A Bradbury Link Omnibus

(1) IN LETTERS OF FIRE. Book Riot’s Nikki Vanry presents “19 of My Favorite Fahrenheit 451 Quotes”.

“‘Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them, at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.’”

(2) INCREASED SPACE. The Indianapolis Monthly records “A New Chapter for IUPUI’s Center for Ray Bradbury Studies”.

Following Bradbury’s 2012 death, the collection grew to include his personal library, writing desk, and 40 years of correspondence with presidents, filmmakers, and other writers. Much of the archive temporarily languished in storage: 20,000 pounds of boxes and furniture stacked floor to ceiling.

This month, the Center celebrates its move to a space three times larger in Cavanaugh Hall with a show at IUPUI’s Cultural Arts Gallery, Ray Bradbury’s Magical Mansions, which draws from the Center’s extensive collection. It’s an unusual repository for this or any university campus. Aside from smaller science fiction collections at a few college libraries, and occasional class offerings, academic acceptance of Bradbury’s genre has been scarce. Archives like the one at IUPUI could change that. Bradbury’s chance meeting with Eller all those years ago gave the professor his life’s work. In return, Eller is giving Bradbury what science fiction writers never had: a place of honor in academia.

…[Jonathan] Eller, with now-retired IUPUI Professor William Touponce, co-wrote the first university press book on Bradbury. Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction (Kent State University Press, 2004) laid the groundwork for founding the Center and archive in 2007. Though the 510-square-foot basement location wasn’t set up for tours, Eller would often drop what he was doing to show curious visitors around. This summer, Eller began the laborious task of moving the archive to an impressive new 1,460-square-foot location in Cavanaugh Hall. It includes a room for Bradbury’s recreated office: a blue metal desk and work table, a globe of Mars given to him by NASA, and a Viking 76 paperweight made with material from the lander. Bookshelves and file cabinets line every wall. Eller and his wife, Debi, spent months readying the space: hanging pictures, cleaning shelves, and cataloging the large book collection. “At this point in most academics’ lives, they’re getting ready to retire,” Debi says. “But Jon is trying to preserve the effects of a man he respected so much.”

The Center’s new outpost offers room to shelve the 20,000 pounds of materials previously stacked floor to ceiling, and perhaps more importantly, a much more public face. Eller sees the Center as a resource for teachers, librarians, and scholars who want to pass on Bradbury’s importance to future generations, and it gives Bradbury and science fiction academic credibility. And it might be just be the beginning: In addition to finishing the third volume of his biography, the professor eventually hopes to acquire even more space and funding to expand the Center into a full-fledged museum.

(3) BRADBURY BIO REVIEWED. “Bradbury: between dystopia and hope”, at Spiked.

Ray Bradbury, by David Seed, is published by the University of Illinois Press.

As David Seed observes in this meticulously researched and affection tribute to the author, ‘Bradbury conceived his early science fiction as a cumulative early warning system against unforeseen consequences’. As the author himself said: ‘technological science fiction, as put in motion by human beings, can either shackle us with the greatest totalitarian dictatorship of all time, or free us to the greatest freedom in history. I mean to work for the latter in my science-fiction stories.’

Like the best writers who imagine the worlds of tomorrow, Ray Bradbury talks to contemporary society. The Martian Chronicles features a tale of America’s ‘niggers’ parting en mass by rocket to the Red Planet to escape racism and servitude in the United States, in their own kind of ironic Mayflower. This story speaks to readers now as much as it would have 70 years ago. While the recurrent themes in The Martian Chronicles of environmental catastrophe and the perils of colonisation will resonate with concerned minds today, they spoke foremost to 1950s readers for whom the Dust Bowl was in living memory. It’s no coincidence that Bradbury gives his colonies on Mars mid-Western names such as Ohio or Illinois.

(4) RAY ANTICIPATED LIFE ONLINE. You may have thought that Ray Bradbury had nothing to say about the rise of social media and the way the virtual world often obliterates the real one. Financial Times columnist Nilanjana Roy, in “Back To Virtual Reality”, would disagree:

Perhaps an internet historian could better pinpoint when the digital world became the real world, but the truth is that our “real”, physical-world selves are so intimately, inescapably layered with virtual experiences that it may no longer be possible to split the two. The price you pay for digitally detoxing is to step outside the mainstream, and that has profound consequences. An obvious example might be that I feel less connected to old friends who are not on Facebook, for example, because I don’t see them, or see pictures of their kids. More subtly, if you unplug from the running streams of news, you also disconnect yourself from dinner-party, workplace, or even friendly conversation.

In Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Pedestrian” (1951), a man arouses police suspicion because he is the only person to take walks while his neighbours stay at home, the flickering blue light of televisions playing on their walls. If he’d been writing today, Bradbury might have made more of the disconnect between the walker and his neighbours, the widening gap between the few who turn away from news-streams and social media immersion, and the many who are shaped by these.

(5) A SPIRITUAL MAP OF BRADBURY. J. W. Ocker just completed a week of superb blog posts inspired by and about Ray Bradbury.

1) Ray Bradbury’s Ravine

September 26, 2016 — It was night, and the thunderstorm that followed me from the hotel had calmed into light rain and thunderous sky flashes. My hair was sodden, my shirt and jeans were sticking uncomfortably to me, and I was at the slippery edge of a black ravine, ready to disappear into its depths. All for Ray Bradbury.

