Saturday, December 29, 2012

Klaatu Barada Nikto...

Everyone must surely know The Day The Earth Stood Still, the 1951 SF film. Directed by Robert Wise - the editor of Citizen Kane and future producer-director of both West Side Story and The Sound Of Music - it was one of the first serious Hollywood science fiction movies, and a significant contibution to that wave of near-paranoid cold war SF on the big screen. Forget the 2008 Keanu Reeves re-make; Michael Rennie remains the definitive Klaatu.

The 1951 film was scripted by Edmund H. North, and based on Harry Bates' short story "Return of the Master", a story which still reads well today.

But did you know that the early 1980s nearly saw the return of Klaatu, in a sequel written by Ray Bradbury?

Bradbury's screen treatment for Twentieth Century-Fox was entitled The Evening Of The Second Day, and was drafted in March 1981, with revisions completed in September 1981. Bradbury was initially opposed to the idea of such a sequel. According to Starlog magazine, he told the studio "Don't do it. The original film is so beautiful. Why don't you blow it up on larger film stock and re-release it, because nobody wants to see a sequel."

The studio bosses replied, "Yes, but we want you to do it."

Bradbury described his plot for the film like this:

The return of Klaatu. He comes back under refrigeration because he has been dead, semi-dead. His body is encased in ice so you wouldn't see him very well and we wouldn't have to change characters.

Klaatu's daughter brings him back and they land on Earth at Cape Canaveral on Christmas Eve. They signify their arrival, proving how powerful they are by lighting all the towers all the way down Cape Canaveral. Oh wow! I thought it would be terrific if we could show you all the towers lit like Christmas trees on Christmas Eve. They're offering a promise, aren't they? A gift to the world. They stay around for a while and at the story's end, on New Year's Eve, they take off for the universe. Of course, that's a celebration also - and along the way, there's the usual Bradbury optimism.

I liked some of the ideas I had. They were very visual. Of course, you have to out-metaphor the other film. And what is there left to do [laughs].
Starlog magazine, Sept 1981, p23

A few days ago I remarked that Bradbury wrote little that was related to Christmas, so this film would have been a notable exception. It's certainly typical of Bradbury that he would be seduced by a strong central image,  and curious that he should have chosen a Christmas setting for the return of Klaatu, especially since some critics have emphasised the Christ-like attributes and behaviour of the original  character.

Would Bradbury's treatment have made a good film? It is is difficult to tell. I have no idea which director (if any) was attached to the project, nor whether this would be a "major motion picture" or just a cheap cash-in sequel. In 1981 Hollywood was still trying to come to terms with the Star Wars phenomenon, with lots of attempts to cash in on George Lucas' unexpected box-office smash. For every Blade Runner or ET, there were a dozen cheap and embarrassing Star Wars knock-offs.

In any case, Bradbury's screen treatment didn't progress to a screenplay, and the project faded away. Just another Bradbury film project that might have been.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fame at last!

Whaddya know, Ray Bradbury is now a Famous Author!

Here's an interview from the series Day at Night, which was recorded in 1974. Bradbury refers to Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) as being published "eight or nine years ago", but he was a couple of years off as the actual airdate of the interview was 21 January 1974). It has many of the familiar interview questions and Bradbury anecdotes, but one or two novelties such as the opening question about fantasy in relation to fantasising.

Incidentally, the whole aechive of Day at Night is online at CUNY-TV, and includes an amazing roster of interviewees.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Seasons Greetings!

I'm sure I've said this before, but Christmas isn't a season usually associated with Ray Bradbury. He was more of an October guy. One of the few Bradbury compositions set at Christmas was "The Gift", a TV script he wrote for the 1950s series Steve Canyon. You can read my review of this episode here.

As 2012 draws to a close and people start summing up the year, a few more Bradbury tributes have begun to appear, usually grouped with other "people we lost this year". Here are three such short tributes, from Time, the Los Angeles Times and

Sunday, December 16, 2012


AboutSF is an information resource on science fiction from Kansas University. The AboutSF website carries materials aimed largely at teachers of science fiction, but much of it will also be of general interest.

Until recently, AboutSF produced a semi-regular podcast. Some of the episodes were based around readings of short stories or novel excerpts, but a number were derived from archive recordings of interviews with major figures in the history of modern SF, most of them conducted by John C. Tibbetts, conducted in the 1980s and 1990s.

Most of the Tibbetts interviews are relayed unedited. You hear Tibbetts counting down to the start of each segment; you hear the microphone being passed from one speaker to another; you hear the interviewee's telephone going off in mid-interview. A trivial element perhaps, but when the interview is a rarity such as L.Sprague de Camp and his wife Catherine Crook de Camp in conversation, it feels like stepping back in time.

Of interest to Bradburymedia readers will be the following:
  • Robert Bloch - the author of Psycho, and a friend of Ray Bradbury for many years, who talks about his early career as a protege of H.P.Lovecraft, and about the ups and downs of being so closely associated with a single work (Psycho) when one's body of work is actually vast and remarkably diverse
  • L.Sprague de Camp - author of Lest Darkness Fall and dozens of other novels of SF and fantasy, and also the author of "A Gun For Dinosaur", the other classic SF short story about going back in time and hunting tyrannosaurs. Mr and Mrs de Camp talk about their remarkable collaborative work of many decades.
  • Jack Williamson - golden age SF novelist who was also one of the first academics to study SF. Williamson knew Bradbury and was one of Bradbury's mentors in his early career.
Other interviewees include Poul Anderson and Kim Stanley Robinson.

