Ray Bradbury Writes to the President and Other News Stories

File 770 resumes its mission to be “All Bradbury, All the Time!”

(1) RAY PITCHES IN. Literary Hub reprints a letter Bradbury sent to the President’s office in 1962: “When Ray Bradbury Asked John F. Kennedy if He Could Help with the Space Race”. Kennedy’s reply appears, too.

….We are moving deeper into the Space Age, a tremendously exciting time for me, as you can imagine, since I started writing about it when I was twelve. Now, I hear that there will be a Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, attended by President Kennedy and 1,500 of the top scientists in the field of space travel from all over the world, in Seattle. A few days later, I’m scheduled to appear as a special Guest at the Seattle Fair. Our lives move closer together with such events.

Somewhere along the line I may be of some use to the President, or to you, or to others working with the President. It may be in the field of writing. Or it might be in some other act I could perform for any one of you. I’m now finishing a 14 minute film, ICARUS MONTGOLFIER WRIGHT, based on man’s age-old desire to fly. This short has been made with Format Films here, in semi-animation color, and when it is finished I hope to show it to you, and, perhaps, the President….

(2) GORMAN ACKNOWLEDGES BRADBURY. The Guardian interviewed the youngest presidential inaugural poet in U.S. history: “Amanda Gorman: ‘I wanted my words to re-sanctify the steps of the Capitol’”.

The book that influenced me growing up
In third grade my teacher read us Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. It was the first time I’d heard a metaphor in such a way, and my mind was blown. It was a watershed moment for the way I viewed the power of language.

(3) SCARAY STORIES. Mental Floss picks five “Terrifying Ray Bradbury Stories”. First on their list:


One of Bradbury’s best-known suspense stories is 1950’s “The Whole Town’s Sleeping,” about a woman who is stalked by a serial killer called “the Lonely One.” (The story was reportedly inspired by a cat burglar who terrorized Bradbury’s hometown when the author was a young boy.) First appearing in McCall’s and later repurposed as a chapter of Bradbury’s 1957 novel Dandelion Wine, the story made such an impression on Frederic Dannay, one half of the mystery-writing duo known as Ellery Queen, that he asked Bradbury to write a follow-up for the magazine he edited. “At Midnight, in the Month of June” [PDF], which takes its title from the Edgar Allan Poe poem “The Sleeper” and made its debut in a 1954 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, depicts the same unsettling episode from the killer’s point of view. Both stories are chilling, but the sequel is all the more disturbing for forcing the reader to identify with the killer—a literary precursor to the slasher films that would later place viewers firmly in the villain’s point of view.

(4) TEEN RAY PLAYS A RADIO ACTOR. The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies verifies the recording is good…for a bad recording. “Ray Bradbury Original Early Recording at age 14 in 1934: ‘Our General Petroleum’”. Frank Pangborn, Jr. introduces the show:  

Our General Petroleum is an original radio-style recording made by Ray Bradbury, my father Frank Pangborn Sr., and Eddie Barrera in the year 1934 when they were just teenagers. This recording has been in storage for many years and I’m happy to share it here for the very first time. My Dad, Frank Sr., is the singer in the recording. Eddie Barrera is the Narrator and piano player. Ray Bradbury is Ray Douglas in the recording. What is interesting these were young boys creating a radio show. The three of them would attend Bing Crosby’s radio show. After each page of script was completed the Actor’s would let the page float to the floor. At the end of the program the boys collected the scripts to take with them. The stage manager said they couldn’t do it, but Bing interfered and said to let the boys have the scripts. He asked the boys if they would like to walk him to his car? Of course they said yes, and that became a regular practice. I’ll bet Ray learned from the scripts in those formative years. It was, I’m sure, a part of his development as a brilliant writer.

(5) BRADBURY GOES TO THE ORIGINAL COMIC-CON. The Saturday Evening Post explains Ray’s love of comics: “Ray Bradbury: Comic Book Hero”.

…Thirty-one years later, Bradbury was asked to speak at a new conference venture in San Diego. In 1970, all of 300 people attended the Golden State Comic-Con, as it was then known, and no one knew that it would soon evolve into a world-famous annual comic event, known simply and without need of explanation as Comic-Con. Bradbury was well-established in the world of science fiction and fantasy by then, having published the modern classics Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles, the former already a mainstay of high school English classes.

There was only one reason for someone as successful and well known as Ray Bradbury to attend a tiny gathering that the rest of the world ignored: He just loved comics. As he later said of his childhood comics, “Without all this splendid mediocrity, this sublime and wondrous trash in my background, I don’t think I would be any sort of writer today.” Comics created Bradbury, and in turn he propelled the medium forward….

(6) CAN THIS COCKPIT HOLD THE VASTY FIELDS OF MARS? Watch the complete Christian Brothers High School’s stage production of The Martian Chronicles.

(7) BEATING OUT A TATTOO ON THE KEYBOARD. San Francisco Classical Voice tells how “Ray Bradbury Gets a Fresh Reading in ‘The Illustrated Pianist’”.

Growing up, Nicole Brancato was engrossed by science-fiction depictions of space. She fantasized about going to space camp, and she ravenously read authors like Ray Bradbury. She particularly loved The Illustrated Man, a collection of 18 short stories originally published in 1951. Bradbury’s stories featured futuristic technology like virtual reality and space travel, and societies that responded to these developments in dystopian ways. 

At the beginning of 2019, Brancato remembered that two important Bradbury anniversaries were fast approaching: Bradbury’s centennial in 2020 and The Illustrated Man’s 70th anniversary in 2021. She was intent on creating a work celebrating him. A pianist, composer, and curator herself, Brancato had previously collaborated with painters and performing artists, juxtaposing her performances next to video art and painting time lapses to create immersive, interdisciplinary, and often highly conceptual works.

In approaching her work on Bradbury, Brancato says, “I thought of combining all these different art worlds, thinking of original composition and piano and visual art and inspiration from literature.” The result is “The Illustrated Pianist,” a multimedia program featuring the new works of seven composing pianists: Nicholas Pavkovic, Jed Distler, Monica Chew, Dee Spencer, Tin Yi Chelsea Wong, Keisuke Nakagoshi, and Brancato herself….

… The concert in San Francisco follows a similar event Brancato organized at the Plaxall Gallery in New York City in May. Although the concept for the concert was the same — featuring piano compositions inspired by The Illustrated Man, accompanied by visual design — the New York City installment involved a different set of pianists, and a separate visual artist. Brancato says that she is excited about the new body of work that has grown out of the project, including both the new musical commissions and the visual installations….

(8) BILL OBERST JR. TELLS HOW HE DOES IT. A mini-documentary about the projected visual effects featured in Bill Oberst, Jr.’s one-man show: “A Nursery Of Visuals – ‘The Effects of Ray Bradbury LIVE (forever)’”.Go behind the scenes as they work to brings Ray Bradbury’s words to life using practical effects miniatures, video, and visual effects.

(9) FLAME ON. Fire Wire blog makes sure we never forget the “Heat Sensitive Edition of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 That Can Only Be Read By Applying Fire to the Pages” (From 2018.) John King Tarpinian says he uses a hair dryer on his copy.

…Inspired by this dystopian fiction, in which firemen track and burn books, this limited edition of Fahrenheit 451 appears like a black and carbonized block, that has to be heated to temporary reveal its content….

(10) JOE MANTEGNA REMEMBERS. In August, in honor of what would have been Ray Bradbury’s 101st birthday, Joe Mantegna shared some of his favorite memories about Ray in this video from the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian and Steven French for these stories.]