Monday, April 30, 2012

Vacation in the Golden Age & New Artwork

I have mentioned before the ambitious blogging project of author Jamie Todd Rubin: to review the classic era of Astounding Science Fiction magazine, issue by issue, starting with the July 1939 edition.

Jamie has now reached July 1942, when Astounding published the first of three Bradbury stories. "Eat, Drink and Be Wary" is a very slender story, which Bradbury submitted for the "Probability Zero" section of the magazine. This section was editor John W. Campbell's place for publishing short-shorts from new writers. I believe there was no payment for appearing in this column; the reward for the writers' efforts was publication!

Jamie's review includes the Bradbury piece, and detailed reviews of all the longer pieces in the magazine, which include efforts from such SF luminaries as A.E. Van Vogt and L. Sprague de Camp.

Patrick Leger is the artist responsible for the artwork on the recent Simon & Schuster editions of Bradbury's The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles. What I hadn't realised was that Leger's design decisions were consciously influenced by Joe Mugnaini. Mugnaini's artwork is inextricably linked to Bradbury's fiction through the iconic cover of Fahrenheit 451 and over books, and through the line drawings he produced for Golden Apples of the Sun.

Leger talks about his new designs in his blog, and includes some of his preliminary sketches.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

After the rain, the sun!

Bradbury's well known story "All Summer in a Day", in which the sun only appears for a very short time (just like a typical British summer), is the inspiration for a full-length dance by the Red Bucket Dance Company. If I have read the story correctly, this group is based in Sacramento, California. More information, including dates and times of performances are in this story from

Meanwhile, in West Hollywood poets are performing Bradbury at an event which is part of the Big Read programme. Details are here.

Elsewhere (I don't know exactly where, because the web page gives absolutely no details!) somebody is rehearsing Bradbury's play Kaleidoscope, based on his short story of the same name. How do I know this? Because there are thirty-six photos here!

[Update: I have now realised that those Kaleidscope photos have captions! The first one tells us the following: Actors run a dress rehearsal of "Kaleidoscope", an adaptation of two Ray Bradbury radio plays, Wednesday night in Lafayette. The show will run April 26-29 and May 3-6 at 7 p.m. each night at Theatre 810 in downtown Lafayette. By Leslie Westbrook April 18, 2012.  I don't know where Lafayette is, but I'm guessing California.]

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


This is England, and so rain is hardly unexpected. Especially in April, the month traditionally associated with showers.

However, we haven't had very much rain - statistically and historically speaking - in the last two years, and so the Authorities (with a capital A) have declared an official drought. This must be laughable to those who live in, say, Ethiopia. All it means is that the UK water table is at a low level for the time of year, and if the dry spell keeps on we will faced with water shortages very soon. Several areas of the UK are under a hosepipe ban right now, meaning it is against the law to use a hosepipe or sprinkler to water that front lawn.

And, right on cue, it started raining about a week ago and has barely stopped. Today especially there has been an almost endless torrent where I am. It reminds me, of course, of the Bradbury story "The Long Rain".

"The Long Rain" first appeared in Planet Stories magazine in1950. Today you can find it in Bradbury's collections R is for Rocket and The Illustrated Man. It's set on the planet Venus, and is built on the science fiction conception of Venus as some kind of lush rain forest. The story deals with an astronaut who has to travel through the endless rains of Venus to reach the safe haven of a Sun Dome.

If you are stuck indoors, staring out at the rain and wondering what to do, you could always try a bit of homework. Here's a lesson-plan found online which should prompt you to start writing your own story in the style of Bradbury!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bradbury news

Sam Weller, Bradbury's biographer, was quoted recently as saying that Bradbury is the most important writer of the last one hundred years. I'm not going to argue with that. Full details can be found in this report from the Lake County News-Sun, the newspaper that serves Waukegan, Illinois and the surrounding areas.

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There's been a video of a 2001 Bradbury lecture on YouTube for a very long time, but just lately I've seen dozens of new places linking to it - as if it were a new lecture or a new find.  I'm not going to re-link to it directly, but I will link to two web pages which have condensed some of Bradbury's content. Here you will find, derived from the lecture, Bradbury's twelve pieces of advice to young writers. And here, Bradbury's recommended reading. I confess to having read just a few of the authors he mentions (Collier, Welty and Wharton, since you asked).

