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.


Reginac7 said...

Truly phenomenal and wondrous--and how lucky we are he did it all...

Ian Martínez Cassmeyer said...

The man's commitment to his passion, his love, is simply astonishing, but he knew THIS (his writing), was what he was meant to do. So, he did it and he did it well.