Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Jar

Seventy-six years ago, in November 1944, Weird Tales magazine debuted a classic Ray Bradbury short story: "The Jar".



It's a simple short story, involving the purchase of a jar with mysterious, unfathomable contents. Something preserved in formaldehyde, perhaps? No one can be quite sure.

The story remains one of Bradbury's most popular, and it has been anthologised and collected dozens of times over the years. A quick skim of its history at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database indicates about 74 appearances! Nowadays you can find it in two of Ray's books: The October Country and The Stories of Ray Bradbury.

And, of course, "The Jar" is a perennial favourite in adaptation. It was adapted magnificently for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, in a version directed by Norman Lloyd; re-adapted (badly) for the 1980s revival of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, where it was directed by Tim Burton; and adapted again (competently) for The Ray Bradbury Theater, with a script by Bradbury himself. It's also been done for radio and occasionally for the stage.

You can read my reviews of the various TV versions here:

Hitchcock (original)

Hitchcock (revival)



The actual jar from the original Hitchcock version survives to this day. For decades Ray Bradbury had it in his basement office, and after he died it was gifted to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies in Indianapolis. The waters within the jar are even murkier now than they were back in the 1960s when the episode was filmed, but you still get a sense that there's something in there looking out at you...


Monday, November 23, 2020

The Martian Chronicles at Seventy - online now

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a public lecture as part of the University of Wolverhampton's ArtsFest 2020. My topic was Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles at Seventy, marking the seventieth anniversary of the first publication of that book.

Bradbury himself recognised that The Martian Chronicles was a "half-cousin to a novel", being neither a short story collection nor a full novel. In the lecture, I discussed how this came about, and how it influences the way the book has survived these last seventy years.

I released the audio from the lecture as part of a recent Bradbury 100 podcast, but you can now also see the video of the lecture. Given that it was an illustrated talk, this has to be the best way to enjoy it...

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Bradbury 100 - episode 18

Time for another episode of Bradbury 100! And - for now - the last episode.

When I started this series back in July, I expected I might be able to produce a handful of episodes. But I was overwhelmed by the number of Ray's friends, collaborators and fans who agreed to be interviewed. And so I ended up with enough material for eighteen episodes.

But now, with the academic year in full swing (I'm a full-time university lecturer), I have very little free time, and the production cycle of Bradbury 100 needs to stop.

I do hope to return with some one-off episodes, so I hope you will stay subscribed on your podcast app. That way, you will continue to see any new episodes that come along.

To end the regular series, I chose to speak to Howard V. Hendrix, a professional science fiction writer who also happens to be scholar of science fiction. Howard has given public presentations about Ray's work, and published books and articles about Mars in science fiction.

And although Howard is often classed as a "hard SF" writer - putting him at the opposite end of the spectrum to Ray Bradbury - Howard is also a creative wordsmith. With Howard's SF writing chops and critic's insight, I can think of few people better to consider the question of Ray Bradbury's legacy.

Shortly after I interviewed Howard, his suffered the terrible loss of his family home to the California forest fires. Thankfully, Howard and his wife were safely evacuated. Howard, who is himself a volunteer firefighter, shortly afterward wrote a moving but philosophical account of how the fire swept in and wrecked whole communities. You can read his article for the San Francisco Chronicle here.






Show Notes

Howard V. Hendrix is an exceptional writer of science fiction. In the podcast, he discusses his short story collection The Girls With Kaleidoscope Eyes: Analog Stories for a Digital Age, which you can find in all good bookshops, and at Amazon (US) and Amazon (UK).

Howard's other books can be found on his author page, here.

A few years ago, Howard co-edited a book about Mars in science fiction, building on a conference on the same theme. I contributed an article about Bradbury's Mars stories. You can find Visions of Mars here.

Howard's entry in Wikipedia.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Bradbury 100 - Episode 17

 This week's Bradbury 100 is a bit different: instead of a featured guest interview, I present highlights from two Bradbury Centenary events from recent times, as well as summing up some of the key centary events of the year so far.

The first of the highlights is a selection from the discussion in the first (and so far, only)  Bradbury 100 LIVE episode. This was an event I ran on Facebook Live back in September. In this recording, I talk to John King Tarpinian - a friend of Ray Bradbury's who often accompanied him to public events - and educator George Jack.

The second is the audio from a public lecture I gave earlier this week, celebrating seventy years of Bradbury's book The Martian Chronicles.

I hope you enjoy this format!


Show Notes

Find out more about the many Bradbury Centennial events - both past and future - by visiting the Centennial page on the official Ray Bradbury website.

Read more of my assessment of The Martian Chronicles here.

JKT - John King Tarpinian - is a frequent contributor to Mike Glyer's File 770, where he often provides news stories relating to Ray Bradbury. View his posts here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Martian Chronicles at Seventy

Today - Tuesday 10th November - I am giving a talk on Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles at Seventy. It's online, entirely free, and open to all. But you do need to register to receive the link. (The talk will be delivered via a Zoom webinar.)

It will also be recorded, and made available for future viewing, but this could take a few weeks.

The talk is part of the University of Wolverhampton's annual ArtsFest. Here's the official blurb for the event:

This year saw the widely celebrated one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), the American author whose best-known work Fahrenheit 451 stands alongside Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four as a classic of twentieth-century dystopian fiction, and still holds relevance today.

But this year also saw the seventieth anniversary of Bradbury’s earlier The Martian Chronicles, a book which better captures the breadth and fragmentary nature of Bradbury’s many styles and interests, and one which more clearly reveals the irony of Bradbury’s association with the science fiction genre. For all its reliance on science-fictional tropes, The Martian Chronicles is a work which builds dream-like fantasy on top of Bradbury’s own fantastical influences. And, while projecting and warning about our future, it relies heavily on a rear-view mirror to reflect on colonialism, invasion and occupation.

In this illustrated lecture, Phil Nichols recounts the history of The Martian Chronicles, and shows how this short-story collection masquerading as a novel has constantly evolved with our changing times. He considers the long shadow the book has cast over television, radio and film science fiction, and shows how Bradbury’s unscientific book has nevertheless inspired several generations of real-life scientists and astronauts.

The online lecture will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

Dr Phil Nichols, Course Leader for Film & Television Production at the University of Wolverhampton, has been called “the leading scholar on Bradbury's media adaptation history" by Bradbury biographer Professor Jonathan R. Eller (Bradbury Beyond Apollo, University of Illinois Press, 2020). Phil has spoken about Bradbury on the BBC World Service and National Public Radio, and has published and presented widely on Bradbury’s work in all media. He currently produces and presents a podcast, Bradbury 100, which explores Bradbury’s centenary.

Click the link below to sign up for the talk!

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Bradbury 100 - Episode 16

In this week's episode of Bradbury 100, I discuss Ray Bradbury as both a mentor and a mentee. I talk about a few of the major influences on Bradbury's development as a professional writer, and some of those younger writers who he helped once he was established as a writer.

My guest is such a younger writer, Gregory Miller. Greg knew Ray in the last few decades of his life, and benefitted from Ray's advice and guidance.

While I interviewed Greg over Zoom, he was watched-over by an unusual Godzilla figure (which Greg explains in the interview)...






Show Notes

Find out about some of Ray's mentors here:

Henry Kuttner - Leigh Brackett - Norman Corwin - Bernard Berenson - Charles Laughton

Visit Greg Miller's website

Buy Greg's books on Amazon US or Amazon UK.