.

The first recipient of the award was, of course, Ray Bradbury - seen above with Fred Pohl at the 2008 conference, where I presented a paper.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Moby Dick is Here

Over fifty years since it was written, and over fifty years since it was filmed, at last we get the opportunity to experience Ray Bradbury's vision of Moby Dick. Bradbury's screenplay is now being shipped by Subterranean Press (order it here).

John Huston's 1956 film version is a curate's egg - good in parts. But the film used a revised version of Bradbury's screenplay, with Huston and John Godley and others all making "improvements" to what Bradbury had written.

Subterranean's book, edited by Bill Touponce of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, presents Bradbury's direct vision, his final draft before the script was taken out of his hands. Jon Eller from the Center contributes an article explaining the history of the text, which has been painstakingly reassembled from various draft fragments.

If you have never fancied the idea of reading a screenplay, this may be the book that changes your view. Bradbury's screenwriting is largely free of the technical jargon often seen in published screenplays. His scene descriptions are sometimes brief, as is typical of screen and stage scripts, but sometimes immensely evocative. It doesn't feel vastly different to reading one of his prose works.

I have written elsewhere on the influence Moby Dick had on Bradbury's writing and his career. Here I will simply say that this screenplay marks a distinct turning point in Bradbury's writing. Anyone seeking to understand how, for example, Something Wicked This Way Comes could come from the same pen as Dandelion Wine needs to read this book.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Breaking News!

Good news on a definitive short story collection, courtesy of my academic colleague Bill Touponce at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies: he and Jon Eller (pictured left) are about to embark on a five-volume series which will contain all of Bradbury's published short stories in the order in which they were written. In many cases, Bradbury stories have taken years to come into print, so this will be the first attempt to put them in chronological order.

This is what Bill tells me about The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury: A Critical Edition, which is expected to be published by Kent State University Press in five volumes, starting in 2010:

"This edition will reprint (actually establish the text for) every story that Bradbury has published, in chronological order. Ray has signed on the contract and we are just now finalizing plans with the press. I will be the general editor of the volumes with Jon as textual editor. Needless to say, I am very excited; indeed it will be the culmination of my critical writing on Bradbury."

News, too, from Jerry Robbins of Colonial Radio Theatre. CRT's audio production of Bradbury's The Halloween Tree is moving closer to release. It will be out in time for Halloween! Jerry has kindly sent me a preview copy, so I hope to publish a review to coincide with the release. The CD is already available for pre-ordering - see Colonial's website for details.

CRT's previous production, Something Wicked This Way Comes, has won a Silver Ogle Award (these awards for Fantasy Audio Production are presented by The American Society For Science Fiction Audio). The award shelf must be getting pretty full; they already have an Ogle for Dandelion Wine.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Video Clips

Almost forgotten, tucked away on the memory card of my stills cameras, I have two video clips from the recent Eaton Conference, "Chronicling Mars". As a lecturer in Video and Film Production, I can't say I am proud of the technical quality of the picture or sound, but they were taken very much as an afterthought - as, sitting in the audience for Ray Bradbury's presentation, I suddenly remembered that my stills camera also recorded video clips.

So, for posterity, here are my two clips of Bradbury in action.

First, Ray at the start of his presentation:

Second, Ray answers a question about the character of Fedallah in his screen adaptation of Moby Dick (1956):

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Eaton Conference 2008: Chronicling Mars

From 16th to 18th May 2008, I attended the J.Lloyd Eaton Conference at the University of California, Riverside. I presented a paper entitled "Re-Presenting Mars: Ray Bradbury's Martian Stories in Media Adaptation".

On the panel with me were two Bradbury-related speakers. The noted SF editor, publisher and anthologist David Hartwell spoke on "The Non-Scientific Mars from Burroughs, Brackett & Bradbury to Today". And from Collin College (McKinney, Texas), Eric Palfreyman spoke on "Mars is Heaven: Ray Bradbury's Martian Landscape as a Mythological Setting for his Philosophical and Religious Ideas".

Our panel chair was USC's Paul Alkon, who gave each of us a Mars bar. Highly appropriate!

