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):