Full details of these fascinating archive recordings can be found on the AboutSF podcast page, here.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Jon Eller lecture online

On 8 November 2012, Bradbury scholar Jon Eller presented the John D. Barlow Lecture at his home institution of Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis. In the lecture, Jon gives an account of Bradbury's development as an author, and shows how the later decades of Bradbury's career were drawn more towards Hollywood and the space programme, and less towards original fiction.

That said, he also points out the remarkable output of Bradbury's final decade, which saw the publication of two novels and many other books of short stories, poetry and essays.

Jon titled his lecture "Cry the Cosmos", after Bradbury's famous space-age essay for Life magazine. The lecture is now available in its entirety on YouTube, and the video includes images from Jon's presentation and a question and answer session.You can view the lecture here.

Friday, December 07, 2012

I name this intersection...Bradbury Square!

This photo, from the Los Angeles Times, captures the naming of Ray Bradbury Square in Los Angeles yesterday.

Read the LA Times account of the event here.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Today: the naming of Ray Bradbury Square

Today is December 6th, and at 2pm in downtown Los Angeles the intersection of Fifth and Flower will be named as Ray Bradbury Square. I've blogged about it before, but the best explanation of what it's all about comes from the man who has made it all happen, Steven Paul Leiva. Steven wrote about it for the Huffington Post - read his article here.

Once again, here is the flyer for the dedication ceremony (cick to enlarge):

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ray Bradbury Square

The dedication of Ray Bradbury Square has been confirmed for Thursday 6th December at 2pm, and a list of speakers has been published.

Ray Bradbury Square is in Los Angeles, located at the intersection of Fifth St and Flower St. This very urban crossroads doesn't look like the sort of place Bradbury would identify with, but to one side of the  intersection is a small park adjacent to the Los Angeles Public Library. It is in this park that the dedicatory sign will be mounted... and now it all begins to make sense, since Bradbury is strongly identified with libraries.

The speakers at the dedication ceremony will include the actor Joe Mantegna, whose credits include the Bradbury-scripted The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit. Others of note include the City's Librarian, John Szabo; the SF writer David Brin; Bradbury's daughter Sue Bradbury Nixon; Bradbury's biographer Sam Weller; and the co-ordinator of Ray Bradbury Week 2010, Steven Paul Leiva.

The event is open to the public. For more information, click on the flyer below.

Flyer - click to embiggen

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bradbury, the Midwest and ROSEBUD

Further to my recent post about Rosebud magazine, editor and publisher Rod Clarke has told me a bit more about his background and motivations for starting the magazine, now approaching its twentieth year in print. I was aware of his (and Rosebud's) Wisconsin connection, but I had not worked out how this might connect to Bradbury. This is what Rod tells me:

Having grown up in a small village in the American Midwest, I have always identified with Mr. Bradbury’s work, especially the stories with “October themes,” since I am an October baby, having just turned 65 on October 16th, and I have always been enchanted by the wonderful autumn colors of the Midwest. My wife and I live on 20 acres of rural land in southeast Wisconsin in a 140-year-old farmhouse I heat with wood I cut myself.

I worked for August Derleth’s literary publishing house Stanton & Lee in the eighties, but I never met the man. However his influence, and the inspiration he drew from the Wisconsin land have always stuck with me; in particular the wonderful balance he struck in his work between the natural and the supernatural, fact and fantasy. Derleth, as you know, provided publishing outlets for fantasy, sci-fi and horror writers old and young, including many greats of the Weird Tales crowd, Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Bloch, and many more. I would like to think that Rosebud follows Derleth and Bradbury’s independent imaginative literary tradition in the American Midwest . 

Rosebud will celebrate its twentieth year of operation as an independent, self-financed literary magazine in the autumn of 2013.

August Derleth, of course, was behind Arkham House, the first publisher to put out a book by Bradbury: the 1947 short story collection Dark Carnival. Some years later, Bradbury let Dark Carnival slip out of print, and he chose to re-write many of its stories for a revised collection called The October Country - and he dedicated this revised collection to August Derleth.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pursuing the Whale

My researches have recently turned back towards Ray Bradbury's work on Moby Dick (John Huston, 1956) and - perhaps more importantly - the influence this experience had on his own later creations such as Leviathan '99, Something Wicked This Way Comes and Green Shadows, White Whale.

After watching the Huston movie again, I started casting around for behind-the-scenes information on the film, and stumbled on a fascinating post on a blog called Matte Shot: a Tribute to Golden Era Special Effects. It includes some rare images of the whale and boat miniatures used in the film, and some informed speculation on the craftsmen who brought the film's effects work to the screen. Read all about it here.

My own review of the film is here - although it really needs updating, since Bradbury's version of the screenplay has since been published, and shows that the vast majority of the film sticks to Bradbury's script, although the final act shows some small but significant deviations from it, especially in the behaviour and implied motivations of Starbuck.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bradbury Inspires Exhibition

An art gallery in Ray Bradbury's old home town of Venice, California, is currently staging an exhibition of works related to Bradbury. In fact, L&M Gallery is located on the exact spot where Bradbury lived in the 1940s, and where he wrote some of his early works in including much of The Martian Chronicles. The exhibition runs until January 2013. Here's some more detail from the Gallery's press release:

Curated by Yael Lipschutz in honor of Bradbury and his journey into the red unknown, the exhibition will include the original manuscript of The Martian Chronicles, alongside artists ranging from Yves Klein—whose mysterious blue sponge sculpture from 1958 is as strange and disconcerting as any Mars rock—to Larry Bell, Jonah Freeman & Justin Lowe, Matthew Ritchie, and Vija Celmins, whose exquisite renderings of the cosmos serve to propel the viewer forward through space as we travel with Bradbury on his interstellar mission. Some works directly invoke the Red Planet, such as Ed Ruscha’s Hold on For a Minute, I’m No Martian (1980), and Tom Sachs’ Phonkey (2012), a large-scale sculptural tableau, in which a lone radio sits silent, stranded atop a scorching Martian terrain.