The panel was privileged in being scheduled immediately before the star attractions: a talk by leading author Kim Stanley Robinson, and a special presentation by Ray Bradbury himself. The conference chairs had warned delegates that if they weren't in the conference hall early, they may not get a seat for the Bradbury talk. And so it was that David, Eric and I were blessed (or cursed) with having the largest audience of the entire conference.

Stan Robinson - with whom I had I very brief chat while looking at old astronomical images of Mars - gave a fascinating account of his dealings with the planet Mars (through his terraforming novel trilogy Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars). He made it clear how indebted he is, and other Mars writers are, to Ray Bradbury for his master work The Martian Chronicles (1950).

Bradbury's talk covered his life and career, and his involvement with Mars. It was followed by a question and answer session, and a mammoth book-signing session.

In attendance for the Bradbury presentation were fellow Message Board members Nard, Doug Spaulding, and jkt. When added to conference delegates philnic, Mr Dark and PatR, this probably made the biggest Board gathering of recent times.

Following the Bradbury talk, a select few (self-selected for the most part) retired to a buffet with Mr B. Much talk and photo-taking followed.

To see my photos of the conference, click on the image below:

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bradbury's Dublin

I recently took a brief trip to Dublin. While I was there I dashed about with a camera trying to grab some pictures of places with a Ray Bradbury connection.

Click on any of these pictures to view larger versions.

It is an oft-told tale that Bradbury stayed in Dublin in 1953-54, when he was writing the screenplay for Moby Dick for director John Huston. This relatively short visit - a mere few months out of Bradbury's nearly 88 years on the planet to date - provided an incredible amount of inspiration. Not only did he complete the screenplay, he left Ireland with material for a number of short plays, short stories, the play (and later novella) Leviathan '99 and eventually the partly autobiographical novel Green Shadows, White Whale.

My first priority in Dublin was to get to O'Connell Bridge. Not only is this the only major bridge in Europe to be wider than it is long, it was the location for Bradbury's finest Irish story, "The Beggar on O'Connell Bridge". First published as "The Beggar on the Dublin Bridge" in the Saturday Evening Post in June 1961, the story is an account of Bradbury's experiences of being accosted by beggars whenever he left his hotel. The story can be found in Bradbury's short story collections The Machineries of Joy and Bradbury Stories. It can also be found, slightly modified, as a chapter in Green Shadows, White Whale - where John Huston strangely takes the place of Bradbury's wife.

O'Connell Bridge isn't difficult to find. Nor is it difficult to find a beggar on O'Connell Bridge. There always seems to be one right in the middle, exactly where Bradbury says. Unfortunately, however, none of the real modern day beggars are as colourful or as entertaining as Bradbury's concertina playing, possibly blind (or possibly not), sweet voiced beggar:

For a moment, while we had been talking in the cold rain, the beggar had been silent. Now, as if the weather had freshened him to life, he gave his concertina a great mash. From the folding, unfolding snake box he squeezed a series of asthmatic notes which were no preparation for what followed.

He opened his mouth. He sang.

The sweet clear baritone voice which rang over O'Connell Bridge, steady and sure, was beautifully shaped and controlled, not a quiver, not a flaw, anywhere. The man just opened his mouth, which meant that all kinds of secret doors in his body gave way. He did not sing so much as let his soul free.

When he arrived in Dublin in October 1953, Bradbury stayed in the Royal Hibernian Hotel, which can be seen in this old postcard of Dawson Street. Here is how Sam Weller describes it in The Bradbury Chronicles:

In Dublin, the Bradburys checked into the old yet opulent Royal Hibernian Hotel on Dawson Street and were given two rooms. Ray and Maggie's room - number 77 - had a fireplace, and in this room Ray would do much of his work on the screenplay. Regina [the Bradburys' nanny]and the girls were placed in a separate room, with a coin-operated heater into which Regina continually fed money to keep the room warm.

Alas, the Royal Hibernian is no more, torn down for redevelopment in the 1970s. In its place today stands a small shopping mall, the Royal Hibernian Way.

