Friday, December 31, 2010

F451: the Playboy Connection

Fahrenheit 451 was originally serialised in the earliest issues of Playboy magazine in the 1950s. Ray Bradbury's short stories also found a home in the magazine from the 1950s onwards. Given Bradbury's somewhat wholesome image - this is the man whose stories are taught in schools all across the US, after all - it may be surprising that he should be associated with the Hefner empire. However, Bradbury and Hefner have been good friends for decades.

Earlier this year, Bradbury and Hefner appeared together and talked about the F451-Playboy connection for the Writer's Guild of America, West. Here is the video of their discussion.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

There Will Come Soft Rains, Bradbury Speaks

In 1976 there was a modest BBC Radio adaptation of Bradbury's Martian Chronicles story "There Will Come Soft Rains". It combined simple reading and performance with some remarkable creative audio effects, and remains one of the most effective Bradbury media adaptations.

Until recently, all I knew about the production barely filled a couple of paragraphs, as you can see from my page about the programme. Even the BBC Written Archives - one of my favourite places for doing research - was unable to help me find more information, for the simple reason that they only make pre-1970 files available to researchers.

Now, to the rescue comes Dave Tompkins. His new book How to Wreck a Nice Beach tells the story of the Vocoder, a legendary piece of studio equipment that allowed the human voice to modulate a non-human sound, producing a variety of otherworldly effects. Without the Vocoder, BBC science fiction productions of the 1970s and onwards would have been much more mundane.

Dave has a blog to accompany the book. He has also given permission to publish a lengthy extract from the book, which details the making of "There Will Come Soft Rains". He was in contact with the show's producer Malcolm Clarke before Malcolm's untimely death, and had access to some of Clarke's out-takes and experiments for the production.

On YouTube, CBC has posted a film of Bradbury speaking about his ideas in 1969. It's from the time of the making of the film The Illustrated Man - and it is probably excerpted from the "making of" featurette for the film, which is available on some DVD versions (I say "probably" because (a) I recognise it from somewhere but (b) haven't had time to compare it to the DVD featurette!). Here's the clip:

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Seasons Greetings - and recalling Bradbury's 90th

Merry Christmas!

It may be snowing and cold outside, but I like to think back to warmer days.

So here - at last! - are my photos from my 2010 trip to California to attend Ray Bradbury's 90th birthday.

Click on the picture to start the slide show

Unfortunately I wasn't able to stay in LA for the other events of Ray Bradbury Week, so I was quite pleased that the official proclamation of Ray Bradbury Week by the City Council was captured on video:

Part one --- Part two

In the interests of democracy, the LA City Council have the record of voting on the proclamation online, as well as the official resolution.

And finally... although Bradbury is more associated with Halloween than he is with Christmas, Sue Granquist on Black Gate: Adventures in Fantasy Literature reminds us of Bradbury's great Christmas short story "The Wish".

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Falling Upward - Stage Matters - Radio

Falling Upward is Ray Bradbury's play based on his experiences of Ireland in the 1950s. It was last staged in 2009, and the website for that production is still around. There is more archived web coverage of a 2007 run, including press reviews of the play, here.

Also still around - although it took me a lot of creative Googling to track it down - is a 2009 podcast from the series This Way Out: the International Lesbian & Gay Magazine which features Bradbury talking about the play and its inspiration.

The episode is too old to still be offered directly by the This Way Out online archive, but I tracked down a copy on The A-Infos Radio Project: details of the programme and download links are here. (The Bradbury feature begins 46 minutes into the episode.)

Theatre is obviously very important to Bradbury. He has written plays from the 1940s onwards. He voices his enthusiasm for the stage in the opening few minutes of a new short video called Stage Matters, a production of the Theatre Communications Group.

Speaking of radio, I see that Colonial Radio Theatre - producers of award-winning adaptations of Bradbury's Dandelion Wine, The Halloween Tree and Something Wicked This Way Comes - have been busy with recording sessions for their new production: Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Connections, Foreword, Echoes

One of the blogs I look at regularly is Lee Goldberg's A Writer's Life. Goldberg is the successful writer and TV producer, perhaps best known for his Monk series, but with credits as long as both your arms.

His mother, who died earlier this year, was Jan Curran. Curran was also a writer, a journalist who worked as a society editor for The Desert Sun and Palm Springs Life.

In a recent post, Goldberg presented some scans of his mom's photos, showing her with various celebrities she had encountered. Which brings us to the Bradbury connection.

I just spotted a new(ish) book with a new foreword by Ray Bradbury. Bound to Last from DaCapo press sees 25 (or 30, depending on whether you believe the blurb or the photo of the book's cover...) writers discussing the books that mean the most to them. Details are here.

Sam Weller, Bradbury's official biographer and author of Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews has revitalised his blog of late as a kind of festive treat. Recent posts have included appreciations of key Bradbury short stories and - most interesting of all - a number of interesting items from the archives. If you haven't visited lately, it's well worth the trip: click here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

You know, the science fiction writer...

How many times must it be said? Yes, Ray Bradbury has written some science fiction, but he has also written some horror, some fantasy, some crime fiction, some realist fiction, some essays, some plays, some poems and some film scripts.

So why do people persist in calling him a science fiction writer? Or worse still, a sci-fi writer?

The answer, I suppose, is that his first book from a mainstream publisher was The Martian Chronicles in 1950. Said publisher slapped a "science fiction" label on the book. Bradbury protested, but was evidently unable to shake off the description, and has continued to fail to shake it off ever since.

Bradbury rightly points out that Chronicles isn't even science fiction: it's out and out fantasy. The difference - in Bradbury's view, and in my own view - is that fantasy is impossible, whereas science fiction is at least vaguely possible. Bradbury claims his only true science fiction book is Fahrenheit 451, and he is probably right.

There are other ways of looking at it, though. The label attached to writer will often be influenced by the circles s/he moves in. It is true that Bradbury closely associated himself with the science fiction field at certain times in his career, and for a number of years much of his short story output was focused on the science fiction pulps. However, this was way back in the 1940s, and you might think that he might have escaped from that field in the sixty-odd years that have elapsed since.

The reason I bring this up is an otherwise interesting summary of one small reading group's reaction to Something Wicked This Way Comes. This book, you may be aware, is a fantasy story set around an evil carnival that arrives in a small American town in the 1920s. It is not science fiction, not even by the hugest stretch of the imagination. And yet the Journal Standard reports that some readers struggled with the book. Because. They. Don't. Like... Sci.Fi.

Amazing! Read all about it here.

A rather odd piece of video has appeared on DailyMotion. Recorded in Bergamo, Italy in 2000 it captures an interview with the writer Robert Sheckley and a video conference call by Ray Bradbury. Unfortunately, the sound is very poor. I find it almost impossible to hear anything Bradbury says.

In the frame grab (left), Bradbury is on the big screen while Sheckley sits on stage on the right hand side. Bradbury first appears around 39 minutes in. You can see the whole thing here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bradbury 13, Sherwood Anderson, F451, SWTWC

I was pleased to discover that there is another blogger out there who has an enthusiasm for Bradbury 13, the Mike McDonough-produced radio series from the 1980s which was first broadcast on National Public Radio.

The blog Such a Sew and Sew has a couple of posts about individual episodes, and looks set to review all thirteen shows. It also has welcome links for (legal) downloads of the shows and places to buy the (legal) CD version.

My own page about the show is here, and tells the behind-the-scenes story of the making of the series with exclusive photos from producer McDonough.

One of Bradbury's influences - revealing itself in both The Martian Chronicles and Dandelion Wine - was Sherwood Anderson's novel Winesburg, Ohio. It seems that there is a new film adaptation of Winesburg coming soon, although the action is shifted to the city of Chicago, giving the film its title Chicago Heights. Read about the film here.

Creature Features has posted some images of Bradbury signing copies of the Laserdisc (yes, Laserdisc!) edition of Something Wicked This Way Comes from 1996. See the photos here. Before you chortle too much about Laserdisc, that antiquarian format, please remember that the Laserdisc of SWTWC carried audio commentaries - unlike the DVD edition, which comes with not a single extra feature!

Finally - and you may have already seen this one, as it is all over the blogosphere - some designer has come up with a marvellous fixture that every home should have. It seems to combine the best elements of a roaring fireplace and a convenient bookshelf. You, too, could have Fahrenheit 451 in your own living room. Details here, and a picture here:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Write 1 Sub 1

For those who are practitioners of creative writing - and especially those with ambitions to professional publication - Ray Bradbury's advice on how to write is priceless. Of course, in books such as Zen in the Art of Writing he talks mainly of his own experiences. But it shouldn't be forgotten that in his early career he was himself following advice and guidance from other industry professionals, and so his methods are founded on solid experience of writing for professional markets.

One of his techniques in the heyday of his magazine short-story selling - we're talking 1940s and 1950s - was to write a story a week and to send them out to magazine editors. And not just send them once, but keep them in circulation around the various publications. By the end of a year he would have 50 pieces of work doing the rounds; some would be accepted and published, others would circulate and finally come home to rest in a box of rejects.

This is not to say that he would just do a first draft and then send the story off. Bradbury frequently talks of his approach as "throw up in the morning, clean up at noon", meaning that you get your first draft on the page without any intellectualising, but then later return to the manuscript for carefully editing and re-writes.

Of course, there aren't nearly so many paying markets for short stories as there once were, but there is no doubt in my mind that Bradbury's idea of write, write, write until you get good at it is very sound advice. I have done some creative writing myself in the past - short stories and radio scripts in the 1980s and 1990s, screenplays in the 2000s - but have never had the time (or courage?) to live up to Bradbury's advice.

Now there is a new web challenge out there, inspired by Ray. Write 1 Sub 1 is a new blog which is essentially challenging writers to write and submit a new story every week for the whole of the year 2011. Its a terrific idea - but like some of the commenters on the blog, I'm afraid I will have to cry off this one and observe from the sidelines.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

New Graphic Novels Announced

Following on from the successful graphic novel adaptation of Fahrenheit 451, new graphic adaptations of Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles and Something Wicked This Way Comes have been announced.

Chronicles is drawn by Dennis Calero. Something Wicked is drawn by Ron Wimberly. Both books are due out in May 2011 and are already available for pre-ordering from Amazon: MC here and SWTWC here.

There is more information at ICV2.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Palm Springs

With the UK weather as cold as it has been lately (below freezing for several days in a row this week), my thoughts turn to warmer places... Palm Springs, for one. I paid a brief visit to the place in the summer of 2008, and found it to be one of the hottest places I had ever been. The locals told me it wasn't usually that hot - it's a heatwave, they said. Fortunately, cooler air was to be found by taking the aerial tramway up into the mountains.

Oh yes, Bradbury. There is a Bradbury connection, as Ray Bradbury has a second home in Palm Springs. This blog post describes a series of Palm Springs encounters between Bradbury and one Eric G. Meeks. It sound like typical Ray, always keen to do what he can to meet fans and sign books.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Whitman Honour for Bradbury

The only direct connection I know between Ray Bradbury and Walt Whitman is Bradbury's borrowing of Whitman's title "I Sing the Body Electric". Bradbury's short story of that title, dealing with an android grandmother, is of course titled in reference to Whitman's poem.

Now there is another connection. Among Bradbury's countless awards there is now a Champion of Literacy award, which was presented to him at the 2nd Annual Walt Whitman Birthplace Association's Benefit for Literacy Gala held at Oheka Castle in Huntington, New York. Of course, Bradbury wasn't there in person, but he gave his thanks via a pre-recorded acceptance speech.

The full story is here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Censoring F451

That terrific blog AWFUL LIBRARY BOOKS has a recent post on the bowdlerised edition of Fahrenheit 451 that persisted through much of the 1960s and 1970s - until Bradbury was alerted to it and insisted on his correct text being reinstated.

Read all about it, with illustrations, here.

Bradbury later wrote a "coda" to Fahrenheit 451 in which he railed against petty (and not so petty) censorship.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

True to Type

We all know about Ray Bradbury's first typewriter. One of those toy dial devices, where you painstakingly line up a pointer with the letter you want to print. This isn't the exact model, but I believe Ray's is something like this:

He still owns the Deluxe Toy Dial machine, but probably hasn't written with it for over seventy years. Of course, Ray didn't ever do any professional work with this device, but he supposedly wrote an Edgar Rice Burroughs-inspired novel on it when still at a tender young age. In later years he progressed to more sophisticated machineries, some of them electrical.

And has even been known to Skype:

All right, he has some help when he does this, but it proves he's not quite the luddite some people would have you believe.

What of other writers? Where did they first tap out their tales?

Harlan Ellison began on something rather more professional than Bradbury: a portable Remington, bought for him by his mother when he was fifteen years old. He wrote his earliest stories on this machine, and produced his fanzine Dimensions on it up to about 1954.

Harlan is now looking to sell this historic item, and the current asking price is a sweet $40,000. In case you doubt the significance of Ellison the writer, I remind you that this man has won (deep breath):

  • 8-and-a-half Hugo Awards from the World Science Fiction Convention
  • 3 Nebula Awards from the Science Fiction Writers of America
  • 5 Bram Stoker Awards from the Horror Writers' Association
  • 2 Edgar Awards from the Mytery Writers of America
  • a George Melies Award
  • a Silver Pen Award for Journalism
  • 4 Writers Guild of America Awards for screenwriting

He is, without doubt, one of the most significant 20th-century American writers of the literature of the fantastic. That old Remington may not be the machine upon which he wrote of the Harlequin, or Jeffty, or Vic & Blood; but it's the machine that first allowed him to unleash his astonishing literary muse.

Have a spare 40k? What a magnificent Christmas gift this would make:

Read more about Harlan and his typewriter at the official Harlan's Typewriter For Sale site.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Breaking my recent silence to wish everyone a most Bradburyan

Friday, August 27, 2010

Where's Phil?

This blog has been a little quiet of late, due to a combination of foreseen and unforeseen circumstances. The foreseen was my trip to the US, combining a stay in Las Vegas with attending Ray Bradbury's 90th birthday party in Glendale, California. The unforeseen, a matter of days before the trip, was a pair of deaths in the family.

My free time is quite limited at present, so it is unlikely that I will be posting anything substantial for the next week or so. I have, however, found time to upload some photos from the Glendale events - not my own photos, but some taken by Cornelia Shields, who I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time. (My own photos will appear at some unspecified future time...)

Click here for Cori's photos!


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Many Happy Returns

Ninety years ago today, Ray Douglas Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois.

Happy Birthday, Ray.

And: Live Forever!

Here's a birthday card I made:

Many thanks to Brian Sibley for permission to use his photo of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bradbury associates

Every July the web is awash with reports from Comic-Con, many of them mentioning Bradbury. TOO many, in fact, so I don't usually bother recording them here. One that caught my eye, though, was Matt Thorn's report in which he describes the meeting between Bradbury and leading manga artist Moto Hagio. She apparently once did an adaptation of R is for Rocket - something I must track down, although it is only available in Japanese. You can the basics about Moto Hagio here., but for a full account of her work and career I recommend another article by Thorn, here.

The podcast Slice of SciFi has an interview with Roger Lay Jr, producer of the Bradbury films Chrysalis and A Piece of Wood. More news on Chrysalis can be found on the official blog, here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

On the Blogs

It sometimes seems that blogs were made for lists, since so many blogs give you the 20 best or 10 worst of a given item. Well, here's another one: a list of ten books you were supposed to read in school but didn't - with a suggestion of why you really ought to read them now you're all growed up. A Bradbury title is listed - and for once it isn't Fahrenheit 451.

Less listy is writer Sierra Godfrey's post on what makes for a scary story. Naturally, Stephen King gets a mention, but so too do H.G.Wells and Ray Bradbury.

This next item is a review of Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, but of an audiobook version rather than the print version. What interested me about this is the reviewer's reaction to the dialogue in Something Wicked, and their assumption that they would have taken the dialogue differently if they had seen it written down. Bradbury's dialogue is often criticised for being unrealistic - this was one of Rod Serling's excuses for not doing more Bradbury on The Twilight Zone. But Something Wicked is a fantasy AND a period piece, so what would count as realistic dialogue? And why does dialogue that works on the page become unrealistic when performed? Read the review here.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Storytelling, Stage and Movies

In October, Ray Bradbury's hometown will again play host to the Ray Bradbury Storytelling Festival. I've never been to this annual event, but it sounds like fun. Full details of the current plans can be seen here.

Speaking of Festivals, summer (or what passes for summer in this cloud-shrouded UK) brings the Edinburgh Festival. Another event I've never been to...

This year, there is a Bradbury-inspired performance in Edinburgh, Steven Josephson's production of Ray Bradbury's 2116. Read the Scotsman article which quotes Bradbury here, and view the official website for the production here.

Here's Bradbury himself to explain the origin of this musical:

Finally, some audio. Here's Movies on the Radio: Ray Bradbury at the Movies, from WQXR in New York. David Garland presents soundtracks from Ray Bradbury-based movies such as Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and The Illustrated Man, by composers Bernard Herrmann, Stanley Myers, James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith, and others.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

10 (and more) Things

Reading Listen to the Echoes has prompted one reviewer to compile a list of "10 things you didn't know about Ray Bradbury"... most of which I did know, and some of which are a bit inaccurate. But let's not be picky! The list is here.

CNN also has an article
inspired by Listen to the Echoes. Nothing terribly new here, but well put together - and with a decent photo (reproduced above).

The LA Times has an article about a season of Disney screenings taking place in the city, including Something Wicked This Way Comes. It includes a decent overview of the film, quoting Roger Ebert. It also includes images of a couple of props from the film. Read all about it!

Better still is this excellent account from Jim Hill of how Something Wicked went from film idea to novel and back to film - a quite detailed history of Bradbury's inspirations and the people who were tentatively associated with the "property", including Gene Kelly, David Lean, Steven Spielberg and Sam Peckinpah.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Who Writes Like Bradbury? And the two Rays again.

It's been bouncing around the web quite a bit lately, and I would have ignored it but for one discussion on (of all things) Tablet: a New Read on Jewish Life. I'm referring to the website I Write Like, which lets you type or paste in some text, and then be told which famous writer you write like.

After a few goes with your own text, it's tempting to put in some text by a famous writer, and see who they supposedly write like. That's what Tablet did, with mixed results. Find out who writes like Ray Bradbury here...
Meanwhile, the whole I Write Like thing is taken down a peg or two on this blog; after reading this and the comments written in response, I decided I don't really care for I Write Like, and will never speak of it again!

Thanks to the estimable Terry Pace's Facebook page, I am able to provide a link to the video of the Ray Harryhausen 90th birthday bash at BAFTA/BFI, here. If you want to see the Ray Bradbury contribution made by video link, fast forward to 33 minutes and 30 seconds - although the entire show is worth watching. This is no amateur Youtube video, by the way: it's a professionally shot and edited piece, with some very nice presentations. My favourite section is about three minutes from the end, where Peter Jackson shows some stop motion work he did when he was a teenager.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

F451 art, reading Ahab, Bradbury building

A while back, I posted a link to Glenn Kim's work-in-progress, some paintings inspired by Fahrenheit 451 for Bradbury's 90th birthday. Glenn has now finished his work, and his magnificent interpretation of the "mechanical hound" can now be seen on his blog.

I don't know if I would go along with everything that Dr Joe Vitale says, but here he gives an good interpretation of Melville's Ahab, as depicted in the 1956 Moby Dick, scripted by Ray Bradbury.

If you have seen the title sequence of Ray Bradbury Theatre, you will know the Bradbury Building: it's the real life building in Los Angeles where we see Ray Bradbury (actually a stand-in) step out of the intricate iron elevator before entering his office. The building also featured prominently in Blade Runner and the Outer Limits tv episode "Demon with a Glass Hand", written by Harlan Ellison.

The Bradbury Building is not named after Ray Bradbury. You can find out who it is named after in this blog post at Van's OTW Collection. (There is much more about the Bradbury Building and its long science-fictional history on another page I have linked to before, at io9.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

FM returns, Weller speaks

Famous Monsters of Filmland, once a famous magazine about, er, returning. And the forthcoming issue features two doses of Ray Bradbury.

First is an interview, and second is a new short story, "Niblick". I have no idea what it's about, but it wouldn't be the first time that golf has featured in a Bradbury short. Read more about the resurrection of this undead magazine here!

More from Sam Weller. I promised myself not to post links to any more Listen to the Echoespublicity, simply because most of the reporting I've seen on the subject has been repetitive and derivative. However, here's something a little different: Weller interviewed on camera at Newcity Lit.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Critic Jonathan Rosenbaum has posted a brief note on his response to a recent re-viewing of Truffaut's film version of Fahrenheit 451. He notes in particular that Truffaut seems to be reflecting the Nazi occupation of France in the film, and cites a couple of scenes that support this idea.

It's an observation I have seen elsewhere, and is one that I have been considering in my own current study of the film. When you add this to some of the other pecularities of the film - the awkwardness of Truffaut working in a language (English) which he barefly spoke; the British studio practices which must have been so different to his experience of film-making in France; Truffaut's decision to style the film in opposition to the James Bond films - it's no wonder that the film seems so odd, and in some ways at odds with Bradbury's novel.

Rosenbaum viewed the film as part of a tie-in event for Listen to the Echoes. He apparently conversed with Bradbury and Sam Weller via Skype after the film.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Free Bradbury...

...well, actually it's free Brian James Freeman. His new book The Painted Darkness will be published in hardcover by Cemetery Dance later this year, but for a limited time it is being made available as a FREE PDF download. Absolutely free, no charges, no registration required, no nothing.

Bradbury comes into this in two ways. At the end of the PDF is a "roundtable", in which many leading writers (King, Blatty, Bradbury - just three names I noticed as I was skimming) are asked for their opinion of ebooks. Secondly, Bradbury is interviewed by Jon Eller about the future of publishing.