2) Ray Bradbury’s Waukegan

September 27, 2016 — This was a big one for me: Waukegan, Illinois—the hometown of Ray Bradbury. But it was more than just his hometown, more than the mere place where he was born. It was the very geography of his imagination. The place where so many of his stories were set. So many of his characters lived. On his pages, he rechristened the city Green Town. And I was going to see it all, both the real Waukegan and the fictional Green Town. We’ve got a lot to pack into this one, so let’s get going.

3) Thoughts on Ray Bradbury’s Statue

…But the one thing I didn’t find was a statue of him. I mean, there was one of comedian Jack Benny, another Waukeganite, but not one of Ray Bradbury. And that’s because I was in town too early. The city’s been working on a statue project for him for about a year and half and, by the time of my visit, had narrowed the 40-odd submissions it had received to three. In fact, mere days after I returned from my trip to Waukegan and other points along the shores of the Great Lakes, the city announced the winning design.

4) Ray, Halloween, the Witch and Salem

September 29, 2016 — I don’t know if Ray Bradbury ever visited Salem, Massachusetts. But I can tell you that a piece of his life did. Because I took one there myself. I brought it with me during my Salem October last year. And good thing too, as that piece, of its own power almost, provided an anecdote that allowed me to write the name “Ray Bradbury” a few times in my account of that Salem October, A Season with the Witch. Below is the relevant excerpt from the book:

5) Strange Stuff fromo my Study: The Halloween Tree Sketch

September 30, 2016 — In this episode of Strange Stuff from My Study, I dig into my Ray Bradbury collection to show you an original 50-year-old sketch by an artist named Joseph Mugnaini, a sketch that he did as a test layout for one of the fantastic interior illustrations for Bradbury’s 1972 book, The Halloween Tree.

(6) MARTIAN PENSEES. Tyler Miller undertakes to prove “How Ray Bradbury’s ‘The Martian Chronicles’ Changed Science Fiction (And Literature)”.

Unlike his peers, Bradbury didn’t care much for the future either. Though The Martian Chronicles deals ostensibly with a future inhabitation of Mars, Bradbury’s tales are clearly a lens through which to study the past. He is not interested in the mechanics of space flight or the geographic terrain of the Red Planet. Technology is laced through the book, but it is the technology of a Flash Gordon comic strip, not based in actual mathematics and engineering. These stories are not realistic in the least. They are metaphors.

“Do you know why teachers use me?” Bradbury once said, in an interview for the Paris Review. “Because I speak in tongues. I write metaphors. Every one of my stories is a metaphor you can remember.”

However, I have to say Miller is thoroughly wrong when he says, “Sherwood Anderson, Shakespeare, St. John Parse, Ernest Hemingway. These were hardly the writers inspiring usual 1950s science-fiction.” Plenty of them tried to tap into Shakespeare and Hemingway — Papa’s economical prose was regarded by many as the ideal 50 years ago.

(7) TRUFFAUT. Released this month: The New Ray Bradbury Review, No. 5, edited by Phil Nichols and Jonathan Eller.

Fahrenheit 451—American science fiction meets French New Wave cinema

As a highly visual writer, Ray Bradbury’s works have frequently been adapted for film and television. One of the most stylized and haunting dramatizations is François Truffaut’s 1966 film adaptation of Fahrenheit 451. For this fifth volume of The New Ray Bradbury Review, guest editor Phil Nichols brings together essays and articles that reflect upon Bradbury’s classic novel and Truffaut’s enduring low-tech science fiction film, fifty years after its release.

French film director and writer François Truffaut was a major force in world cinema. Beginning with his first days as a firebrand film critic and early years as a highly original director, Truffaut sustained a career that brought him numerous accolades, including an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film. Yet Fahrenheit 451—his only film in English and his only foray into science fiction—is often overshadowed by the considerable triumphs of his other works, like The 400 Blows, Jules and Jim, and Day for Night. Similarly, while science fiction scholars often present the film as a significant work, they sometimes see it as a flawed adaptation, somehow less than its source, Ray Bradbury’s classic 1953 novel of book-burning firemen.

The articles in this volume represent the first scholarly investigation of Truffaut’s film and Bradbury’s novel together. They lay out the key critical issues in comparing book and film and novelist and filmmaker, discuss various aspects of Bradbury’s and Truffaut’s nar­rative strategies in creating a world where books are systematically burned, consider the film’s screenplay and Bradbury’s own creative reactions to Truffaut, and examine the reception of the film among various audiences and critics.

(7) CARTOON TIME. Melville House recommends two cartoons a Soviet director made based on Bradbury’s short stories “There Will Come Soft Rains” and “The Veldt.”

Ray Bradbury: science fiction author, namesake of a patch of Mars, and Last Interview series participant. In 1950, a twenty-nine-year-old Bradbury published There Will Come Soft Rains, which would become one of his signature short stories. It depicts a California morning in the year 2026, as a robotic house wakes itself up and begins preparing its residents for a busy day: making them breakfast, laying their clothes out, and so forth.

There is, naturally, a twist, and one fun way of learning what it is (besides reading the story), is to watch this Soviet cartoon adaptation, Budet Laskovyj Dozhd’, made by the Uzbekfilm studio in 1984, and directed by Nazim Tulyakhodzhayev. It’s a beaut — austere, creepy, and oddly warm. Do yourself a favor:

At the post are links to both videos on YouTube.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, J. W. Ocker, and Martin Morse Wooster for these stories.]

One thought on “A Bradbury Link Omnibus

  1. And Tuesday’s Final Jeopardy! had the clue “The 1st scene in this book: ‘With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene'”.

    Both* contestants got it right. *One contestant had a negative score and didn’t get to play Final.

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