Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Time Magazine

Thanks to a post I saw on another blog, I have discovered that Time magazine has some of its historical content online. The particular item that drew my attention was this report from 1939 of the first-ever World Science Fiction Convention. This event, held in New York City, was attended by a young Ray Bradbury and some of his Californian friends such as Forry Ackerman.

Time also has a number of old reviews of Bradbury books, the most interesting of which are the older ones, when Bradbury was still establishing a reputation. For example, here is a review of Golden Apples of the Sun from when the book was first published.

And then there is this contemporary review of the 1966 Truffaut film of Fahrenheit 451, which has this to say of Julie Christie:

As for Christie, the picture strongly supports the widely held suspicion that this actress cannot actually act. Though she plays two women of diametrically divergent dispositions, they seem in her portrayal to differ only in their hairdos.
For all Time articles that mention Bradbury, click here. My only gripe is that the older articles are obviously taken from OCR-ed scans of print material, and suffer from occasionally corrupted text.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bradbury Non-Fiction

In 1960, Ray Bradbury wrote an article for Life magazine on the then new science of SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Life's archive is available on Google Books, so you can read the entire article for free here.

Seven years later, another Bradbury article for Life won him an award from the Aviation Space Writers Association. The article "An Impatient Gulliver Above Our Roofs" details Bradbury's impressions of his first visit to the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas, and of the Saturn/Apollo Moon programme. The full article, with some beautiful illustrations is here. Bradbury's acceptance speech for the award can be read here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tyrannosaurus Rex, Manuscripters Club

It's been a while since I found time to write any reviews of Ray Bradbury Theatre (you can see my overview of the series, and my reviews of episodes here). One of the episodes I haven't written about is "Tyrannosaurus Rex", based on a story which has also appeared in print as "The Prehistoric Producer".

It is undoubtedly one of the low points of the series.

If you want to know why, there is a neat review on the blog That Guy With The Glasses.

If you have never seen Ray Bradbury Theatre, you should be advised that not all the episodes are as awful as this ones sounds! If you want to find out more, you could do worse than buy the DVD set of the series, which is currently available from Amazon for an amazingly low ten dollars.

Over the years, many groups have had the support of Ray Bradbury. One of these is the Southwest Manuscripters Club, which apparently hosted the young Bradbury in 1949, around the time that his first novel The Martian Chronicles was being readied for publication. This article gives an account of Bradbury's connection with the group.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sketches of Bradbury

Back in August of last year, I attended Ray Bradbury's 90th birthday party in the Mystery & Imagination Bookshop in Glendale, California. While crowds packed the front of the shop trying to get a glimpse of Ray, in a quiet corner stood a fellow with a pencil and paper, sketching Bradbury from memory. Said fellow, it turns out, was Bill Goodwin.

Bill doesn't know exactly what became of that sketch, but he has more - such as the one below, which I can't help seeing as Ray-as-steam-locomotive.

(click on image to enlarge)

Although Bill can't locate his bookshop sketch, I happened to snatch a few seconds of video of him sketching. So, for your delectation and delight, here it is. To get the best view of the sketch, you may need to pick up your computer screen and rotate it through 90 degrees...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Treading the Boards

A recent college production of Bradbury's stage version of Fahrenheit 451 in Georgia has received a positive review. The technical aspects of this production sound interesting.

Just in time for St Patrick's Day was Pillar of Fire's production of Bradbury's Irish play Falling Upward in Alabama. Here is the delightful poster from the production. How many of the faces around the edge do you recognise?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bradbury Oddity

Bradbury's work has appeared in almost all media. One of the oddest items, though, is a short story which appeared in a magazine with an advertisement attached. "The Hour of Ghosts" was first published in Saturday Review on October 25 1969, and has not yet been collected in any of Bradbury's books, although it was anthologised in Peter Haining's Ghost Tour in 1991.

In December 1969, the story was reprinted in Playboy - as a centrefold, no less! This time, the story appeared with an advertising strapline:

In the science fiction of today lie the bits and pieces of tomorrow's reality. A reality that all of us in the Bell system are planning for today. Bell AT&T.

This version of the story can be viewed on Flickr, thanks to Sizemore who uploaded it: part one here, part two here.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Electric Runabouts

For at some time or other during the evening, everyone visited here; the neighbors down the way, the people across the street; Miss Fern and Miss Roberta humming by in their electric runabout, giving Tom or Douglas a ride around the block and then coming up to sit down and fan away the fever in their cheeks.