Cordella (1988-1992), an ethereal blue resin and fiberglass plank by the late John McCracken, (1934-2011) more abstractly suggests Bradbury and the perceptual doors of the mind he opened with his literature. Mars represented not only a stage upon which the writer projected our dreams and fears as a society, but another dimension of thought. Today, as exploration of the fourth planet from the Sun continues, we revisit this philosophic arena.

“Myth, seen in mirrors, incapable of being touched, stays on,” wrote Bradbury. The exhibition is also honored to include works by the late Michael Asher (1943-2012), Mike Kelley (1954-2012), and Ken Price (1935-2012), as well as Scoli Acosta, Kenneth Anger, Brian Butler, Sarah Cain, Corazon Del Sol, Noah Davis, Liz Deschenes, Fred Eversley, Thomas Houseago, Lipschutz & Lipschutz, Anthony McCall, Cameron Parsons, Judson Powell, Noah Purifoy, Ry Rocklen, Eddie Ruscha, Ben Sakoguchi, Jim Shaw and Marnie Weber.

For more information on the exhibition, visit the L & M Arts website.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Juan Diaz

The marvellous bare.bones website has published another of Jack Seabrook's insightful reviews of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. This latest instalment is a detailed breakdown of the episode "The Life Word of Juan Diaz", which was scripted by Bradbury and based on his own short story. You can read Jack's review here. (My own review of the same episode is on my Alfred Hitchcock Hour page, here.)

Jack's other reviews of Bradbury/Hitchcock episodes are all worth reading. There are collected here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Lost and Found

Here's an unusual little item, a supposedly "lost" interview with Ray Bradbury. I say "lost" because it seems absurd to suggest that Bradbury - one of the most widely interviewed and media-friendly writers of his generation - could possibly have done an interview that contained anything so unique that its loss would be significant. There are whole BOOKS of interviews with Bradbury out there, and he was profiled for interview-based documentaries at least four times across his career.

Anyway, reservations about the title apart, The Lost Interview of Ray Bradbury does give us a nice glimpse of Ray and his thoughts from about twenty years ago. At this point he was in his early 70s, a time when most people would have long since retired, but not our Ray. Instead, he was writing scripts for his long-running TV series, putting together the short story collection Quicker Than The Eye, and launching his novel Green Shadows, White Whale. I think this is what they call a third act... The film ends with Ray reading his poem "Doing is Being", which alone makes it worth watching.

The Lost Interview of Ray Bradbury - twenty-year-old footage blended with stock footage and (in my view) rather unnecessary visual enhancements - is directed by Harry Hall, and can be viewed in three episodes on Vimeo:

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3


Meanwhile, the Ventura County Star reports that Michael O'Kelly's documentary about Bradbury - Live Forever: the Ray Bradbury Odyssey - has been screened, and that O'Kelly is now looking for a distribution deal to get the film released to TV and/or DVD. The report recaps much of the story of the making of the film during the last three years or so of Bradbury's life, and also recaps the highlights of Bradbury's life and career. The report is here.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Belated Halloween...

As the days, weeks, months go flying by I somehow managed to miss blogging anything about Bradbury on Halloween. If there is one month of the year that is Bradbury's, it is undoubtedly October: the month that figures centrally in at least three of his books:

  • The October Country - where it is right there in the title; a collection of his weird tales, derived from Bradbury's earlier (out of print) collection Dark Carnival
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes - where October is right there in the opening line ("First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys.")
  • The Halloween Tree - which is all about the history and traditions of Halloween
Fortunately, others kept Bradbury visible this Halloween. For example...

Bradburymedia's friend Brian Sibley reminded us once again how a blog post should be done, with his excellent account not only of the creation of Bradbury's Halloween Tree, but of his friendship with the late author, and of the spreading tradition of the Halloween Tree concept. You can read Brian's post here.

Radio Station KPFK re-broadcast an archive programme which includes a performed reading of The Halloween Tree - including Ray Bradbury himself as one of the readers. This show is currently available in the stations online archive, but I expect it will only be there for a short while, as don't think they archive everything forever. So, listen while you can, but make sure you allow yourself a full three hours. Here's the direct download link.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


Bradburymedia has been rather quiet of late. There's no big explanation for this, other than my general state of busy-ness... partly connected to my resolution to complete a cover-to-cover reading of Moby Dick in two weeks or less.

Of course, when John Huston invited Ray Bradbury to write a screenplay for Moby Dick in the 1950s, Bradbury replied "But I've never been able to finish the damned thing." Me neither, until now.


A new issue of Rosebud magazine is now available, issue 53. This is "the magazine for people who enjoy good writing", and which has in the past included a fair amount of Bradbury-related material:

  • Rosebud 25 featured “Last Rites,” a reprint of an earlier Bradbury story (also collected in Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales and Quicker than the Eye)
  • Rosebud 28 featured “To Ireland,” a poem by Bradbury, and “Rendezvous with Ray Bradbury,” an article by Laura Treacy Bentley
  • Rosebud 34 featured “The Trivial Pursuits Transporter,” a short story by Ray Bradbury which has yet to appear in a Bradbury collection
  • Rosebud 39 featured an exclusive interview with Ray Bradbury by Gregory Miller
  • Rosebud 52 featured Bill Goodwin’s “Citizen Ray,” an essay about his friendship with Bradbury
All issues are still available for purchase from the Rosebud online store - most for $6.95, but issue 34 with its uncollected Bradbury story will set you back a cool $100.