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From Monsters from the Vault magazine, a bit of free reading: Terry Pace's article entitled "Ray Bradbury's Earliest Influences" discusses Bradbury's early childhood experiences watching Lon Chaney.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Searching for Bradbury's "The Crowd"

Although Ray Bradbury is a fantasist, occasionally you hear of one of his works of fiction being inspired by real-life events. One classic example is the short story "The Crowd", which deals with a ghoulish, apparently supernatural crowd of people who gather at car crashes.

The story is supposedly inspired by an incident Bradbury witnessed in Los Angeles in his teens. Bradbury's biographer Sam Weller, writing in The Bradbury Chronicles, describes it like this:

[...] in 1935 Ray was visiting Eddie Barrera at his house on Washington Boulevard when they heard a terrific crash outside. The boys bounded out the front door and saw a smoldering car about a hundred yards up the street, in front of a cemetery. The car had hit a telephone pole head-on and the passengers had been catapulted onto the pavement. [...] Three people had already died; another - a woman - was barely alive.

It was the sight of this woman that created a vivid memory that compelled Bradbury to think about the event over and over until, some eight years later, he was inspired to produce "The Crowd", which was first published in Weird Tales in May 1943. Today, you can find the story in The Stories of Ray Bradbury.

In The Complete Stories of Ray Bradbury: a Critical Edition, Jon Eller gives a little bit more information: that Bradbury was  located at Washington Boulevard [Eller says Avenue, but there is no Washington Avenue in LA] and Berendo Street. Armed with this information, and Google Maps, this allows us to work out where the crash must have taken place: outside Rosedale Cemetary. The nearest part of the cemetery is about a hundred yards from the corner of Berendo and Washington.

View Larger Map

I thought I would try to locate detailed information about this car crash. Such an incident must surely have made the local press, I thought.

Searching through the online archives of the Los Angeles Times for 1935, I found just one news story that contained details of a car crash and a reference to Berendo/Washington, reported on 1 May 1935.

Unfortunately, none of the content ties in with Bradbury's recollection. The headline, "AUTOS TAKE TWO LIVES", gave me hope that this was indeed the account of the source of "The Crowd". But alas this one brief news story tells of two separate road traffic accidents happening the day before, both being incidents where pedestrians were hit by cars... and reports a conviction for manslaughter due to dangerous driving in another incident... and reports on a police officer being struck by a motorcycle and sidecar... and reports on a court appearance by a man arrested for drunk driving... and on and on.

I was forgetting. This is Los Angeles. The home of the road traffic accident, even in 1935.

No wonder Bradbury was always afraid to drive, and became a champion of public transport!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Live Forever... again!

I blogged recently about Michael O'Kelly's submission of a short film Live Forever! to a festival. Well, now there's more to add to the story. According to the Ventura County Star, there's a full-length documentary in the works, based around the interviews O'Kelly and his son have been conducting with Ray Bradbury over the last five years or so. Joe Mantegna is to narrate, and in fact recorded for the film on Wednesday of this week. Also featured is Malcolm McDowell. The full story is here.

O'Kelly's fifteen minute teaser film is now on Youtube, and for you convenience I am embedding it here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Destino Galaxia

Other than the odd phrase that I can figure out due to a resemblance to French or Latin, I speak no Spanish. I therefore offer no explanation for the following other than this: I found it on the web. Enjoy!

Destino Galaxia!

Hannes Bok was an artist and writer, and friend of Bradbury when they were both trying to establish themselves professionally, back in the late 1930s. This brief article from Antique Trader discusses Bok's art and career, and identifies Bradbury as a critical component in Bok's getting started.

