Bradbury Bonus Roundup

Ray Bradbury’s 89th Birthday Cake. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

“All Bradbury, all the time” — one of File 770’s mottos. (The other is: “It’s always news to someone.”)

(1) LOVE AT SECOND SIGHT. Ray’s version of How I Met Your Mother – from the Goodreads blog, “How to Find the Love of Your Life in a Bookstore: The Ray Bradbury Method”.

If you want to fall in love with a reader, go where the readers go. The late Ray Bradbury met his future wife, Marguerite McClure, at Fowler’s Bookstore in Los Angeles when he was 22 years old.

It was not love at first sight. McClure, who was clerking at the store, accused Bradbury of shoplifting. “He carried a briefcase and wore a trench coat on a clear day, so I was immediately suspicious,” she remembered later. “I expected him to slam his briefcase down on a pile of books and make off with a few. Instead, he told me he was a writer and invited me to have a cup of coffee with him.”

(2) PROFESSIONAL OPINION. The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies documents that Ray Bradbury was asked to review the Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back script before it went into production.

(3) WATCH YOUR PHRASEOLOGY. Gabrielle Belot holds forth “On the Dark, Wondrous Optimism of Ray Bradbury” for Lit Hub.

At a glance, Bradbury can seem excessively cheery, his fiction bursting with a simple positive bombast that stretches, at times, into naiveté and clichés about good and evil, gender roles, religion, and science. When I recently reread Something Wicked This Way Comes, I was struck by how, in one breath, Bradbury could go from perspicacious, precise imagery to ham-fisted, trite moralizing. And the great chronicler of Martians himself sometimes emphasized this saccharine self-portrait. “I believe we’ll be immortal, seed the stars and live forever in the flesh of children,” he declared in 1975 with the death-defying assurance of a transhumanist. His “job as a writer,” he continued, was “to show man his basic goodness… I reject the doomsayers!” Yet there is more than a little dusk beneath this sprightly veneer.

The visions of the future in some of his best-known texts, while sanguine, are quietly bloody in another sense. Ambrose Bierce—who appears as a character in The Illustrated Man—described pessimism in his delightfully perverse Devil’s Dictionary as a natural response to “the disheartening prevalence of the optimist with his scarecrow hope and his unsightly smile”; Bradbury was a rosy smiler, like the charming scarecrow in Howl’s Moving Castle, but no mere romantic idealist. Instead, he was a darker optimist, an optimist of the evening. We all have, need to have, a piece of night in us. Bradbury’s pictures of his era and his prophecies for the 21st century were as hopeful as they were quietly horrifying, and, unexpectedly, they helped me find a language for loss.

(4) EVERYONE’S A CRITIC. Space.com celebrated Ray’s birthday in a strange way, by analyzing one of his failures: “On Ray Bradbury’s Birthday, Revisit His Rejected Planetarium Script”.

As a writer, Bradbury is known and respected for his poetic language, honed over a career that spanned seven decades. But in 1981, Bradbury’s flowery prose describing cosmic phenomena failed to impress [National Air and Space Museum] exhibit developers, whose remarks about the script were incorporated into the files that Romanowski uncovered.

“Many of the phrases are crude and devoid of meaning. Some of it flows nicely, then suddenly it changes and becomes awkward,” a reviewer noted.

Other comments proposed that Bradbury’s words did not accurately represent the science of the Big Bang and the formation of stars and planets, Romanowski reported. One reviewer scoffed at Bradbury’s line about “suns that must birth themselves,” saying that his description “reeks with misunderstanding,” while another pointed to the phrase “life cooking itself,” identifying it as “a poor way of describing/summarizing evolution,” according to Romanowski.

(5) MORE 451 CASTING. Deadline reports “‘Fahrenheit 451’: Martin Donovan, Andy McQueen & Grace Lynn Kung Cast In HBO Movie”.

Donovan will play Commissioner Nyari, a leader in the ministry. McQueen plays Gustav, a member of the resistance, and Kung plays Chairman Mao, a member of the resistance. In addition to Jordan, they join previously announced Michael Shannon as Beatty, Sofia Boutella as Clarisse and Lilly Singh as Raven.

(6) FAUX BLURB. A fiction writer’s web of lies started crashing because, amongst other things, he had blurbs from dead people praising his book Stealing Indians. The SF connection: one of them is Ray Bradbury: “Fiction Writer Is Being Accused of Weaving a Breathtaking Web of Questionable Achievements”.

Praise for journalist Rich Smith’s article on The Stranger, “Meet John Smelcer, Native American Literature’s ‘Living Con Job’”: a profile of a fiction writer who starting claiming a strong Alaskan Native identity as early as 1994 and then appears to have run with a twenty-five-year string of inflated credentials and biographical details so elaborate that the resulting tale itself should be up for an award.

Jamoche posted the link in comments with this clarification:

[About] the Bradbury quote- the Jezebel article missed the line above it, so they report it as being for the new book; it’s actually for the writer’s 2013 book:

Praise for Lone Wolves:

“A beautiful and moving story of courage and love.”—Ray Bradbury

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, and Jamoche for these stories.]

One thought on “Bradbury Bonus Roundup

  1. Ray actually met Maggie at Fowler’s when he was 25 years old, but I loved that Goodreads blog all the way through; it captures a defining moment of love in Ray Bradbury’s life, focusing in on the nexus between his love for Maggie and his passion for books, bookstores, and libraries. The many favorable and creative Goodreads responses to this blog entry highlight the ways that Ray’s loves (and his great good fortune) resonate with generations of readers.
    Jon Eller, Bradbury Center director

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *