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!