Friday, April 29, 2011

Bradbury at the Mall

I have briefly blogged before on how Bradbury invented the modern shopping mall - not in a science-fictional way in one of his stories, but in a for-real way through a series of essays.

Bradbury's book Yestermorrow includes these essays, written when Bradbury was associated with the architectural company Jon Jerde Associates. Among Bradbury's innovations, none of which sound terribly startling today, were the idea that we want to get lost, and so shopping areas should have pathways that we can't see the end of, and occasional unexpected dead ends. Another is the idea that we don't go to malls to shop; we actually go to eat, and that a good shopping mall or plaza needs restaurants. Bradbury's ideas were not written just as idle fantasies, but as conceptual pieces to inspire Jerde's designs. From them, a whole generation of influential mall designs emerged, and the now ubiquitous "food court" came into being.

Dave Allen, writing in the Contra Costa Times, has discussed Bradbury's ideas further - using the occasion of an October 2010 Bradbury visit to Pomona, California as an opportunity to flag up Bradbury's earlier visits to the city, and his attempts to encourage Pomona to adopt some of his ideas for downtown regeneration. Allen's article is here, and he posted additional information, including newspaper clippings, on his blog here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Powerhouse

Steven Paul Leiva, who last year co-ordinated Ray Bradbury Week in Los Angeles, has put up a new blog post in which he writes about Ray Bradbury's old family home in Venice, California, and the famous powerhouse next door - which seved as the inspiration for the story called, naturally, "The Powerhouse". He also includes some of Jon Eller's photos of the last days of the powerhouse.

(The post begins with Leiva's adventures on his first visit to London. Interesting, but scroll down halfway for the Bradbury stuff!)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

First appearances - Epoch

One of the fun(?) things about tracking Ray Bradbury's publication history is trying to find out more about some of the more obscure periodicals that carried his work.

The short story "Time Intervening" was originally published in 1947 as "Interim". Confusingly, Bradbury used this same original title for a completely unrelated story in his first book Dark Carnival.

"Time Intervening"/"Interim" first appeared not in some pulp monthly, nor in a slick quarterly, but in something more scholarly. Epoch: a Quarterly of Contemporary Literature is a literary journal published by Cornell University. Its first issue, in fall 1947, featured not only this Bradbury short, but work by John Ciardi and e.e. cummings (the latter appearing with uncharacteristic upper-case initials).

Six years later, in Winter 1953, another Bradbury piece made its first appearance in Epoch: "The Golden Kite, the Silver Wind", better known today as one of the tales in The Golden Apples of the Sun.

Epoch is still running today. In 2009, another Cornell quarterly, Ezra, carried this article about Epoch's history.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chronicling Mars

Of all Ray Bradbury's stage plays, by far the most difficult to stage must be The Martian Chronicles. Bradbury wrote the play himself, from his own "novel" - but of course the "novel" is really a collection of short stories, woven together into a loose chronology.

The play, somehow, has to take the fragmentary narrative of the book and turn it into something with a unity of time, place and event. And all this without a central protagonist!

Nevertheless, the sheer variety of moods, tone and characters in The Martian Chronicles gives it a great deal of appeal, and this is no doubt why it is a popular choice for high school theatre groups to perform. Which brings me to this sympathetic review of a recent high school production in Farmington, New Mexico. The production is over now, so there's no point in my saying "break a leg"; but I hope it went well.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Let's get critical

The Stories of Ray Bradbury: a Critical Edition is a new series of books which I have mentioned before, the latest publishing project from the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. I'm still working through the newly published Volume 1 and hope to put up a page for it fairly soon. For now, I'll just say that this remarkable book presents a new way of looking at the familiar stories, and a first opportunity (for most of us) to look at some some of the less familiar stories. The apparently obvious strategy of putting the stories in chronological order shows how unintentionally misleading Bradbury's original collections can be when it comes to considering his developing authorship. It also turns out to be a strategy fraught with difficulty, thanks to Bradbury's propensity to re-working his texts.

The Center's home university, UIPUI, has a page which explains the aims of the Critical Edition, quoting co-editor Bill Touponce. You can buy the book from Amazon and elsewhere.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


The blog Den of Geek, by way of introducing a DVD release of the movie Monsters, joins a long line of commentators who credit Ray Bradbury with inventing the "primeval creature causes destruction in the modern world" subgenre. The justification for this claim is Bradbury's short story "The Fog Horn", once and famously filmed as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.

The claim is perhaps slightly exaggerated, in that many of the key elements of this subgenre originated with the movie amd are nowhere to be found in Bradbury's original story. However, any grace and pathos typically found in such movies are most definitely to be found in "The Fog Horn". And it's but a short step from the central image in Bradbury's story to the imagery of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, which was achieved chiefly through the efforts of Bradbury's lifelong friend, Ray Harryhausen.

Read more about Bradbury's contribution to The Beast... on my page for the movie, here - and other posts relating to the Rhedosaurus here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Keep burning those books!

Another Fahrenheit 451 stage production is receiving positive reviews. This one is in Pittsfield, Massachussets. According to J.Peter Bergman of The Advocate, this production "satisfies on just about all levels".

Who could ask for more?

Read all about it here. And read more in The Berkshire Eagle.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Mixed Reviews...

Ray Bradbury's affection for Ireland and the Irish is well known, and well documented in his fictional account of his time in Dublin, Green Shadows, White Whale. The feeling isn't always mutual, unfortunately. On 2nd March 1963, the Irish Times published a brief review of Bradbury's then new book Something Wicked This Way Comes:

Finally to a novel which, because, it seems, I have read only the best of Ray Bradbury, appeared to me to be a sorry lapse. It is a piece of horrific whimsy about a sort of satanic carnival which arrives outside a little town in the middle of the night with all sorts of weird devices for the destruction of its citizens, in particular of the two wholesome boy heroes. It seemed to me incredibly puerile, but I am informed that is is "usual" Ray Bradbury, and that a volume in which a brilliant and truly horrible story called "The Next in Line" appeared is not typical. Perhaps, therefore, readers who really know their Ray Bradbury will not be too disappointed with his latest offering.

The review was written
by Irish novelist and short story writer Val Mulkerns. I appreciate her honesty in admitting to only a partial knowledge of Bradbury's body of work, but wonder at the editorial wisdom of allocating the review to someone apparently ill-equipped to appreciate its qualities.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Kilimanjaro Device

"The Kilimanjaro Device" is one of Bradbury's Hemingway-inspired short stories, and was first published in Life magazine in January 1965 under the title "The Kilimanjaro Machine". Life didn't publish much fiction, so this story's appearance there was exceptional.

The Life archive is fully accessible through Google Books, and so we can enjoy the story - and illustrations - as it originally appeared. Here is the editor's introduction, and here is the story itself.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Sneak Previews

Things are busying up here at Bradburymedia, as I have been given the privilege of a sneak preview of some new Bradbury-related items. I can't post about these in any detail yet, but reviews will be forthcoming at some point:
Becoming Ray Bradbury is the latest work from Bradbury scholar Jon Eller of Indiana University. Jon is currently checking the page proofs and readying this volume for publication through the University of Illinois Press. This literary biography is currently planned for publication in September 2011, and traces the development of Bradbury the writer from childhood through to the career turning point represented by the Moby Dick film experience of the 1950s. Based on the couple of chapters I've read so far, the book looks like a perfect complement to both Sam Weller's The Bradbury Chronicles and Jon's other project (with Bill Touponce), the critical edition of The Collected Short Stories of Ray Bradbury.

The Martian Chronicles is the latest audio production from Colonial Radio Theatre. This is due for release on CD later in 2011, and is the first full adaptation of the Chronicles in any medium. (The 1980 TV mini-series, and the several abortive attempts to turn the Chronicles into a feature film, skipped some of the stories and generally ignored much of the linking material that gives the book its unique character.) The adaptation is by Jerry Robbins, who successfully transformed The Halloween Tree into audio a short while ago. I'm still listening to this mammoth production, which looks like running to half-a-dozen CDs, for a running time of around 333 minutes.

I am grateful to Jon and Jerry for being given the opportunity to look at these creations at such an early stage. Once I've finished reading and listening, I hope to be able to give a more detailed review of each.