That's the first appearance of the electric car that features in Bradbury's Dandelion Wine. It is an odd device, as it triggers two contradictory thoughts about Green Town in the readers mind. First, it reminds us that Dandelion Wine is set in the past, where machines and vehicles were more primitive and somewhat more quaint than they are now. Second, though, it sets the stage for the idea that significant change is happening, both to the town and to the protagonist, Doug Spaulding. I always found it interesting that Bradbury didn't go for a conventional, petrol- (gas-) powered car, but went for something that seems more exotic and much more modern: an electric car.

What I hadn't appreciated was that, in the early days of the horseless carriage, electric cars genuinely vied with cars based on the internal combustion engine. This was simply because the early petrol-powered cars were quite inefficient and quite dirty. Lady drivers, in particular, were drawn to electric cars because of their cleanliness and their lesser need for maintenance. So it seems Miss Robert and Miss Fern were not nearly as far-sighted as I first thought; they were simply going with what was the norm for when Dandelion Wine is set. The image on the left, showing a Baker Electric Car, is typical advertising from the early twentieth century, with the female driver clearly being targeted.

There is more information on the marketing of Baker cars in this post from the Bobbins and Bombshells blog. And for more in depth discussion of the history of electric cars for ladies, there's this academic article.

Finally, here's Jay Leno with his own 1909 Baker electric car!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Bradbury's British Debut

Sixty-two years and one month ago the British Guardian newspaper carried its first review of a writer's first book. The book was Dark Carnival by Ray Bradbury, in its British edition from Hamish Hamilton publishers - which was slightly different from the US Arkham House edition.

Here, in its entirety, is what reviewer Charles Marriott had to say of young Bradbury's first short story collection:

Ingenuity rather than imagination is responsible for the twenty stories in Dark Carnival by Ray Bradbury, with the result that, though several of them, like the title one, are painstakingly nasty, they do not make your flesh creep. It is a dangerous thing for a young writer to get a reputation for the macabre.

With hindsight, I think it's safe to say that the reputation for the macabre didn't do Bradbury any harm.

I am rather baffled, though, by that phrase "like the title one", because Dark Carnival doesn't have a title story! The contents of the Hamish Hamilton edition were as follows:

The Homecoming
The Jar
The Lake
The Tombstone
The Smiling People
The Emissary
The Traveller
The Small Assassin
The Crowd
The Handler
Let's Play 'Poison'
Uncle Einar
The Wind
The Night
There Was an Old Woman
The Dead Man
The Man Upstairs
The Next in Line

If you are familiar with the US edition of Dark Carnival, you will notice that missing from the table of contents are "The Maiden", "Reunion", "The Coffin", "Interim", "Jack in the Box", "The Scythe", "The Night Sets". I believe post-war paper shortages were partly responsible for the UK edition being reduced from the US version.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Inspired by Ray? Borrowing From Bradbury

Bradbury has written hundreds of short stories and dozens of books, so it is not surprising that some of his ideas turn up elsewhere. Sometimes it will be plagiarism, as in the case of Playhouse 90's "A Sound of Different Drummers", which stole from Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Other times it will be playful homage, such as The Simpsons' passing reference to "A Sound of Thunder" in Time and Punishment.

Here is another case where there is an uncanny resemblance to pre-existing Bradbury material:

21 Jump Street - "Woolly Bullies"
This 80s/90s series, co-created by Stephen J. Cannell, has an episode about bullying. One character recalls his childhood torment at the hand of a bully. Now grown up, in order to put his demons to rest he decides to seek out his former tormentor... and is both surprised and satisfied to discover that the former bully is now a worthless, powerless, low-life. The Bradbury connection? A short story called "The Utterly Perfect Murder" (1971), which has an almost identical denouement.

The entire 21 Jump Street episode is on YouTube. The scenes most closely reflecting Bradbury's story start around 38 minutes in.

Also on YouTube is Bradbury's own dramatisation of "The Utterly Perfect Murder", from Ray Bradbury Theatre. The dramatisation differs from the original short story in some respects, but the meeting with the former bully is played pretty much as in the original short. Here's the section containing the adult meeting with the former bully:

Of course, Bradbury's story has that whole "here comes a murder" idea, so it differs from the Jump Street episode - but both stories hang upon that moment of discovery of the pitiful thing that the once powerful bully has become.

Is this plagiarism? Accidental borrowing? Homage?

My thanks to Cori for first alerting me to "Woolly Bullies".

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Letter...and F451 again

The always fascinating blog Letters of Note recently posted a 1990s letter from Ray Bradbury. Bradbury was asked about an obstacle in his life that he had overcome. Read the letter - which has been put up for auction - here.

And...yet another stage production of Fahrenheit 451, this one by a school in Savannah, Georgia.