There's no Bradbury in issue 53, but I understand from editor Rod Clarke that there will be something about Bradbury in the next issue. More details to follow.

(My thanks to Eric Carter for pulling the information together on Bradbury appearances in Rosebud back issues.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Waukegan 2.0

It's too late to attend the actual event, which was several days ago, but a press release announcing "Waukegan 2.0 - Rebuilding Jack Benny's and Ray Bradbury's Hometown" caught my eye. It's not the first time we have read about plans to revitalise the city, but it is a plan with very definite goals.

 No mention there of the Carnegie Library, I notice...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Planetary Society Tribute

In September, the Planetary Society held a tribute to Ray Bradbury. Founder Louis Friedman talked about Bradbury's siginificance to real-life planetary exploration. Bradbury's contribution to this field was not scientific or technical - he was no scientist, after all. What Bradbury DID bring was an immense enthusiasm on the key question of why our species is driven to explore.

Whether you agree with Bradbury or not, there is no doubt that he was a prominent poetic voice, particularly when the American space programme went into contraction post-Apollo.

Here is Louis Friedman's talk. It includes a lot of archive photos of Ray at JPL (and elsewhere), some of which I had never seen before.

Friday, October 12, 2012

New Ray Bradbury Review - Vol 3

The third volume of the journal The New Ray Bradbury Review is now available. You can order directly from the publisher, Kent State University Press, or from the usual outlets such as Amazon. (Amazon usually has it for a lower price, and sometimes lists third-party suppliers with even lower prices.)

Although it's an academic journal, all issues of the Review so far have been very accessible, with informative articles that work for the general reader and fan, not just the Eng. Lit. scholar.

This new issue is made up almost entirely of fragments of Bradbury's own writing. As such, it will be a useful resource for the Bradbury scholar, as it gives direct access to so many story openings and undeveloped raw ideas. But this also will appeal to those who just love Bradbury's writing. It's like being allowed to look through Bradbury's personal files and getting a glimpse of work in progress.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ray's Last Composition?

According to his biographer Sam Weller, the last thing Ray Bradbury wrote for publication prior to his death was "The Book and the Butterfly" It's a short essay written as the introduction to The Best Nonrequired Reading 2012. How does Sam know this? Simple: Ray dictated it to him in April and they worked on the revisions in May, shortly before Ray passed away.

"The Book and the Butterfly" has been reproduced online by the Huffington Post, and can be read here.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Ray Bradbury Square

I'm very late in reporting this, but better late than never!

On 18th September, Los Angeles City Council voted to name an intersection Ray Bradbury Square. The intersection is of Fifth Street and Flower Street - click here to view it on Google Maps. You can read a brief account of the council proceedings here.

Three key figures in this renaming were Steven Paul Leiva (co-ordinator of 2010's Ray Bradbury Week in Los Angeles), Sue Bradbury Nixon (Ray Bradbury's daughter) and Jose Huizar (LA Councilmember). The three are pictured together after the event in this photo from Steven's Facebook page:

Steven has also posted a transcript of Sue's comments to the Council, which I would like to reproduce here:

First of all, I’d like to thank the many councilmembers who worked on, and supported, the motion to name the intersection of 5th and Flower, near the Los Angeles Public Library, Ray Bradbury Square. My father would be so proud to be honored in this way.

My father moved to LA in 1934, with his family, in the middle of the Great Depression. My grandfather was looking for work and they ended up living in Boyle Heights. After my father graduated from LA High School there was no money for college, so Daddy found himself several days a week reading anything and everything he could lay his hands on at the Central LA Public Library. As my father mentioned so many times in his lectures, the library was his university.

Along with the LA Public Library, the City of Los Angeles molded Ray Bradbury into the man, and writer, he was to become. LA featured in several of his stories, like “The Pedestrian” and “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit”.

Daddy didn’t just take from Los Angeles, he also gave back to the city that he loved. In 1963 he worked with the Board of Supervisors on a rapid transit monorail system, which, unfortunately, was never approved. He worked as a consultant on the Hollywood and Highland commercial development. My father was always urging more pedestrian-friendly areas and more open-air shopping areas and restaurants with outdoor seating since our weather is so fantastic.

But I think my dad’s proudest accomplishment was to keep some of LA’s struggling libraries open. He would lecture at the libraries for free, with any admission charges going directly to the library. To him, keeping the libraries open, with their contents available to everyone, was so important. He was concerned that without everyone’s support, the libraries would close.

I can’t think of a better way to honor my father’s memory and legacy than to name the intersection of 5th and Flower, near the Central Los Angeles Public Library, Ray Bradbury Square.

Thank you.
If you haven't already seen Steven's own photographic record of 2010's Ray Bradbury Week, it's well worth taking a look. In some ways the naming of this intersection is the culmination of that week of celebration. Steven's photos and account are here.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Special Events in California

Here's an announcement from Bill Goodwin - illustrator, writer, and friend of Ray Bradbury:

It pleases me to announce a Very Special Event!

"MARS AND THE HEART OF HUMANITY: RAY BRADBURY'S MILLION-YEAR PICNIC" will assemble a diverse panel of thinkers to remember Ray and discuss his favorite planet, Mars, as it's been imagined in the past, as it's being discovered today and as it might eventually become. Confirmed at this time are:

GREG BEAR -- Hugo and Nebula award-winning author of over 40 books, including HULL ZERO THREE and the upcoming HALO: SILENTIUM.