As you might expect, Bradbury is hostile to ebooks and much of modern technology, so the publisher is being quite clever to include Bradbury's hostility as part of the ebook itself.

You can get the PDF from this webpage.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Remembering Nard Kordell

It was with sadness that I read that Nard Kordell had passed away. For those who don't know, Nard was a Ray Bradbury fan like no other. He knew Bradbury personally, having first met him in the 1970s, and was the most prolific contributor to the Bradbury message boards.

Although I only barely knew Nard, I had come to know a fair bit about him - from his posts on the official Bradbury message board, and from email exchanges going back about eight years. I met him only once, briefly, two years ago, and was hoping to see him again this year. Unfortunately, time ran out.

I thought I would share a few random happy memories of Nard, so here goes.

There were the occasional items he sent me by post. A VHS tape copy of a rare Bradbury item. A copy of a large format newspaper/fanzine he had created many years before - unlike any fanzine I had ever seen. This was not your average photocopied or duplicated set of pages stapled together, but an honest to goodness newspaper, with proper typesetting, images, the lot, and created in the days before desktop publishing.

I don't recall ever really being able to send Nard anything remotely as interesting in return, except on one occasion. When I visited the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies in Indianapolis last year, I was able to rummage through the Center's file of Bradbury correspondence. In there I found a fan letter Nard had written to Bradbury...from 1963, when Nard was 19. I described it in an email, and Nard was either amused, or amazed, or a mix of both.

Over the years Nard dabbled with the web. He had his own web pages for a time, which included some of his photos of himself with Bradbury. After the site became defunct, he started blogging, and he had a Facebook page. Remnants of these are probably still out there in cyberspace. My favourite Nard web memory, though, was an accidental meeting we had on Second Life. There's a place called Bradburyville on Second Life, set up to celebrate Bradbury's work. One day, by sheer chance, Nard and I were both in there. Our avatars approached, and from his screen name, I guessed that Nard was Nard, so I introduced myself by typing in a greeting. Nard typed a reply. What Nard didn't realise was that his computer's microphone was active, and I could hear his voice as he muttered things like, "Is that Phil? How do I talk to him?"

In 2008, I met Nard in person for the first and only time. I was presenting at the Eaton Conference at the University of California, Riverside. Bradbury was to be there as guest of honour. Nard decided that would be a good opportunity for us to meet, and so we did. I don't honestly remember much of the conversation of that day, but I do have a clear memory of Nard as a smiling, amusing presence, liable to burst into song when somebody said something that suggested a familiar lyric. I also remember that, when Bradbury was becoming physically tired after signing hundreds of books for the lines of people that had come to see him, he asked Nard to find a way of shortening the queue.

All of this is trivia, but these are my only points of direct contact with Nard. And yet he made a big impact. In one of his last emails to me, he wrote of his near-death experience and how it gave him a glimpse of what was to come. Where others might be put in fear by such an experience, Nard was heartened - no, joyous! - because he knew there was something better beyond this life.

RIP, Nard.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Listening to those echoes

I've spent a few days reading Sam Weller's Listen to the Echoes, his collection of Bradbury interviews, and companion to his earlier biography The Bradbury Chronicles.

I quite like the book, although I don't think I have really learned anything new from it. That's not to criticise the book, as I'm sure many Bradbury readers will find something new here. It's just that when you've read Steven Aggelis' Conversations with Ray Bradbury and Bradbury's own Bradbury Speaks, it all becomes a little familiar.

I quite like one of Bradbury's phrases which crops up now and again throughout the book, which is something like "get your work done". It seems to be his response to all sorts of questions to do with coping with what life throws at you, and yet Bradbury claims not to be a workaholic. Indeed, his description of a typical day's work would support his non-workaholic claim. However, he just must be under-emphasising how much effort he would put into re-working his stories, as all the manuscripts I've seen show a lot of careful and considered deletions and edits.

What I didn't like about Listen to the Echoes is the endless catalogue of famous people Ray has known. If the famous people are worth discussing, I would have liked to see them discussed at length, not just used as a trivial throwaway.

But what I did like about the book is the breadth of its coverage. Bradbury isn't just asked about celebrity friends, or his own work, or his daily life; he is also asked about literature, poetry, painting, music, pop culture and high art.

Echoes is a useful sourcebook for anyone looking for quotable quotes from Bradbury, and has a good index. You just have to bear in mind that these are the views of an 89-year-old looking backwards. Anyone interested in a rounded view of how Bradbury sees the world would be well advised to also read Aggelis' Conversations with Ray Bradbury, which compiles interviews conducted over many decades of Bradbury's life and career.

Sam Weller is maintaining a blog to tie in with the book, which has recently included this essay by Bradbury on the death of a feline friend.

Friday, July 09, 2010

When Ray Passed Hedy on the May's Escalator

I stumbled on an account of how Ray Bradbury came to get a suitable ending for his play The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit. It involves the late Charles Rome Smith, Bradbury's long-time theatrical director...and Hedy Lamarr.

I have no idea whether it's strictly true, marginally embellished, or wholly imagined. But it's quite interesting. Read Steve Hauk's account of the events here.

Coming soon to a DVD store near you: Ray Bradbury's Chrysalis. Print ads for the DVD have started to appear, and the DVD is officially released on 27 July. More information can be found on the Chrysalis movie blog.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Weller, Black Francis

The Listen to the Echoes publicity machine rumbles onward! Sam Weller's book of Bradbury interviews is out, and picking up some positive reviews. Sam recently appeared on Chicago radio station WGN to talk to Bob Sirott about the book, Bradbury, David Bowie, Ringo Starr and Rod Serling. You can listen to the eleven minute interview here.

WGN's website also has this review of the book.

Sam also writes about the origin of the book in this article from Time Out.

Listen to the Echoes carries an introduction by Black Francis of The Pixies. He talks about his Bradbury connection in this interview.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Bradbury in song, Joe Messerli

The other day I stumbled across a blog post quoting the singer-songwriter Janis Ian and mentioning Ray Bradbury. It was a bit like walking into the middle of a conversation, in that I got the gist of what was being discussed, but had no idea of how the conversation got started.

Clicking around a bit, I eventually realised that singer-songwriter Janis Ian, probably best known for her 1975 song "At Seventeen", had produced a variation on that song called "Welcome Home (The Nebulas Song)", which can be downloaded here. The song contains dozens of SF references - authors, stories, novels, characters and situations.

The song was mentioned on Kristine Kathryn Rusch's blog, to which Janis posted a comment in which she identifies and explains all the references.

If you know a bit about SF, I think you should listen to the song first, and only afterwards read the explanation. See how many of the references you pick up!

By the way, Bradbury is name-checked in the first line.

Joe Messerli died last Wednesday at the age of 79. Who he? Only the guy who designed the Twilight Zone, that's all! He also worked on the title sequence of Bonanza, and was an animator and comic book artist. Read an obituary for Joe Messerli here. Read more about Joe's career on his own website, here.

There's more on Bradbury's (video screen) appearance at the recent Ray Harryhausen 90th birthday event at the Guardian's Film Blog.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Launch parties with Ray and Ray

Last week saw the launch of Sam Weller's book of Bradbury interviews, Listen to the Echoes. The event at the Mystery and Imagination bookstore in California attracted quite a bit of media attention. The LA Times reports on it here. Weller blogs about it here.

And if that's not enough, watch a video clip of the introductions on YouTube, here.

Further to my earlier post about Ray Harryhausen's 90th birthday, Harryhausen has opened an exhibition of his work in London at the London Film Museum. Fellow blogger Brian Sibley was there at the launch and has posted his account of the event, complete with photos of Mr H's mythic creations - such as this familiar Bradburyan Beast:

If you are wondering where you have seen this chap before, visit my page on The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rays at 90

Bradbury isn't the only Ray to reach the age of 90 this year. His lifelong friend Ray Harryhausen is also 90, and has just marked the occasion with a tribute evening at the British Film Institute. The event was hosted by John Landis, and included tributes from a host of Hollywood luminaries.

Even Bradbury put in an appearance, in a specially recorded video tribute.

I didn't attend the event, but I feel as if I was there thanks to this account of the festivities. Harryhausen's associate Arnold Kunert adds a lengthy comment clarifying the Bradbury-Harryhausen relationship.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rocket Summer

That excellent blog for all things Mars-related, Marooned - Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Books on Mars, is embarking on a story-by-story exploration of the "new" materials in The Martian Chronicles: the complete edition, recently published by Subterranean and PS (and already sold out). It's something I should be doing for my own website, but alas I don't have time at the moment.

