A Bradbury Avalanche

Thanks to bloggers’ outpouring of interest in his work we again can celebrate “all Bradbury all the time” here at File 770.

(1) SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO. First Fandom Experience has announced a remarkable project: “Coming Soon: The Earliest Bradbury & More”.

This year (2020) marks the centenary of Bradbury’s birth, and we at First Fandom Experience hope to honor him by contributing to the extensive body of literature that surrounds him. Building on our work for The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom, Volume One: The 1930s, we are on schedule to publish a volume titled The Earliest Bradbury, an exploration and celebration of his earliest writings as a science fiction fan, ahead of his centennial in August.

Like The Visual HistoryThe Earliest Bradbury explores history by wrapping an archive in a story. We use original artifacts from the past, such as fanzines, letters, and photographs, to tell the story of Bradbury’s journey as a young fan and author. Although we discuss his more well-known works, such as Futuria Fantasia and Hollerbochen’s Dilemma, we pay special attention to the often overlooked articles, letters, and stories Bradbury published as a teenager and young adult, and tease out the relationships that influenced the young Bradbury and launch his career as a professional author. As with The Visual History, many of the artifacts reproduced in The Earliest Bradbury are rare and difficult to find as originals or reproductions.

They’ll publish a deluxe, hard-bound edition of The Earliest Bradbury in July, which will be available through the FFE website. 

(2) AT NINETEEN. This month Wil Wheaton released his reading of one of Bradbury’s fanzine stories – the kind of thing we may expect to see in the FFE collection: “Radio Free Burrito Presents: Luana the Living by Ray Bradbury”.

Actor & writer Wil Wheaton (Star Trek, The Big Bang Theory, and Stand by Me) read Bradbury’s “Luana the Living” on an episode of his podcast, Radio Free Burrito. Wheaton describes this story of an explorer’s harrowing experience in the jungles of India as “*exactly* the kind of book I would have picked up from the spinning rack of fifty cent paperbacks in the drugstore.”

Published in 1940 in the fanzine Polaris when Bradbury was 19 years old, “Luana the Living,” offers a rare glimpse into the writers’ earliest works.

(3) HIT PERSON. In the tenth post of a series at BradburyMedia, Phil Nichols reviews the title story in the Bradbury’s Small Assassin collection: “Lockdown Choices – The Small Assassin”.

…It’s classic Bradburyan paranoia of the type we have seen in “The Crowd”, “The Wind”, “Skeleton” and “The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl”. And as with most of those stories, the paranoid protagonist turns out to be justified in their paranoia. Bradbury, in his classic horror period, was never one to leave the reader to decide; he nearly always set things up to make you think the hero is crazy, then make you empathise with them, and then vindicate them….

See Phil Nichols’ entire slate of Lockdown Choices in “Reading at Home”.

Phil Nichols, historian, educator, and creator of Bradburymedia, offers his series of suggestions for the best Bradbury stories to enjoy at home while the world is engaged in social distancing.

Nichols also recounts Bradbury’s avalanche of productivity in the decade of the Fifties in his post titled “The Breathless 1950s”.

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….

(4) THE FUTURE OF RACE. Kathryn Ross’ Pasadena Now opinion piece “Why Race Still Matters in a Post-Race Universe” takes a Bradbury story as a key text to lead up to this conclusion about representation; “Will race still matter then? Will it matter after we’ve discovered extensive space travel and aliens and new worlds and parallel universes? Perhaps not. But does it matter right now for audiences like myself and Andre? and my parents to see black people belonging as integral parts of these fantastical narratives? I think it does. However far into the future we’re reaching, it matters.”

June 2003. The American south is still segregated, blacks are employed by wealthy whites and treated like the lowliest of servants in an effect reminiscent of the Mammys, Bucks, and “boys” of old Hollywood, lynching is an after-dinner pastime, and use of the n-word in casual conversation abounds.

Celebrated sci-fi literary giant Ray Bradbury paints this raw and oftentimes hard-to-read picture as the context within his short story, “Way in the Middle of the Air.” Bradbury imagines a mass exodus of all the black people in America —not back to Africa as one white character suggests, but to the planet Mars— to escape the racial tyranny of Earth. This short appears in Bradbury’s famous first novel, The Martian Chronicles, first published in 1950.