Not far from the Royal Hibernian site is St Stephen's Green, a park where Bradbury would occasionally take his children for a walk. This g
ets several mentions in Green Shadows, White Whale as the narrator desperately tries to solve the mystery of the beggar-woman:

God, how that woman could race.
She put a block between her backside and me while I gathered breath to yell: "Stop, thief!"
It seemed an appropriate yell. The baby was a mystery I wished to solve. And there she vaulted off with it, a wild thief.
So I dashed after, crying. "Stop! Help! You there!"
She kept a hundred yards between us for the first half mile, up over bridges across the Liffey and finally up Grafton Street, where I jogged into St. Stephen's Green, to find it ... empty.
She had absolutely vanished.
Unless, of course, I thought, turning in all directions, letting my gaze idle, it's into The Four Provinces pub she's gone . . .

The entrance to the park closest to Grafton Street is Fusilier's Arch, a memorial erected after the Boer War. In this photo, the arch is flanked by the St Stephen's Green Shopping Centre. Although constructed in the 1980s, this Centre looks rather Victorian with its conservatory-style domed glass roof, which was suposedly design to complement the architecture of the Gaiety Theatre opposite. (After Ray's family left for Italy in 1954, he attended the ballet season at the Gaeity.)

Speaking of theatres, legend has it that on Bradbury's first day in Dublin he saw a newspaper ad which said "Laurel & Hardy - Live - For One Night Only". He promptly dashed down to the Olympia Theatre and bought the last remaining ticket. The Olympia still stands in the Temple Bar area of Dublin, and remains a popular venue for drama, comedy and music.

If the legend is accurate, Ray must have arrived in Dublin on Sunday 11 October 1953, as it was on that night that Stan and Ollie had decided to give a single charity performance of a show they had been preparing for touring in Belfast and London. The picture here shows them outside the Royal Marine Hotel where they stayed throughout their time in the city. A detailed account of Laurel and Hardy in Dublin can be found in this programme for a recent Sons of the Desert convention.

It's impossible to be in Dublin without noticing the references to the great literary figures all around, in statues, museums, public art. You can find out more than you would ever want to know at the fascinating (but small) Writer's Museum where you will find this fellow, hero of Ray Bradbury and immortalised in the story "GBS - Mark V" (1976).

Oh, and the wee fellow in the background? That's Oscar Wilde!

Apart from Shaw, Bradbury was also greatly influenced by another Dublin writer, W.B.Yeats. It is Yeats, of course, who provided Bradbury with the title for his short story "The Golden Apples of the Sun." Joe Mugnaini's line art for this story is shown here.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


The folks at Colonial Radio Theater have released a trailer for The Halloween Tree, their latest Bradbury audio adaptation. This one has apparently been over a year in the making, and is due for release in time for Halloween 2008.

Regular readers will know that I rate Colonial's Productions very highly, and so I am greatly looking forward to hearing this latest production.

Incidentally, the forthcoming inaugural issue of The New Ray Bradbury Review will contain an extended version of my review of Colonial's Dandelion Wine.

The Golden Apples of the Sun

I received my copy of Subterranean Press's new hardcover of The Golden Apples of the Sun recently. At the current dollar/sterling exchange rate, it was quite cheap (as limited editions go).

I was disappointed to discover that Joe Mugnaini's original art is limited to the cover, and isn't continued inside the book. His line drawings have always been synonymous with The Golden Apples of the Sun, and I was hoping to see them in this edition.

The main reason I was persuaded to buy this edition is the inclusion of a couple of bonuses: two plays by Ray, based on stories in the book, and published here for the first time. And while these are good, I would have liked some contextual information.

For example, when were they written? Were they ever performed, in this form or any other? Is "The Fog Horn" a RADIO treatment (because it certainly reads like one)? And why is the play of "En La Noche" so excessive in stage/actor directions? Had Ray never seen a play written down?

At the very least, they should have given an explanation of why "The Fog Horn" is incomplete. (The dust jacket says the book includes two plays, not one play and one fragment of a play.)

So, while it's a handsome enough volume in its own right, it could have been so much better if they had thought it through.

