Saturday, May 16, 2020

Lockdown Choices: Something Wicked This Way Comes

This is another in my series of Lockdown Choices, where I seek to entertain you while in coronavirus-isolation, and remind you of Ray Bradbury's great works in this, his centenary year.

In these posts, I cover each of Bradbury's books, say something about the contents, then pick the best stories and adaptations.

Lockdown Choices: Something Wicked This Way Comes

First edition, Simon & Schuster 1962. Cover art by Gray Foy.

The Book

Something Wicked is Ray Bradbury's twelfth(ish) book, depending how you count them. At this point, I've more or less given up! It is - definitely - his first true novel. What do I mean by that? Well, The Martian Chronicles looks something like a novel, but it's really a collection of previously-published short stories, stitched together into a new patchwork. Fahrenheit 451 is barely long enough to count as a novel (it's more of a novella), and in any case is an expansion of a previously published short story, "The Fireman". And Dandelion Wine also looks something like a novel, but is really another collection of previously-published short stories, stitched together into a new patchwork.

And that leaves us with the present volume, the definitely, no question about it, never before published original novel Something Wicked This Way Comes. 

Except... It's not an original work... Now, before you start screaming, let me explain: this novel has its origins in a previously-published short story, "The Black Ferris" (1948). Bradbury used this short story as the springboard for an expanded work called The Dark Carnival.

"Dark Carnival? Yeah, I've heard of that. Bradbury's first book, long out of print."

Er, no. THE Dark Carnival, a film script Bradbury wrote for Gene Kelly in the 1950s. A film script which Kelly was unable to get studio support for, and which was therefore abandoned, never to be filmed. Leading Bradbury to re-write it as the novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes. Something Wicked, therefore, is a novelisation of a film script!

"The Black Ferris" is a fast-moving short story whose location is barely dwelt upon, but passing references to a lake, a ravine and a boarding house clearly place this story in the familiar Bradbury universe. It’s not explicitly named as Green Town, Illinois, but it’s clearly the same place. It's about two boys who sneak out to a fairground, and accidentally witness some strange shenanigans: a man climbs aboard a ferris wheel, runs it backwards, and gets off - but when he gets off, he's a small child. The child runs into town, commits a crime, then returns to age himself once again on the ferris wheel. The story is pure fantasy, of course, but with a great central gimmick.

Mr Cooger, after the ferris wheel runs out of control. Illustration for "The Black Ferris", Weird Tales, May 1948.
By the time Ray got round to developing this story into something longer, he had settled on a carousel for the ageing/de-ageing device. I have a pet theory on how this happened: a ferris wheel has no obvious sense of going forwards or backwards. A carousel, on the other hand, has horses to indicate the direction of spin; if you see a carousel going backwards, you know something is awry.

British first edition of Something Wicked. Hart-Davis, 1963. Cover art by Joe Mugnaini.

"The Black Ferris" gives us one incident that would later be expanded in Something Wicked. But all the other elements and characters come from that screenplay I mentioned, which Bradbury drafted between 1955 and 1959. This contains most of the plot and characters that you find in the novel, although there are some key differences. The principal one is that the character we know as Mr Halloway in the novel is actually a merger of two characters from the screenplay (one is a father, the other a library janitor). It was fairly late in the drafting of the novel that Bradbury hit upon the idea of merging them into one. Other differences include the character names - Peter and Hank, rather than Jim and Will, for example. This reveals the connection to "The Black Ferris", whose twin protagonists are also Pete and Hank. Oh, and Mr Dark - such an important and iconic figure of evil in the novel - is unnamed and rarely seen in the screenplay. He was something of an afterthought, and only really developed as Bradbury converted his screenplay into a novel.

That 1950s screenplay has been published, albeit in a limited edition, Dawn to Dusk: Cautionary Travels (Gauntlet Press, 2011). There you will see it presented as "a screen treatment", although it is sufficiently long and detailed as to really be a full, first draft screenplay. "First draft" really needs to be emphasised, since this version of the story is somewhat unstructured. It has some beautiful scenes which would carry over into the novel virtually unchanged, but the story logic that gets us from scene to scene is sometimes lacking. This isn't a criticism, it's just a fact of life with first draft scripts. In all my study of Bradbury's screenwriting over the years, I've seen very little evidence of Ray starting out with a structured outline. On the contrary, all the evidence points to him just sitting at the keyboard and typing whatever came into his head, exactly the process he recommended for writing short stories. The structure would come later, as he found it within the first draft, and worked to shape it and strengthen it in later drafts.

