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.