Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Glimpses of Ray in Mythic Quest

There's a terrific episode of Apple TV's Mythic Quest set in the 1970s, where we see behind the scenes of a pulp magazine publisher. And who should be there, but one Ray Bradbury!

The episode, titled "Backstory!", is somehing of an origin story for recurring character C.W.Longbottom, normally played by F. Murray Abraham, but here played by Josh Brener. We learn that Longbottom was a talentless writer who only achieved any form of success because of his morally dubious use of a manuscript that has been improved by Isaac Asimov.

Asimov is a character in the drama, albeit with just a few lines. But Asimov's story function is decisive. He is played here, complete with hallmark mutton chops, by Chet Grissom.

But what of Bradbury? He appears fleetingly, as part of a meeting going on. The meeting participants? Asimov, Bradbury, and Ursula Le Guin!


Asimov, Le Guin and Bradbury confer


Ursula and Ray

Another view. I wonder what they were discussing...

"Backstory!" is a great episode, and works even if you are not familiar with Mythic Quest as a series, and even if you don't know the series regulars. It's really just a standalone story of three wannabe SF writers, each at a different stage of their writing journey. Their chief obstacle is a kind of John W. Campbell figure, played by Craig Mazin, who also wrote the episode. Mazin is best known as the Emmy Award-winning writer of Chernobyl.

"Ray" is on screen for just a fraction of a second, and while it seems unlikely that he would be in the offices of a New York pulp magazine at this stage of his career, his presence with Le Guin and Asimov gives the episode an odd air of authenticity.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Movies on Mars

 Here's a little curiosity that I've mentioned before, but now with added evidence:

In the 1980 TV miniseries of The Martian Chronicles, there is a brief scene of people coming out of (what I assume to be) a cinema. Either side of the door is a rather amateurish poster with the title The Silver Locusts. The artwork on the poster is taken from... the UK paperback of The Silver Locusts, which was the original UK title for... The Martian Chronicles.

How meta is that? People in MC going to watch a film about themselves!

I noticed this in 1980, when the show was first aired on British TV. But this was before VCRs, and the appearance of the artwork was so fleeting as to be unprovable. The commercial DVD release allowed the image to be paused, but it was rather muddy.

But thanks to Bluray, we can now get a closer look. So here is the proof:

Silver Locusts posters as the crowd emerges from the cinema.

UK paperback, 1970s. Artwork by Peter Goodfellow.

When the miniseries was released, UK publisher Granada decided to cash in by re-issuing The Silver Locusts as The Martian Chronicles.

In the same sequence, there are some other posters on display, but I haven't been able to figure out what they are. They're probably completely fictional, but who knows? What are we looking at here? mtext? Invasion?

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Phil guests on WORDS TO WRITE BY podcast

Words To Write By is a podcast for those interested in the craft of writing. Co-hosts Kim and Renee have set themselves the challenge of reading "how to..." books, the ones that claim to reveal the rules you have to follow, or the secrets that only a true writing guru can reveal.

Having progressed through John Gardner's The Art of Fiction (1982), the team are now ready to take heed of the advice of Ray Bradbury, as they tackle Ray's inspirational essay collection on writing, Zen in the Art of Writing.

In their latest podcast episode, they give their final thoughts on Gardner before introducing Zen - and they very kindly asked me to help with the introduction. Click the link below to find more, and to hear me opine on Ray's advice to writers.