Dawn to Dusk, Gauntlet 2011. Edited by Bradbury's bibliographer Donn Albright, this limited edition contains one of Bradbury's 1950s screenplay drafts for The Dark Carnival, the basis for the 1962 novel Something Wicked. The wraparound cover art reproduces a Joe Mugnaini painting.

Once Bradbury was sure that the screenplay wasn't going to be filmed, he set about novelising it. In the various stages of his process, he experimented with point of view. One draft of the novel was written in the first person, from the viewpoint of Will Halloway. The working title at this stage became Jamie and Me. Finally, Bradbury switched back to third person narration as he finalised the novel into the form we know it today, and eventually settled on the Shakespearean title Something Wicked This Way Comes. If you've ever wondered why the book seems to spend a bit more time with Will and his thoughts (rather than Jim and his thoughts), it's probably because Will was the narrator during those earlier stages.

The Stories

In this section I usually write about individual stories making up a collection, but in the case of a novel that doesn't really work. Instead, as I did with Fahrenheit 451, I'll write about the best scenes in the book.

Mr Cooger becomes a child - the scene developed directly from "The Black Ferris". For all of the effectiveness and economy of "The Black Ferris", the developed version of the scene in the novel approaches perfection. Remember that here Bradbury needs to establish the logic of how this familiar-yet-strange machine works. It has to support not just a single episode in a short story, but the whole weight of the novel - since the carousel turns out to be critical to the novel's denouement. Heavily condensed, here is how Bradbury does it (in chapter 18):
          With a pop, a bang, a jangle of reins, a lift and a downfall, a rise and descent of brass, the carousel moved.
          [...] The merry-go-round was running, yes, but . . .
          It was running backward.
          [...] Jim nodded frantically at the man in the machine as he came around the next time.
          Mr. Cooger's face was melting like pink wax.
          His hands were becoming doll's hands.
          [...] The small shape stepped down from the silent world, its face in shadow, but its hands, newborn wrinkled pink, held out in raw carnival lamplight.

From this, you get the mechanism, you get the effect, you get a developing evil. And, carefully controlled on the page through the use of short paragraphs, you get a very clear visual picture of the whole sequence. Bradbury the novelist is here Bradbury the screenwriter, giving us very clear shots and camera angles.

Hiding in the drains - there comes a point (chapter 35) when Will and Jim are on the run from the evil carnival. They hide in a storm drain, and have to suffer in silence as they witness the evil Mr Dark verbally sparring with Mr Halloway, directly above them. This scene comes directly from Bradbury's earliest screenplay drafts, and it plays out the same way there as it does in the novel. Once Bradbury has a good, strong scene, he knows it, and will hone it to perfection, as he has done here.
          The cloudy sun poured light through all the sky.
          The two boys, boxed in light-slotted pit, hisstled their breath softly out through gritted teeth.
          [Will] gazed up . . . Dad looked even smaller up there than he had last night.
          [...] "Sir," said the man named Dark, probing Charles Halloway's face [...], "the Cooger-Dark Combined Shows have picked two local boys, two! to be our special guests during our celebratory visit!"
          [...]"Two selected from photos snapped on our midway yesterday. Identify them, sir, and you will share their fortune. There are the boys.
          He sees us down here! thought Will. Oh, God!
Again, Bradbury beautifully controls the "camera" through which we witness events. We shift seamlessly from down below with the boys, to up above with the two men, and back again. By having one scene play out, witnessed from below, he is able to rack up the Hitchcockian suspense of the scene. It's no surprise that this scene turns up almost unchanged in the 1983 feature film which was eventually made of Something Wicked (see below).

In the library - Mr Dark tracks down the boys to the library, but first encounters Mr Halloway again. Dark is amused to find that Halloway has been researching Cooger & Dark's carnival, and mocks Halloway's confidence that a Bible will protect him. "How childish and refreshingly old fashioned," Dark says as he proceeds to riffle the pages of the holy book, blowing smoke on the pages as he does so.

Shortly thereafter, Dark hunts the boys among the library shelves. They are terrified in amongst the books, but Dark quietly, patiently, climbs the shelves until:
          The eyes of the Illustrated Man came abreast of the eleventh shelf.
          Like a corpse laid rigid out, face down just three inches away, was Jim Nightshade.
          One shelf further up in the catacomb, eyes trembling with tears, lay William Halloway.
          "Well," said Mr. Dark.
          He reached a hand to pat Will's head.