Marooned also alerts us to this LA Times blog post, which says that the film rights to The Martian Chronicles have been newly optioned. Of course, this doesn't mean there will actually be a new film. The Chronicles has been optioned countless times, and Bradbury himself has written at least four different screenplay versions over the years. There's no indication yet that this new option will be any different. Fingers crossed, though...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pandemonium, Echoes, F451

According to this article, Ray Bradbury's Pandemonium Theatre Company has stopped running. Although the company has been playing to packed houses, it sounds as if ticket sales were not enough to keep the shows going. We can only hope that this is a temporary state of affairs, as there is no doubt that having his own theatre company has enabled Bradbury to do some unique work.

Meanwhile, reviews are beginning to appear for Sam Weller's forthcoming book Listen to the Echoes. This is a collection of transcribed interviews, originally conducted when Weller was researching for his authorised biography of Bradbury. One such review is this one from the Chicago Tribune. The publisher's page for the book is here, and Weller's new blog is here. (I wonder if he knows that the 'comments' feature of the blog is broken...)

File under "how did I miss that?": has been serializing Tim Hamilton's graphic novel version of Fahrenheit 451. Click these links to see each part:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Monday, June 21, 2010

Written By, painted by

The Writer's Guild of America West has a magazine called Written By. The latest issue has an article on Ray Bradbury, and a delightful caricature of Bradbury on the cover, created by artist Lou Romano. It also contains the first appearance of Bradbury's short story "The Dog in the Red Bandana".

I wouldn't say the article reveals anything new, but it does give a good, clear account of Bradbury's life and work, and is beatifully illustrated with some good photos, paintings and book cover art.

The full issue is now available to view online, or for download as a PDF.

Lou Romano gives a good account of how his artwork came into being, with lots of preliminary sketches and variants of the finished piece. Lou's blog post is here.

Another Pixar artist, Glenn Kim, has been working on some Bradbury-inspired imagery for Steven Paul Leiva's challenge to create artwork for Bradbury's 90th birthday. See Kim's Fahrenheit 451 imagery here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

RIP Al Williamson (1931-2010)...and Ballard on Bradbury

You have probably heard by now that Al Williamson has passed away. Williamson was a legendary comic artist who first came to prominence through EC Comics, which is where he did some great work with adaptations of Ray Bradbury stories.

If you do a Google search, you will find plenty of obituaries of Williamson, but I found this one the most interesting because it is full of illustrations chosen from across Williamson's career. There's even a Bradbury in there.

Over on is an essay by James Pardey on J.G.Ballard's early SF novels and illustrator David Pelham. It includes Ballard's thoughts on Ray Bradbury as a pioneer of "inner space", a label which is frequently attached to Ballard's own works.

And finally... Fahrenheit 451-style book-burning in the age of the iPad...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dandelion Wine Wedding

I've read Dandelion Wine. I've read its disappointing sequel Farewell Summer. I've read Summer Morning, Summer Night, the collection of Dandelion Wine leftovers.

I've read Dandelion Wine, the play; and heard the radio drama version.

I've seen (but didn't understand) the Russian TV miniseries based on Dandelion Wine.

But I've never heard of a Dandelion Wine wedding.

Until now.

And if that wasn't weird enough, here's a video for a song called "Bradbury", performed by an Argentinian band. Look out for Bradbury's face!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bradbury, Bradbury everywhere

There are some potentially interesting materials to help with the use of Fahrenheit 451 in the classroom at the website Shmoop, here. Some parts of it are unlockable only by paying money, but other parts are free. From a cursory glance, it's not clear to me what age range they are assuming, but it may be useful to some teachers.

I gave up watching the TV series Lost a couple of years ago, and have been amused at the amount of blogosphere coverage the series finale has garnered. I was more amused by this Los Angeles Times review which suggested how Ray Bradbury might have enlivened proceedings...

At the Huffington Post, a "college English instructor in Northern California" gives high praise to Ray Bradbury.

I finally received my copy of The Martian Chronicles: the Complete Edition. This large volume from Subterranean Press collects (supposedly) all of Bradbury's Mars stories, both the ones from the original Martian Chronicles and the ones that were published elsewhere. It also includes two complete Bradbury screenplay adaptations of the book. For my research into Bradbury's media work, this volume is a godsend; previously I had to make a trek to Indianapolis to inspect Bradbury's screenplays at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies.

I said "supposedly" above, not to question the editorial completeness of the Subterranean volume, but simply because I expect Bradbury has some more Martian tales lying around somewhere.

The Martian Chronicles: the Complete Edition is a handsome book, but there is little point in me trying to persuade you to save up to buy a copy... because it's already sold out!