Occasionally, I stumble across a reference to a published work about Bradbury which turns out to be a phantom: something that was never existed, or was perhaps scheduled for publication but never actually made it. I was amused to see author David Kubicek briefly explain that something he wrote in college has become such a phantom. It probably exists in physical form somewhere, but certainly has never seen publication, but this doesn't stop Amazon tantalisingly cataloguing it as if it were an out-of-print book.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Apocalypse Then

Bradbury has written a handful of short stories set in a time after the collapse of civilsation as we know it, but we don't usually think of his novels as being apocalyptic - although The Martian Chronicles includes a global atomic war that seems to effectively destroy the Earth, and Fahrenheit 451 ends with the self-destruction of the unnamed city that Montag has just escaped from.

In both cases, the atomic wars are happening in the background or, to use a filmic metaphor, off-screen. The closest we get to seeing the physical effects of an atomic bomb is in the story/chapter "There Will Come Soft Rains" in The Martian Chronicles. One of Bradbury's most re-printed stories, it describes an automated house which carries on functioning (as best it can) even after its owners have been destroyed. There are distinct references to Hiroshima, most memorably in Bradbury's description of the shadows of people burned onto a wall by the heat of the bomb blast.

I'm currently doing some research into Bradbury's handling of apocalypses, and in my casting around for materials relating to how atomic warfare was presented to the public in the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I came across an article on Paleofuture, a beautiful blog which explores how the future was depicted in the past (if you know what I mean). This particular item reproduces images from a 1950 issue of Colliers magazine which shows what might happen if New York became the victim of an atomic bomb attack.

1950, of course, was the year The Martian Chronicles was first published. And Collier's was a magazine Bradbury's fiction had been appearing in since 1946 (starting with the short story "One Timeless Spring"). In 1950 Collier's published a couple of new Bradbury stories, and this A-bomb issue - dated 5 August 1950 - contained one of them, "The Window". It seems certain, then, that Bradbury would have seen the bomb article.

One of the artists contributing to the bomb story was Chesley Bonestell, who the year before had illustrated The Conquest of Space, the remarkable book written by rocket scientist Willy Ley which presented the wonders of the space age. In 1952 Collier's published a series of articles inspired by The Conquest of Space, again illustrated by Bonestell (scans of these articles can be seen on the Dreams of Space blog). This, in turn, inspired Walt Disney to produce a series of TV shows about space travel, featuring Ley and Wernher von Braun. It is remarkable that Colliers, and the US, was able to shift so rapidly from the doom and gloom of atomic war to the bright future offered by the space age. Of course, when the space age arrived it would be intimately entwined with the cold war, something that Collier's, Bonestell, Ley and Disney somehow managed not to foresee...

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Shadow Show

Mort Castle, co-editor of the forthcoming Bradbury tribute volume, recently posted some more information about Shadow Show: All New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury:

Editor Sam Weller and I (and Ray!) are pleased with what people are saying about Shadow Show: All New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury. The book will be released July 17 in the William Morrow edition and around that time in the Gauntlet Press/Borderlands editions.

"Great new tales of imagination in the Bradbury tradition." -- Hugh Hefner

“There is no more fitting tribute to my friend Ray Bradbury than a compilation of wonderful short stories!  Ray is a champion of libraries and one of America’s most inventive teller of tales.   I cherish many happy times engrossed in his stories.  This anthology reflects the high imagination, visionary ideas, and fantastic writing that Ray is loved and known for around the world.”--Laura Bush

"Ray Bradbury is without a doubt, one of this, or any century's greatest and most imaginative writers.  SHADOW SHOW, a book of truly great stories, is the perfect tribute to America's master storyteller." --Stan Lee

"SHADOW SHOW is a treasure-trove for Ray Bradbury enthusiasts as for all readers who are drawn to richly imaginative, deftly plotted, startlingly original and unsettling short fiction.  No one who knows their darkly fantastic fiction would be surprised to see such renowned names here as Ramsey Campbell, Harlan Ellison, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Audrey Niffenegger, and Kelly Link; but it is something of a surprise to see Dave Eggers, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Dan Chaon, Bonnie Jo Campbell, and Julia Keller  in this gathering, all of them Ray Bradbury admirers, and all so gifted.  The tributes to Ray Bradbury that follow each of the stories are particularly interesting, often heartwarming and inspiring." --Joyce Carol Oates

The information appeared on the Shocklines message board.