The Adaptations

You're probably aware of the 1983 Disney film based on the novel, which has a screenplay credited to Ray Bradbury himself. But there had been a series of earlier attempts to get the novel on the screen - even after Ray had given up his 1950s efforts with Gene Kelly.

In the 1970s, Bradbury teamed with the legendary Sam Peckinpah, and created quite the most literal screenplay adaptation of a novel I've ever seen. Perhaps influenced by Peckinpah's claim that he could film the novel just by ripping the pages out of the book and stuffing them into the camera, Bradbury's 1974 script is a scene-by-scene transposition of the entire novel into screenplay form. It runs to 262 pages, which would lead to a running time of around four-and-a-half hours if filmed. Actually, it's a little unfair to call it just a transposition, because it does introduce some small new elements, and it is a very well written script. But it's a bit naive to think that converting every scene into screenplay format will produce a well balanced film.

A couple of years later, Bradbury wrote another screenplay based on Something Wicked. This wasn't a simple condensation of the 1974 script, but a completely new attempt. Finished in 1976, this version was to have been directed by Jack Clayton, for Paramount. Clayton and Bradbury had met in England back in the 1950s, when Bradbury was working on the screenplay for Moby Dick. They had a lot of common interests, and maintained a long-running correspondence for years, always hoping that at some point they would work together on a film. In 1976, it looked as if Something Wicked would be it. Unfortunately, the project fell apart as film projects often do - changes at the top of the studio, that sort of thing.

Finally, around 1981, the film was back on, this time at Disney. Bradbury's script was revised, and they were ready to go. Unfortunately, Clayton also got one of his writer friends (John Mortimer, of Rumpole of the Bailey fame) to give the script a little polish. And omitted to tell Bradbury. It was only when they were facing each other in a script meeting that Bradbury discovered Clayton's working draft was different. This put something of a chasm between Bradbury and Clayton, causing Bradbury to continue to work through gritted teeth all the time that he was talking to the press about the film.

The magnificent Jonathan Pryce as Mr Dark leads the parade in the 1983 Disney film.

It's worth mentioning at this point that Bradbury was generally happy for directors and other writers to make changes to his work. He was occasionally delighted when this happened (as with Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451, which has some major points of departure from the novel it is based on), and occasionally disappointed (as with Jack Smight's abysmal The Illustrated Man).

But in the case of Something Wicked, the contractually official title was Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Bradbury was the sole credited screenwriter. To turn up to work and find you had been re-written, behind your back, by a director you considered to be a friend... beggars belief. But it's all too common in Hollywood.

When the completed film was screened to a preview audience, it was considered a disaster. Chances are, it was the wrong audience for the film. This is another thing that's all too common in Hollywood: relying on the judgment of an audience who typically haven't even paid to see the film. (Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons is the classic example of a studio going into a panic after a bad screening.)

But the poor preview screening gave Bradbury an opportunity to take back control. He made strong suggestions for re-editing and partially re-shooting the film, and some of these suggestions did shape the film's re-making. The autumnal scenes that open and close the film were Bradbury's suggestion, as is the voice-over narration (spoken by Arthur Hill), which brings an authorial tone close to what we find in the book.

In later life, Bradbury would go so far as to claim that he had directed the film during this re-make period, but this is a gross overstatement. While he was influential over some of the narrative re-structuring, my own study of the studio memos and call sheets (in the Bradbury papers held by the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies in Indianapolis) shows that the real directorial control was in the hands of the Disney special effects department. Clayton was present throughout the re-shoots, and Bradbury made himself as available as he could, but both of them were largely sidelined as the technical team worked to knock the film into shape for release. Most of the changes made were to effects-based sequences, and some non-effects sequences were enhanced by having visual effects added. An example of the latter is the subtle addition of flames as Mr Dark rips pages from a book in the library sequence - and this is an enhancement that really works, making a dramatically powerful scene even stronger.

Sadly, the whole affair broke the friendship of Bradbury and Clayton. While they together stood firm against some aspects of the Disney "machine", once it was over they never spoke again.

While there has been talk of a new film version of Something Wicked, there is still no sign of one at the time of writing. But there have been adaptations for other media. Bradbury wrote a stage play based on his novel, some time in the 1990s. It is available for purchase from Dramatic Publishing. It's a fairly direct adaptation, and (judging by a performance I saw about ten years ago) in some places a little awkward it its use of the stage. But the key scenes that work in the novel also work well in the play.