I have since found out that "The Fog Horn" is indeed a radio treatment. However, I remain somewhat mystified about "En La Noche" - it apparently dates from 1960, and while it is one of Bradbury's earliest stage plays, he was certainly an experienced dramatist by this point.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

All Summer in a Day

One of the most asked-about Bradbury stories is "All Summer in a Day". Barely a day goes by without someone posting to the Bradbury message boards enquiring about their vague memory of a short film they were once shown at school.

I was quite amused to discover this web page from the Chicago Tribune about "seasonal affective disorder," which refers to Bradbury's story. The page also has a direct link to the full text of the story.

As for the film, it occasionally appears on YouTube and elsewhere, no doubt without permission of the copyright holders. Its latest appearance is here.

In case you were wondering, the image on the left is the cover of the March 1954 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction which contained the first appearance of "All Summer in a Day".

Monday, February 11, 2008

Fahrenheit 451 - Moscow style. Herman Melville - Bradbury style.

The Moscow Times has published a review of a new Russian stage adaptation of Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. It's not clear whether this is a translation of Bradbury's own play, or a completely new adaptation. Read John Freedman's review here.

Subterranean Press, which has produced some excellent limited edition versions of Bradbury books, has announced the first book publication of Moby Dick - Ray Bradbury's original screenplay for the 1956 feature film directed by John Huston. This is an important publication, since it finally gives us a chance to see what Bradbury brought to the adaptation, without the distortions imposed by Huston, Huston's friends, and others such as Orson Welles.

Why does it matter? For at least three reasons. First, Huston grabbed co-script credit from Bradbury, and somehow managed to overturn a Writer's Guild of America ruling on script credit which had gone in Bradbury's favour. Second, because the innovations in Bradbury's version of Moby Dick are so powerful that many of them have been carried over into more recent adaptations of Melville's novel, as if Bradbury's text were superior to Melville's. Third, because (as I have argued elsewhere) Bradbury's experience on the Moby Dick project had a major influence on the next fifty years of his development as a writer: through his Irish stories and plays, his endless wrestling with the Melville tribute Leviathan '99, his novel Green Shadow, White Whale, and much else.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

More decline and decay...

Further to my previous blog mentioning the remains of the Fahrenheit 451 monorail, some more ruins to ponder. This time, the remains of Venice, California, which have had a considerable impact on Ray Bradbury.

As far I am aware, the first declared influence was on Bradbury's short story "The Fog Horn", the 1951 tale of a lighthouse destroyed by a lonely dinosaur. The story was the basis of the 1950s monster movie The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. So where is the Venice influence? The dinosaur itself! In a frequently recounted anecdote, Bradbury tells how he saw the remains of the Venice Pier rollecrcoaster, and imagined it to be the skeletal remains of a dinosaur. Freewheeling from there, he asked what would lure such a creature to such a place. A lighthouse, of course!

But Venice has had more than one story's worth of influence on Bradbury. Much of the carnival imagery of his early stories is likely to have been influenced by the carnival-like Venice, California, which Bradbury probably first visited in the late 1930s when he was in his teens.

Later in life, Bradbury makes explicit use of Venice, its pier and derelict canals in his 1985 novel Death is a Lonely Business. Indeed, his depiction of the town influenced the cover art of several editions of the novel - there are some examples here.

There are more images of Venice in its prime and in decline in the online photo collection of the Los Angeles Public library. Click here to see a selection.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

New Findings: Old Stuff

I've been making new finds of old stuff on the web, most of them thanks to Google Alerts. Here are some curios that have just come to my attention.

Ever wondered what happened to the monorail Montag used to get home in Truffaut's film of Fahrenheit 451? It was a real monorail in France, built as a protoype, and Truffaut chose it because of its futuristic appearance.

The monorail is no longer in existence, but a few years ago some monorail enthusiasts tracked down what remains of the system, including the vandalised car and some sections of track. Find out more by visiting Randy Lambertus's page from 1999.

Going back to 1993, we find Ray Bradbury being interviewed about his alleged total recall. This unlikely gift is what allows him to remember the moment of his own birth. No one really believes this claim, but his belief in it led him to write one of his classic short stories, "The Small Assassin". Bradbury has discussed this in many interviews, but this one from YouTube is one I hadn't seen before. It's from a Canadian TV show called Prisoners of Gravity.