Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bradbury as Verbal Architect

Thanks to Jeff Krulik, here are two video features from the National Trust for Historic Preservation featuring interviews with Ray Bradbury. In the first, he proclaims himself to be a "verbal architect". And in the second, he tells the story of the legendary "Brown Room" at Clifton's Cafeteria in downtown Los Angeles. Trust Modern recognizes this space as an unheralded landmark, important to the history of American literature.

You can read more about Clifton's Cafeteria and its historical significance here and here.

Monday, June 27, 2011


There should be a little thumbnail image just here, but Blogger's image uploading facility wasn't working when I tried to post this. Anyhoo...

Here's an amusing little item from the website Timothy Sweeney's Internet Tendency: a list of things overheard on Ray Bradbury Theatre. I can't swear that these are all genuine, but they have the ring of truth - and that's good enough for me. Here's a brief extract:

Only two people left on Mars!
Oh dear!
Kinda strange, huh?
You run ahead! Make sure it’s safe!
You down there! You there!
I’m like a window with no glass!
Got a real beauty of a letter from my Uncle George! Sure is nice getting mail.

I like that this takes the appearance of poetry. And the surfeit of exclamation marks makes it look like Ray Bradbury's poetry.

Read the entire list here.

Further to my previous post about the late Alan Neal Hubbs, I'd like to mention another online tribute to Alan. One of his regular actors, Roses Prichard, has put together a Facebook photo album with memories of their time working together. It contains lots of behind-the-scenes photos with Roses' comments. You probably need to have a Facebook account to view it, but here's the direct link.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Raydio Gaga?

I like a bit of experimental sound, and I like a bit of Bradbury. So what's not to like about Raydio Broadcasts, a "series of audio vignettes based on recombining and rearranging bits and pieces from Ray Bradbury's huge output of inspiring literature"?

According to their creators, Charles Rice Goff III and Justynn Tyme, the collection called Mrs Morris Goes to Mars came about like this:

We sampled bits from radio, television, and movie adaptations of Bradbury's works. We read and caused computer voice emulators to read brief excerpts from Bradbury's stories. We cut and pasted bits from Bradbury's recorded interviews.

We combined these Bradbury samples with samples from other media sources and with original "music" to produce six recordings, each of which tells a unique story that provides listeners with a variety of interpretations. I should emphasize here that we make no claims on the copyrights of any of these sampled materials. What we have achieved here is purely an experiment in art and is in no way a capitalistic enterprise.

You can here their...strange...concoctions on, where the entire collection is available for listening and download.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

RBT: Top Ten Episodes

Someone over on IMDB has posted a list of their top ten episodes of Ray Bradbury Theatre. It's an interesting list, and inevitably got me thinking about my favourite episodes.

In some cases, "best episode" would coincide with "best story" - but in other cases, this simple equation doesn't hold. There are great stories that made good episodes, such as "The Long Years" and "A Sound of Thunder"... but also great stories that didn't turn out so well on screen, such as "Skeleton" (which I tend to think is almost unfilmable), "The Man Upstairs" (just too badly made) and "Tyrannosaurus Rex" (please don't make me watch that one again).

The best episodes strike a happy balance of fulfilling our memory of the story, but surprising us with something unexpected in the plotting, shooting or - more often than not - in the casting or performances. I quite like "Gotcha" and "The Crowd", although they both look quite dated. "The Small Assassin" never fails to hold my attention, largely thanks to Cyril Cusack's turn as the doctor. "Mars is Heaven!" is just about as good as it could be on TV - although I think radio is capable of doing this story more effectively. And "Emissary" and "By the Numbers" are always watchable.

Looking over the entire episode list again, I am reminded that Ray Bradbury Theatre started with great promise - look at the cast list: William Shatner, Jeff Goldblum, Drew Barrymore! It then shifted in subsequent seasons into a really mixed bag of international co-productions, with dreadfully variable production values. But toward the end, it hit its stride, and produced some strong, consistent episodes.

What are your top ten episodes?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Martian Chronicles Movie

I've followed the movie business for long enough to know not to get excited when a book is optioned by a major producer or studio. Hollywood especially is prone to put movies through countless stages of development - development hell, they call it - before finally abandoning all plans. Somewhere, just outside Burbank I suspect, is an elephant's graveyard of script page discards where lie the abandoned hopes and dreams of numberless screenwriters.

So I will not be getting excited by the interview at - although it is with the quite successful producer John Davis, who is planning to make The Martian Chronicles into a movie. It seems he has met Ray Bradbury (that's good news), although he seems to think 90-year-old Ray is 94. Read the interview here.

If you're looking for a good adaptation of the Chronicles, don't forget that Colonial's audio adaptation is now on release!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Free Reads

Looking for some Ray Bradbury fiction to read for free? Look no further than Google Books, where you will find two issues of Boy's Life magazine that contain Bradbury stories!

From December 1961 is this Christmas number containing a reprint of the 1949 short story "The Man":

Then, from 1987, comes this reprint of 1955's "The Time Machine" - which may be familiar, because this story is also a chapter in Bradbury's novel Dandelion Wine:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

RIP: Alan Neal Hubbs

It is with sadness that I report the death of Alan Neal Hubbs, who for many years was the director of Ray Bradbury's stage plays for the Pandemonium Theatre Company.

Alan Neal Hubbs with Ray Bradbury. Photo courtesy Robert Kerr.

I met Alan briefly last year at Ray's 90th birthday party. I recognised him from photos I'd seen on the web, so I approached him and said, "Are you Alan Neal Hubbs?" He looked puzzled, then his face took on a broad smile as I told him that I had never met him before, never seen any of his plays, but I had been following his work from the UK, and posting about it on the web.

He may have been thinking that I was a lunatic stalker, but he reacted with genuine humility. Shortly afterwards, Alan was among the many party guests who took to the microphone to toast Ray Bradbury.

I can't claim to know a great deal of Alan's life story, but I have pieced together information from various sources to give the broad brush strokes of his career. He was a student of theatre at the University of Southern California in the late 1960s. His interest in Bradbury was evident here: he reported that his first Bradbury production was undertaken in 1967, and his first official association with the author was in a 1970 staging of The Martian Chronicles.

It was at USC that he worked with John Blankenchip, the founder of Festival Theatre USC-USA, a group of students and alumni that performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and toured elsewhere in Europe - London, Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin. Alan joined the group, and spent much of his time in Europe, only returning to the US in the early 2000s.

Alan's work in Edinburgh included various acting roles, as well as directing, designing and writing. As a director, he took charge of productions that included Tennessee Williams' A Perfect Analysis Given by a Parrot (1969) and Edward Albee's Seascape (1979). He was the writer and lyricist of Revue U.S. (1979). Other European productions he was involved with included the European premiere of Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles in 1975, and the world premiere of Something Wicked This Way Comes in 1994.

Alan returned to the US in late 2001, and soon joined director Charles Rome Smith as a member of Ray Bradbury's Pandemonium Theatre company. When Smith passed away, Alan took on the role of artistic director for the company. His first Pandemonium production as director was October 2003's Something Wicked This Way Comes, presented in Santa Monica. The review at Curtain said that "Hubbs...finds the mystery and theatricality in the play".

Not all of the Pandemonium Productions would hit the right note, if the critics are to be believed. In September 2007 Alan directed Dandelion Wine, which is possibly one of Bradbury's most difficult plays to pull off. The play is a peculiar mix of quaint small-town America with a mournful twist that is largely original to the play (and absent in the novel the play is derived from). According to one review in the Pasadena Weekly, Alan "allowed some of the syrup of the piece to obscure a sense of foreboding that lies at the heart of Dandelion Wine. Bradbury’s adaptation of his own work is extremely subtle in introducing that undercurrent; so much so that it is almost lost in the minutia of stage life, a circumstance to which Hubbs contributes."

One of Alan's greatest successes was Fahrenheit 451, which he directed in 2008. This is another tough play, which seems to demand great control over both the nuances of performance and the integration of technology, such as Bradbury's famous wallscreen TVs, seashell earphones - and the Mechanical Hound. According to, Alan got the balance right: "Hubbs' clever staging and focus never overshadows Bradbury's substance." Among his innovations was fleshing out "The Mildred Show" with an all-seeing projected announcer that dominated the stage.

In an 2008 interview about this production, Alan spoke of the importance of ensemble players in Bradbury plays, most of which seem to have a large cast. He also draw on his experience of British and American audiences, arguing that Americans go to watch a play, while Europeans go to hear a play. Bradbury, he claimed, dramatised Fahrenheit 451 in a mid-Atlantic mode, and it is important to listen to what the characters have to say perhaps more than paying attention to the technical details - details which he had evidently taken great care to get right.

Among Alan's other successes were:

Yestermorrows (2009) - "impeccably directed by Alan Neal Hubbs… as always a flawless cast has been chosen," according to The Tolucan Times.

The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit (2009) - "The fracas that results is a slow-motion hoot, realized by director Alan Neal Hubbs...and the cast to the hilt," according to the Los Angeles Times.

Ray Bradbury is one of the few writers to have maintained his own production company, and that company has been blessed by a loyal ensemble of players and a series of reliable, creative directors. I met Alan Neal Hubbs only once, and the encounter lasted mere minutes. Regrettably, I never did get to see one of his productions. But there is no doubt that his creative contribution to the longevity of Bradbury's stage works is significant, and should be remembered and celebrated.

To end this post, here are some opportunities to hear Alan Neal Hubbs:

First is this 2008 audio interview from Hollywood 2020, in which he discusses how he came to work with Bradbury, and details the complexity of directing Fahrenheit 451.

Second, here is Alan on video, on stage at the Fremont Center introducing Ray Bradbury to the audience who have assembled to watch The Invisible Boy:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bradbury 13 - on air!

British listeners get a rare chance to hear broadcasts of the classic 1980s radio series Bradbury 13 starting this weekend. The series - about which I have raved extensively - is being broadcast on Saturdays and Sundays at 6pm (and repeated at 12.30am), on the digital station Radio 4 Extra (formerly BBC 7).

Episode details for the broadcasts are here. 4Extra's content is streamed live, and most material is also available for catch-up listening on its web page. I assume this show will be available via these methods.

My page about Bradbury 13, telling the full story of the series' production with rare photos from producer Mike McDonough, can be viewed here.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Influential SF

New Scientist magazine has a mini-feature about SF, inspired by the British Library exhibition on the subject. H.G.Wells gets a couple of mentions, and so does Bradbury's classic short story "A Sound of Thunder". Read the feature and enjoy the wonderful imagery here.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Feeling Creative?

The library of Ray Bradbury's home town Waukegan is organising a creative competition - for writers, artists, composers and others. Modest prizes are on offer (50 USD for Waukegan residents; certificates for non-residents), with the opportunity for winning entries to be displayed in the library and read at the annual Bradbury Storytelling Festival.

This year, all entries are to be based on Bradbury's classic short story "The April Witch".

Full details, including a downloadable entry form, are here.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Odds and Ends

The blog Modern Mechanix has reproduced a rare Bradbury appearance: his poem "Where Robot Mice And Robot Men Run Round In Robot Towns", as it appeared in the magazine Interface Age in 1978. The poem's first appearance was in Bradbury's book of the same title (Knopf hardcover, 1977).

Some things you see on these interwebs are just too bizarre for words. Maybe this is why links were invented. See what you make of this!