That same play script was used for the Colonial Theatre radio play production in 2007. This production, inevitably stripped of the constraints of the stage, arguably works better than a conventional theatre production, leaving the listener's imagination to fill in the scenery.

Colonial Radio Theatre used Ray Bradbury's theatrical play as the script for their full-cast audio dramatisation. Only the smallest adjustments had to be made to the script.

BBC Radio also made their own full-cast audio production back in 2011, but using an original script by Diana Griffiths. I don't think this was ever commercially released, but it has been given a repeat airing a couple of time.

And even "The Black Ferris", the short story which started it all, was adapted for The Ray Bradbury Theatre. The 1990 episode was scripted by Bradbury himself, and directed in New Zealand by Roger Tompkins.

Find Out More...

Read my review of the Colonial Theatre radio production of Something Wicked, here.

Learn who else might have directed Something Wicked if history had played out differently, in my blog post here.

British novelist Kingsley Amis was a leading proponent of science fiction, but didn't get on so well with fantasy. Read about his scathing review of Something Wicked, in my blog post here.


Bradbury adapted "The Black Ferris" for his TV series, The Ray Bradbury Theater. You can watch this prototype for Something Wicked here.

In 2011, artist Ron Wimberley created a graphic novel adaptation of the Bradbury book. You can see a preview of some of the pages here.

Next Up...

The next of my Lockdown Choices will be the restrospective re-mix collection, R is for Rocket.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

From Dark Carnival to The Small Assassin...

You'd be forgiven for getting confused over the apparently endless re-shuffling of stories between Ray Bradbury's early collections. I know I am.

To clear my own mind, I created this table which shows the six basic editions of Dark Carnival, The October Country and The Small Assassin.

To get some insight into why this re-shuffling came about, read my "Lockdown posts" on those three books. But, in brief, it was a combination of editor preference for each edition, combined with Bradbury opportunistically tweaking his table of contents each time a new edition was in preparation.

Bradbury once wrote something to the effect that he didn't believe in re-writing his younger self, and that he let his books stand as originally written. Please don't believe him. It's just not true. Ray was an inveterate re-writer and table-of-contents-tweaker!

The table below puts the various stories in alphabetical order. And it probably has some errors, although I've double-checked it eight times over... Click on the table to make it bigger.

The Dark Carnival/October Country/Small Assassin re-shuffle. Click to embiggen.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Lockdown Choices - The Small Assassin

This is the tenth in my series of Lockdown Choices, where I seek to entertain you while in coronavirus-isolation, and remind you of Ray Bradbury's great works in this, his centenary year.

In these posts, I cover each of Bradbury's books, say something about the contents, then pick the best stories and adaptations.

Lockdown Choices: The Small Assassin

First edition, paperback, Ace 1962. The Small Assassin is a British book with no direct US counterpart. Cover artist unknown.


The Book

The Small Assassin is, to us Brits, as essential a Bradbury volume as any other. But it is solely a British volume, with no equivalent in the US. It contains thirteen stories, all of them "leftovers" from the UK editions of Dark Carnival and The October Country. How this came about is bit difficult to explain...

  1. Ray's usual British paperback publisher Corgi Books turned down the option to publish The October Country, as they didn't feel that a book of horror stories matched their usual style.
  2. In 1961, Ace Books stepped in and bought The October Country, but decided to drop seven of the stories ("The Next in Line", "The Lake", "The Small Assassin", "The Crowd", "Jack-in-the-Box", "The Man Upstairs", and "The Cistern". Although they also decided to add "The Traveller", which had appeared in Dark Carnival, but not in The October Country.
  3.  (Are you with me so far? There will be a quiz later.)
  4. In 1962, Ace took those seven deleted stories, put them together with the remaining six stories from Dark Carnival, and issued the result as The Small Assassin. The table of contents of the resulting volume is here.
Another way of looking at it is to say that if you have the UK paperback of The October Country and the UK paperback The Small Assassin, you have in your possession the complete contents of the outt-of-print UK edition of Dark Carnival. (But don't forget that the UK Dark Carnival is a cut-down version of the US edition!)