HOWARD V. HENDRIX -- Science fiction novelist, scholar and editor of VISIONS OF MARS and THE MARS ENCYCLOPEDIA.

CHARLES BAKER -- Cruise, Entry, Decent and Landing Lead Mission Planner for JPL's CURIOSITY ROVER.

Panel event conceived and moderated by BILL GOODWIN.

Join us at AltCar Expo 2012, Friday & Saturday, September 28 - 29 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. The panel begins at 4:00 PM on Saturday and the Expo is FREE. Come early see the future of renewable energy and alternative transportation! And ring in Autumn for Ray.

It sounds as if this panel is something of a follow-up to the Mars and theMind of Man symposium; this ties in with the Curiosity rover, just as the 1971 symposium tied in with Mariner 9. It sounds like an excellent panel, and I only wish I could be there. There is more information about the free 'parent' event AltCar Expo 2012 here.

Meanwhile, down in Venice, California - where Bradbury lived for many years - there is an unusual event called a type-in. Apparently, participants will be able to type on one of Ray's old typewriters. More details are here.

Monday, September 03, 2012


Here is the music video for deadmau5's recent track "The Veldt". Both the song and the animation are influenced by Ray Bradbury's short story of the same name, which was first published in 1950.

You can read more about the song and the animation on Wikipedia, and in this official press release. Bradbury's story can be found in his books The Illustrated Man, The Vintage Bradbury, and The Stories of Ray Bradbury.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Live Forever Trailer

Michael O'Kelly's documentary Live Forever: the Ray Bradbury Odyssey moves closer to completion, with an intended release due at the end of 2012. Here's the latest trailer, featuring Joe Mantegna (who hosts and narrates) and Edward James Olmos (interviewee).

Why Mantegna and Olmos? They were, of course, key cast members in Stuart Gordon's film version of The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, which Bradbury scripted based on his own short story.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Charles Yu

Charles Yu is the author of the new short story collection Sorry Please Thank You and the novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.

He is also a contributor to the Bradbury tribute volume Shadow Show, with his short story "Earth (a Gift Shop)", which is influenced by Bradbury's classic story "There Will Come Soft Rains".

In a recent interview, Yu spoke about his involvement with Shadow Show, and about Bradbury's fiction:

I was asked to submit something for the anthology by Sam Weller and Mort Castle, who put together the anthology. I was seriously daunted by the list of contributors they had rounded up, and I still am. Deciding what to write was very nerve-wracking – I kept thinking, “Ray Bradbury is going to read this story.” That’s a lot of pressure! And I heard from Sam that Mr. Bradbury did read it (at least I think he did), and enjoyed it. That was a quite a feeling. Pride and relief. Pri-lief. It’s like being in-shamed, but the opposite.
Oh, and yes, I love The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes. In terms of stories, “The Veldt” is one of my favorites, but there are so many.

You can read the full interview at Wired.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Last Flight

"200 million kilometers from Earth, her base destroyed and her oxygen supply running out, a lone astronaut begins a perilous trek across the windswept deserts of Mars.

Her only company are the sporadic transmissions she receives from Earth; radio reports counting down the minutes to global war.

As her diffculties increase, the astronaut is forced to search for a way to come to terms with her circumstances - for herself and for the future of life in the universe."

So reads the synopsis of the short film Last Flight, produced in New Zealand on a budget of $17,000 by Damon Keen. The film has been touring film festivals around the world, and now available in its complete form on YouTube.

Keen documented the production as the film progressed on his blog Mars Shot. It was a long, slow process taking around two years, because the director was making it in his spare time.

Last Flight originated as a comic book story, "The Sparrow", which Keen produced in 2008. He then developed it into a thirteen-page screenplay, which he then proceeded to film - along the way having to figure out how to achieve the needed CGI and audio effects to bring the film to life.

First page of "The Sparrow". Click to enlarge.

Is there a Bradbury connection to the film? Well, it's set on Mars, so that tends to put us in Martian Chronicles territory. It's predicated on a countdown to global war on Earth, which is again reminiscent of the Chronicles. Then there's the sole survivor, and a hint of either dreaming or hallucination... all very Bradbury.

But there's nothing in Keen's blog (as far as I can see) that consciously references Bradbury, so it may be coincidental, or a case of a writer-director being unconsciously influenced.

You can read more about the film in the official press kit. It's a smart little film, and will only take about fifteen minutes of your time to watch, so why not give it a go? Here's the trailer; and if you scroll down, you'll come to the complete film.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Shadow Show Reviewed

The most perceptive review yet of the tribute volume Shadow Show appeared this week in the Los Angeles Review of Books. SF and fantasy scholar Gary K. Wolfe - whose best known essay on Bradbury established the "frontier myth" reading of The Martian Chronicles - has written a lengthy review which not only evaluates the book itself but uses it as an opportunity to gauge Bradbury's literary influence.

Wolfe writes:

Few would consider [Harlan] Ellison and Bradbury as close siblings in any literary or stylistic sense, but [...] there’s some of the genetic material of those old pulp classics in both writers.

But such are the mysteries of literary DNA. Those old retroviruses can express themselves in unexpected ways generations later, and Bradbury was a carrier. He may have read Eudora Welty and Willa Cather and imported some of their stylistic grace into genre fiction, but by the same token he passed along some of the imaginative energy of Brackett or Henry Kuttner to the writers who followed him.

