Friday, November 19, 2021

New Bradbury 100 podcast episode: The Illustrated Man - at Seventy!

A few days ago, I gave a livestreamed talk on Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man, a book which is seventy years old this year. The talk was given as part of the University of Wolverhampton's Artsfest Online.

A video recording of the event will be made available shortly, but in the meantime below is the audio from the talk, slightly edited so that it works without the illustrations. (Anyone who has seen any of my talks knows that I firmly believe in using illustrations!)

Thanks to everyone who attended the live version of the talk, which generated some interesting Q&A at the end. I've left the Q&A out of the podcast audio because it was poor quality, but it should be included in the video version when that is released.

One person asked me a tough question: was Ira Levin's The Stepford Wives influenced by Ray Bradbury's short story "Marionettes Inc"? You may recall that both of these works deal with robot replacement humans in a domestic environment. I admit to being stumped by that question - and I still am!

Levin and Bradbury were contemporaries (Bradbury was nine years older than Levin), and while Bradbury appears to have begun writing at an earlier age than Levin, they both started writing for television in the 1950s. Around the time Bradbury was writing for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Levin was writing for Lights Out and other TV shows. 

I've never seen anything that specifically connects the two writers, but given Levin's interest in dark subjects and fantastical story premises (not only Stepford but Rosemary's Baby, The Boys From Brazil, and others) it's hard to imagine that he wasn't aware of Bradbury's fiction. And "Marionettes Inc" was a story which was well known in the 1950s. It was adapted for radio more than once, and Bradbury adapted it for Hitchcock. It was also widely anthologised.

But short of reading a biography of Levin - which I now feel compelled to do! - I don't have an answer to that Stepford Wives question.

What I do know, however, is that Bradbury felt that Rosemary's Baby borrowed heavily from his classic short story "The Small Assassin". I think Bradbury was more bothered by the film version than Levin's book; and, of course, the only thing they have in common is the basic premise of an evil baby. But that's all I know of Bradbury versus Levin.


David Chadwick said...

Excellent overview of a brilliant book. Thanks once again Phil!

Phil said...

Thanks, David!

bobby said...

Thanks Phil. I've never come across his displeasure with 'rosemary's Baby'. Is there a book or interview in which he mentions that?


Anonymous said...

Thanks Phil. I've never come across his displeasure with 'rosemary's Baby'. Is there a book or interview in which he mentions that?


Phil said...

Hi bobby, I don't remember exactly where Ray said this, but I'd bet that there is some reference to it in Sam Weller's THE BRADBURY CHRONICLES or LISTEN TO THE ECHOES.

Ray wrote an article for the LA Times in 1969 when the film of Rosemary's Baby came out, and I vaguely recally that the article was a criticism of the ending of the film. He might also have stuck in a dig about the book seeming to borrow from "The Small Assassin", but I can't clearly remember.

I hope this helps!