As far as I am aware, there has never been a hardcover edition of The Small Assassin; it has spent its entire existence in paperback. The last edition to see print was the Grafton edition of 1986. In its twenty-four years in print, it had just three more cover designs, all of them somewhat mismatched to the contents:

The three subsequent covers for The Small Assassin. The art for the middle one is by Richard Clifton-Dey. The others are uncredited. I have a particular dislike for the baby alien/robot on the right, who adorned the first edition I ever owned. He is so obviously a science-fictional creature, and yet this is so obviously not a science fiction book!

So, it's a book of leftovers. Or, alternatively, another one of those remixes which serve only to confuse the Bradbury collector.

The Stories

Now, I have covered some of the Small Assassin stories already, when I blogged about Dark Carnival and The October Country, so I will not repeat myself here - except to say that I heartily recommend "The Crowd" and "The Lake", which I discussed here. As for the others:

"The Small Assassin" - I've mentioned this tale a few times, and it is one of Ray's most anthologised stories - just look at its number of appreances as recorded on the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. In case you've somehow managed to avoid being exposed to this classic tale, I'll summarise it by saying it's the one where a woman suspects that her new-born baby is out to kill her. As David Mogen points out (Ray Bradbury, Twayne 1986, p.57) this is a reverse of the monster/innocent victim scenario we would normally expect in a horror tale - and is an instance of "parent abuse" rather than child abuse!

It's classic Bradburyan paranoia of the type we have seen in "The Crowd", "The Wind", "Skeleton" and "The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl". And as with most of those stories, the paranoid protagonist turns out to be justified in their paranoia. Bradbury, in his classic horror period, was never one to leave the reader to decide; he nearly always set things up to make you think the hero is crazy, then make you empathise with them, and then vindicate them.

Alice Leiber, the mother, is proof that Bradbury can write strong women characters. You will sometimes hear criticisms that most of his characters are male, especially in something like The Martian Chronicles. But he does have a number of memorable strong females. And if he adheres to the Hitchcockian motto of "torture the heroine", he can at least be defended on the grounds that, actually, he usually tortures his male heroes as well.

The unsung star of "The Small Assassin" is Dr Jeffers, the sceptical doctor whose role is to calm and placate Alice. Until he ends up convinced that she is right...

One last thing to say about "The Small Assassin": it may have its origins, in a sense, in Bradbury's own experience. One of Bradbury's oddest claims was that he remembered his own birth. "Preposterous", I hear you cry; and I cry the same thing. Nevertheless, Ray insisted that he could recall "the camera angle" as he emerged into this world, as well as the pain of being born, and his infant desire to return back to the womb. Whether you believe it or not (and I don't, not for one minute), it was this "memory" which provided the germ of the idea of a child which resents being born, and which desires to exact revenge on those responsible. Bradbury's account is given in countless interviews, but is most clearly explained in Sam Weller's biography, The Bradbury Chronicles (Wm. Morrow, 2005, p. 12).

"The Next in Line" - again, one that I've mentioned before. Again, it's a story with its roots in Bradbury's personal experience, this time based on his visit to Guanajuato in Mexico, where he saw the mummies in the catacombs. The story is what Sam Weller describes as "one of the most powerful stories [...], a psychologically complex creation, dripping with gothic atmosphere [...] Bradbury at his poetic best."

Here's the first view we get as our protagonists enter the graveyard on their way to the mummies:

         It was several mornings after the celebratory fiesta of El Dia de Muerte, the Day of the Dead, and ribbons and ravels of tissue and sparkle-tape still clung like insane hair to the raised stones, to the hand-carved, love-polished crucifixes, and to the above-ground tombs which resembled marble jewel-cases. There were statues frozen in angelic postures over gravel mounds, and intricately carved stones tall as men with angels spilling all down their rims, and tombs as big and ridiculous as beds put out to dry in the sun after some nocturnal accident. And within the four walls of the yard, inserted into square mouths and slots, were coffins, walled in, plated in by marble plates and plaster, upon which names were struck and upon which hung tin pictures, cheap peso portraits of the inserted dead. Thumb-tacked to the different pictures were trinkets they'd loved in life, silver charms, silver arms, legs, bodies, silver cups, silver dogs, silver church medallions, bits of red crape and blue ribbon. On some places were painted slats of tin showing the dead rising to heaven in oil-tinted angels' arms.
And the mummies themselves:

          They resembled nothing more than those preliminary erections of a sculptor, the wire frame, the first tendons of clay, the muscles, and a thin lacquer of skin. They were unfinished, all one hundred and fifteen of them.
          They were parchment-colored and the skin was stretched as if to dry, from bone to bone. The bodies were intact, only the watery humors had evaporated from them.
          "The climate," said the caretaker. "It preserves them. Very dry."
          "How long have they been here?" asked Joseph.
          "Some one year, some five, senor, some ten, some seventy."
 Such precise language in those descriptions - poetic, yes, but with a photographic clarity.