From Bradbury’s 1950s viewpoint, June 2003 is the farthest reach of the future, and in this future, racism is still alive and as virulent as ever. To be clear, Bradbury is not writing as pro-racist. Rather, he is musing on what would happen to the racists if their prey could —and did— just leave, far beyond where they could reach. 

(5) A MATCH MADE IN HELL. Christina Dalcher, in “The Dystopia At Home” on CrimeReads, looks at five dystopian novels (including Fahrenheit 451) for what they say about families.

You work hard all day, setting books on fire, waving your portable blowtorch around at anything that might be read, and when you come home, all you want is a little hug. Forget it, brother. Your wife is permanently glued to the largest boob-tube ever invented: the parlor wall, so stuck on it that she can barely remember your name. You start having second thoughts about your chosen trade, you want someone to talk to, and you turn to that one person who’s supposed to be your life partner, your sounding board in all things intimate. She tunes you out. You try reading a book, just for fun, and end up being locked out of the bathroom while your wife swallows enough pills to bring down a bull elephant.

Ah, marriage.

(6) GAIMAN AND WELLER ON BRADBURY. On May 9, as part of the Big Book Weekend programme, award-winning Bradbury biographer and writer Sam Weller joined in a spirited discussion with Neil Gaiman about Ray Bradbury’s inestimable influence and enduring popularity, and how it has inspired their own work.

The Big Book Weekend is a 3-day virtual festival, taking place on MyVLF.com (My Virtual Literary Festival), that brings together the best of the British book festivals cancelled due to coronavirus. The festival is sponsored by BBC Arts and The Arts Council, among others.

The program can still be viewed, however, free registration is required at https://myvlf.com. Other panels and discussions from various different genres are also available.

A transcript of the Weller/Gaiman discussion is accessible here. The URL seems to work if I’m not logged in, too, but no guarantees.

(7) DOING SOME WEEDING. If Bradbury hadn’t named a book after it I might never have heard of dandelion wine – now I even have a recipe for making it.

What started as a poor man’s wine in Europe slowly made its way into a tradition on the Great Plains of North America. Settlers found patches of the weed and started fermenting it into a sweet drink to enjoy after working in the fields all day.

Along with having a bit of alcohol, dandelion wine is also a medicinal drink. Dandelion flowers are packed with vitamins A, B, C, and D and are great for digestive health because they clean the kidneys and liver.

Today modern homesteaders make the wine at home and relish in its taste. Ever wanted to give winemaking a try? Now’s your chance to try homebrewing all those dandelion blossoms you have in your yard.

…While this dandelion wine recipe does take months to make, you’ll be happy you created it once you take the first sip of your very own homemade dandelion wine. In the meantime, read Ray Bradbury’s novel, Dandelion Wine, a 1957 novel that uses the flower petal wine as a metaphor for packing all of the joys of summer into a single bottle.

(8) COVERED IN ART. Anna Felicity Friedman explains how “Ray Bradbury Understood the Narrative Power of Tattoos” at LitHub.

…Tattoos and perceptions of them have transformed enormously from 1950­–51 when Esquire first published Bradbury’s short story in July of 1950, followed by the author using the character again as a frame device for the prologue and epilogue to The Illustrated Man collection. Tattooing was mired in a dark time in its history then, perhaps at its lowest point of popularity in modern times.

The heyday of the circus sideshow had passed, tattooing was mainly relegated to skid-row areas and near military bases, and, aside from macho characters like the soon-to-be-conceived Marlboro Man, tattoos were not for everyday people. By the 1950s, tattooed men held little appeal—especially compared to tattooed ladies—and Bradbury masterfully captured the pathos of being a washed-up tattoo performer, despite still being an extraordinary work of art, in his portrayals of Mr. William Philippus Phelps.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael O’Donnell, and Martin Morse Wooster for these stories.]

4 thoughts on “A Bradbury Avalanche

  1. @4: an interesting resonance (which IIRC the story doesn’t explore): what happens when all your “essential workers” walk off?

  2. You might also want to look at the PulpFest website. They’re planning to celebrate the centennial of Ray Bradbury’s birth at the 2020 convention. So they’ve been featuring posts on Bradbury and Mars since the beginning of May. Their Bradbury posts will run through May 20. They appear every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at http://pulpfest.com/

Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.