Wolfe then explores each story in the anthology in turn, considering the extent and nature of Bradbury's influence. One of his key points is that nearly every contributor to the book refers in their afterword  to discovering Bradbury at an early age, and nearly every one references Bradbury stories that were originally published prior to 1962. That was the year Something Wicked This Way Comes was published, and it seems to mark a changeover point at which Bradbury switched from "becoming Ray Bradbury" to "being Ray Bradbury", Wolfe observes, consciously echoing Jon Eller's recent biographical volume Becoming Ray Bradbury.

Shadow Show has received a lot of reviews, but many of them have been cursory and lacking in awareness of what the book truly demonstrates. Wolfe, I think, has got it spot on. I haven't read all the stories in the book yet, but his review prompts me to get on with it!

Gary K. Wolfe's full review can be read here.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mars and the Mind of Man

For a long time, it's been on my very lengthy to-do list: write a review of the 1971 book Mars and the Mind of Man. It's a record of a seminar held at the time of the Mariner 9 probe to Mars, in which key figures in space science and science fiction give their views of the impact of our new knowledge of the red planet.

I acquired an ex-library copy of this book a year or two ago, in the hope that it would reveal something more of Bradbury's attitudes to the "space age". (It does, so it was a worthwhile purchase!) Now I have an excuse to skip the review, because Maria Popova has done the task so well on

Popova's article includes a number of images from the book, and a considered digest of the points of view expressed by the principal contributors Arthur C.Clarke, Carl Sagan and Ray Bradbury.

On Bradbury's birthday, 22 August, two artists presented new portraits of of Ray to the Waukegan public library. Pictured below are David Motley and Patrick Tufo with the paintings. The full story is here.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bradbury Landing!

As expected, yesterday - what would have been Ray Bradbury's 92nd birthday - saw some more tributes paid to Ray:

Practical Magic author Alice Hoffman recalled her first direct contact with Ray, and his response to the story she submitted for the tribute volume Shadow Show in "A Birthday Wish For Ray".

Bradbury's friend, the British writer and broadcaster Brian Sibley uploaded a radio documentary he made in 1989 for the BBC World Service.

The Curiosity rover on Mars dedicated its landing site to Ray, announced in a tweet which reads "In tribute, I dedicate my landing spot on Mars to you, Ray Bradbury. Greetings from Bradbury Landing!" Here's the photo of Bradbury Landing: was the first website to attempt to place "Bradbury Landing" in the context of other named landing spots on Mars. Read more here.

In their 11.30am (PST) press conference, the NASA/JPL team started with Ray Bradbury - playing a clip of him from the 1971 "Mars and the Mind of Man" symposium - and concluded with a short video showing Ray's last visit to JPL in 2009, when he was shown models of Mars rovers and was allowed to drive one of them in simulation. NBC have the best coverage of the contents of the press conference, and have included the two video clips, here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ray Bradbury's Birthday

Today, 22 August 2012, would have been Ray Bradbury's 92nd birthday. Although the writer is no longer with us, there will be celebrations of his life in many places today and in the coming week.

As a reminder of Bradbury's amazing life and body of work, let me introduce Michael Cart - author, editor and prodigious podcaster. In a recent podcast, Cart focuses on Ray Bradbury, giving a biographical overview of his career, and a perceptive appreciation of his masterworks. He also includes personal reminiscences of his meetings with Bradbury, which include introducing Ray at various public events.

You can access the podcast at Infopeople, here.


For another birthday special, visit Brian Sibley's blog. Brian knew Ray for many years, and interviewed him to TV and radio on several occasions. Today, Brian has posted a complete recording of a 1989 programme he made for the BBC World Service Meridian programme. You can access it here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Birthday Specials - 4

Meanwhile, in New York on the exact date of Ray Bradbury's birthday, there will be a celebratory launch of Shadow Show, the book of stories in tribute to Ray Bradbury. The book's actually been out for a while, but there's no harm in launching it one more time!

Full details here.

...And on the same day, in California, a double bill of Bradbury movies on the big screen: Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Details are here.


 ...And at 2pm on Saturday 26th August in Florence, Alabama, Terry Pace's Pillar of Fire will be saluting Ray's life and legacy with a special showing of three first-class television adaptations of his work -- Piper Laurie and Roberts Blossom in the Twilight Zone chiller "The Burning Man" (1985), James Whitmore in The Ray Bradbury Theater SF fable "The Toynbee Convector" (1990) and Fred Gwynne in the American Playhouse classic "Any Friend of Nicholas Nickleby is a Friend of Mine. The venue is the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library, 350 N. Wood Ave., Florence, Alabam.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Birthday Specials 3

California Artists Radio Theatre  has announced that their 75th Birthday Tribute To Ray Bradbury from 1995 will replay next week as a memorial to the author. It will be heard on SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Channel 80 (Book & Drama), on Monday, August 20 at 6pm Pacific / 9pm Eastern, and Friday, August 24 at 6:30pm Pacific / 9:30pm Eastern. The production - a live performance attended by Bradbury - was originally staged to help raise funds for the Thousand Oaks Library Foundation, as well as being a tribute to Bradbury.

Naturally, these broadcasts will reach only a limited audience. I would add that anyone who is unable to receive the broadcast can still buy the recording  - but CART's own page for the recording unfortunately lists it as currently not available to buy.

My own review of the this effective show is here.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Birthday Specials - 2

Some more confirmed events for celebrations of the life of Ray Bradbury, again focused around what would have been his birthday. For a number of years, Ray had a public birthday party in the Mystery & Imagination bookshop in Glendale, California. I had the good fortune to attend the 90th birthday event. This year, to mark what would have been Ray's 92nd birthday, the bookshop is holding another event, with some special additions. I'll let the flyers speak for themselves:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Elevator

Ray Bradbury is often thought of in connection with The Twilight Zone, partly because the series regularly dealt in distinctly Bradburyan stories, and partly because Bradbury did actually write for the series. Only one of his scripts was actually filmed, "I Sing The Body Electric!" - which is sometimes referred to as an adaptation of his short story. In reality, the script was written long before the short story was published, so it would be more correct to say that the story is an adaptation of the script.

Bradbury's experience with The Twilight Zone - or more specifically with the show's host and creator Rod Serling - was an unhappy one, due in part to Bradbury's feeling that Serling had borrowed from his work without credit, and cut Bradbury's scripts without consultation.

When The Twilight Zone was revived in the 1980s, there was no particular reason that Bradbury should be (or should want to be) involved, but he did contribute one short script to the series, called "The Elevator". Writer-producer Alan Brennert recently mentioned on Facebook how this Bradbury contribution came about:

I guess with Ray gone now I can reveal that he really, really didn't want to have anything to do with The Twilight Zone after his bad experience with Rod Serling on the old show. "The Burning Man" was a different matter, it was an existing script by J.D. Feigelson, one of Ray's literary "godsons" to which he gave his blessing. But in order to get an original script out of him, Harlan [Ellison] took him to lunch and sweet-talked him (and when Harlan wants to, can he sweet-talk!) into giving us a script, and Ray gave us "The Elevator." 

"The Burning Man" is an episode I have written about before; I consider it to be one of the best-ever adaptations of a Bradbury story.

Harlan Ellison was a creative consultant on the show, and was a longtime friend of Bradbury.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Why Mars?

For most of the past year, I have immersed myself in Bradbury's unfilmed (and mostly unpublished) screenplay versions of The Martian Chronicles. One of the outputs from this research was a paper which I presented at the 2012 Science Fiction Research Association conference in Detroit. In the paper I attempted to unpick what Bradbury was trying to do in his early-1960s Chronicles film work.

Although the screenplays are adaptations of his book, each version takes on a different flavour. The published 1965 screenplay (found in the limited edition volume The Complete Martian Chronicles) appears to address, head on, the reasons we might be compelled to explore space. This is not entirely surprising, given that the script was written at the height of the space age, when the successes of the Mercury and Gemini programmes were coming thick and fast, and when Bradbury was himself becoming something of a spokesman for the space programme.

It was interesting, therefore, to see Steven Paul Leiva's excellent recent article "Ray Bradbury, the Masterheart of Mars" in which he identifies three reasons for going to Mars. Bradbury "instinctually understood" two of these, Leiva writes, and "was a poet of the third". Read the article at the KCET website, here. Steven, you may recall, was the organiser of "Ray Bradbury Week" in Los Angeles in 2010.

Steven Paul Leiva, pictured at Bradbury's 90th birthday party.

Steven has also been instrumental in the campaign over the Los Angeles Palms-Rancho Park branch library, which I recently reported on. He has pointed out that my report of the library's potential name change was incorrect: rather than being renamed in honour of Ray (something which isn't possible), the proposal is that the branch be dedicated to Ray.

This is how Steven, writing on Facebook, describes last week's meeting:
I spent the morning attending the monthly meeting of the LA Library Board of Commissioners, which - at the request of Councilmember Paul Koretz - was held at the Palms-Rancho Park Library. Also at Paul's request they gave consideration to the idea of dedicating the Palms to Ray. Several members of the public representing the neighborhood council and home owners association, the Greater Los Angeles Writers Club, and the Friends of the Palms Library spoke at the meeting and all very enthusiastically endorsed the idea. They all gave intelligent, passionate, and moving speeches. One broke into tears. At least one audience member started to weep (you know him, his name is Steven). Then the president of the council spoke, very tearfully, for the measure. It was moved and seconded -- and passed unanimously.

We now have to wait a mandate period of three months for public comment, but, essentially, it's a done deal!

The Palms-Rancho Park Library is very appropriate as this was Ray's local library, close to his home of over 50 years in Cheviot Hills. His daughters have very fond memories of Ray walking them to the library when they were children and spending much time there. Ray spoke there often and was a huge supporter of the library, as he was of all libraries. There is already a Ray Bradbury room at the Palms, but now the whole library will be dedicated to him.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bradbury on TV

Jack Seabrook, author of Martians and Misplaced Clues: The Life and Work of Fredric Brown (1993) and Stealing Through Time: On the Writings of Jack Finney (2003) has begun reviewing Ray Bradbury's contributions to TV. His first article in this vein gives a detailed analysis of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "Shopping for Death", based on the Bradbury short story better known under the title "Touched With Fire". You can read the article on the excellent bare.bones blog.

My thanks to Jack for bringing his review to my attention. I look forward to seeing future instalments.

My own brief coverage of the Bradbury Hitchcock episodes can be found here; somehow I never quite got round to reviewing the half-hours in depth. I did a bit better with the Alfred Hitchcock Hour episodes, though, as you can see here.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Proposal to Dedicate Library

The Board of Library Commissioners of the City of Los Angeles yesterday voted to proceed with consideration of re-naming dedicating a branch library in honour of Ray Bradbury.

The Palms-Rancho Park Branch Library was Bradbury's local branch library, and over the years he had made many appearances there. He was also, of course, a longstanding advocate of public libraries in general.

My reading of the minutes of the Commissioners' meeting is that there is still a process of consultation to go through before the proposal is confirmed, but the initial stages met with overwhelming support. You can read the minutes - which include several testimonials from community figures writing in support of the proposal - in this PDF document.