One of the strengths of the story is the way it gradually shifts away from the twin protagonists of Joseph and Marie - they're both together, and Joseph seems to have made their plans for them - to the focus on Marie alone, but with a final shift at the end to Joseph alone (the final shift being for reasons which you will discover when you read the story).

As with "The Small Assassin", there is a strong focus on a central female character here, albeit another "tortured heroine".


The Adaptations

"The Small Assassin" has been adapted for visual media a couple of times, and has turned out well each time. The story has a lot of visual suspense built in, such as the baby's carefully placed toy, intended to cause the mother to trip. Bradbury himself adapted it in 1988 for The Ray Bradbury Theater, and director Chris Charles oversaw a short film version released in 2006.

Dr Jeffers, as played by Cyril Cusack (of Fahrenheit 451 fame) in the RBT production of "The Small Assassin".
The chief suspect in the RBT production of "The Small Assassin".
A troubled mother from the 2006 short film...

...and the dastardly deed committed by the evil child.

"The Next in Line", on the other hand, has worked well on radio. While the story could work well on the screen, it also lends itself to the "better pictures" you often get in the sound-only medium, as evidenced by the BBC Fear on Four series, with a 1992 script by Brian Sibley.

Many of the other stories from The Small Assassin have also been adapted: "The Lake", "The Crowd", "The Man Upstairs", "The Tombstone", "The Handler", "Let's Play Poison" and "The Dead Man" all turned up on The Ray Bradbury Theater, all (of course) dramatised by Bradbury himself. In all, eight stories out of the thirteeen in the book were adapted for that series, probably something of a record.

Find Out More...

See my page for The Small Assassin, here.

Read my review of Bradbury's own screen adaptation of "The Small Assassin" here, and my review of the Chris Charles short film here.

Listen and Watch...

Watch Bradbury's TV adaptation of "The Small Assassin" here. And see the trailer for the 2006 short film here.

Read about Brian Sibley's adaptation of "The Next in Line", and listen to a recording of the play here.


Next Up...

The next of my Lockdown Choices will be Bradbury's second book of the year 1962: Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

The Breathless 1950s

Ray Bradbury in the 1950s. Photo by Morris Dollens.
If you've been following my posts of late, you will know that I have been working through each of Ray Bradbury's books in order of original publication, explaining a bit about how each book came about, and selecting the best stories and adaptations from each one.

So far, I have covered all the books from the 1940s and 1950s. And what a breathless decade(-and-a-bit) it's been.

By the end of 1959, Bradbury had published nine books: three novels (or packaged to appear like novels), five short story collections, and one children's book.

By the end of 1959, at the age of thirty-nine, he had been publishing short stories for twenty-two years, and had totalled 249 of them. That's an average of 11.3 per year, but with a peak of 24 stories in 1950.

Oh, and he had written screenplays for two feature films which had been made (and at least three others which hadn't been made), and had written about seven TV scripts which had been filmed (and others which hadn't).

This was a phenomenal output, and at a level which no mortal would be able to sustain.

How did he manage it?

It came from his commitment to writing. At various times he would recommend that writers should start a new short story every day. Not finish, start; he would do as much as he could, then put the story-in-progress aside for later revision. Each story completed would be circulated to magazine editors, in hope of a sale.

At other times he would suggest that you complete a story every week, in order to guarantee that you turned out something of quality. (He argued that there's no way anyone could write 52 bad stories in a year.) If you complete - and send out - one story a week, by the end of the year you'd have 52 stories in circulation around the various editors.

In the books he published up to and including 1959, Bradbury had:

  • Revised, collected, revised again, and re-collected his best horror/dark fantasy work in Dark Carnival and The October Country
  • Collected his best science fiction stories in The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man (and Fahrenheit 451)
  • Written one of the enduring classic dystopias, Fahrenheit 451
  • Collected his finest semi-autobiographical stories in Dandelion Wine
  • Broken free of the pulp magazine "ghetto"
  • Established himself as one of the leading twentieth-century fantasists
All of this, and more, before the age of forty.

And... he still had another fifty-some years of active writing ahead of him.


Take a breather. Then, when you and I are ready, we'll move on to the 1960s.