(This post has been corrected; my thanks to Steven Paul Leiva for pointing out the the plan is to dedicate the library to Bradbury rather than re-name it.)

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Birthday Special

I imagine that Bradbury's birthday (22 August) will be a natural focal point for the celebration of the author's life, and I hear various rumours of planned activities for that day. I'm not in the business of publishing rumours, though, so I will only post confirmed and actual events. Here's one:

At 7pm PST on 22 August, California Stage will be presenting a live performance of a 1954 radio play version of "Mars is Heaven!" This is taking place in Sacramento, California. If, like me, you live in a whole 'nother continent, you may prefer to listen to a live audio stream of the show. Full details are here.

I'm not entirely sure which version of "Mars is Heaven!" will be performed, as according to my records there was no 1954 radio version of the story. My guess is that they will use the 1950/1955 Ernest Kinoy script from Dimension X and X Minus One, since this is readily available online. On the other hand, there might be a Bradbury-scripted adaptation from that time which was never broadcast. If I find out, I'll let you know.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What Kind Of Writer?

While I'm not sure that the title is terribly appropriate, Steve Almond's recent article "Why Ray Bradbury Was Ahead Of His Time" for the Boston Globe shows some good insight into what makes some of Bradbury's science-fiction stories tick. Steve Balshaw, writing for Mancunian Matters, reminds us that Bradbury wasn't just a writer of science-fiction, but arrives at some similar conclusions.

While I like both of these articles, they both reflect on the familiar "classic period" of Bradbury, and fail to even acknowledge anything he wrote after 1962. Still, it's good to see that there are plenty of intelligent readings of the familiar works out there.

Bryce Wilson, writing for New Times doesn't go so deeply into the individual stories, but does grapple with the most appropriate way to characterise Bradbury as a writer. He suggests "Midwestern surrealist" might be an appropriate term, or at least a term that is as good as any.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Biographer Remembers Ray

Gene Beley, the author of the unauthorised biography entitled Ray Bradbury Uncensored!  wrote a remembrance of Ray recently. Gene recounts how he first spoke to Ray, after he posted an ad in a Waukegan newspaper asking "Ray Bradbury, where is your past?" The full article is online here.

Gene's previous writings on Bradbury include this report (with photos) on Ray's 2009 birthday party.

Ray Bradbury Uncensored! is available from iUniverse and various online bookstores.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tributes Continue

As the headline says: the tributes continue. Comic-Con took place last week, and featured a well attended tribute panel which included Margaret Atwood, Sam Weller, Marc Scott Zicree and others. There are plenty of accounts of this panel on the web, such as this one.

Zicree talks more about Bradbury in this BBC radio interview.

Fans in Pittsburgh staged their own tribute by reading Bradbury stories.

Other tributes inevitably come wrapped up in reviews of the new tribute volume Shadow Show.

Gloria McMillan of Arizona University has put out a call for papers inviting scholars to contribute to a proposed book with the working title The Tucson Bradbury Chronicles: Mars is The West. This essay volume will take as its starting point the fact that the young Ray Bradbury lived for a while in Arizona, but will explore Bradbury's engagement with the western US in broad terms. Such academic volumes are often a long time in development, so it may be some time before anything comes of this, but I will post more information when it becomes available.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Walking, just walking, walking?

First Things, a publication and website of The Institute on Religion and Public Life, has published a thoughtful article on Ray Bradbury's short story "The Pedestrian". John Wilson writes about the text itself, and explores the commentary on the text put forward in Jon Eller's Becoming Ray Bradbury.  Wilson tries to answer the question "Why didn't Ray Bradbury drive?" After considering biographical and psychological factors he concludes quite simply: "Why didn’t Ray Bradbury drive? Because he was Ray Bradbury." Read the full article here.

Bradbury's "The Pedestrian" was first published in the now defunct magazine The Reporter in August 1951, and subsequently collected in his books The Golden Apples of the Sun, Twice 22, S is for Space, Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales and A Pleasure to Burn. This makes it one of his most reprinted tales - and it has had an even more extensive life in anthologies and magazine reprints.

The complete archive of The Reporter is available online, and so we can view Bradbury's story in its original publication context here.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Shadow Show and F451

Shadow Show, the short story anthology in honour of Ray Bradbury is now out. I have a copy, but haven't had time to read it properly yet, just dip in here and there. Eventually I will get round to reviewing it. Meanwhile, there are other reviews out there to help you decide whether it is for you. This one from Ryan Britt at gives a good overview from someone who has actually read it. The book was never intended to be a memorial to Bradbury, having been planned for months or years prior to Ray's recent death - but it looks as if it will serve as timely commemoration of the man and his writing. Those who don't know the history of the volume might be surprised to see that there is an introduction by Bradbury himself.

Journalist and political commentator Paul Street has written a long article relating Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 to our modern world. Much of what he writes is familiar: Bradbury's apparent prescience in his use of immersive TV systems, loss of literacy and increasing personal isolation through (for example) personal earphones. However, he makes a number of less familiar extrapolations, and manages to link in Facebook and other "evils" of the modern world. You may not agree with everything he writes, but it's a good piece. Read it here.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Tribute through... stamps!

The Smithsonian National Postal Museum has put together a little tribute to Ray Bradbury, using postage stamps to illustrate key points in his life and career. It's rather cute, as you can see by clicking here.

It occurred to me that this idea could be taken further, especially if you bring in stamps from other nations that theUS - such as the Soviet Sputnik stamp shown on the left.

Here are some other stamps which should have some resonance for Bradbury aficionados. See if you can work out the Bradbury connections: