Archive for the ‘Ray Bradbury’ Category

Bradbury Odds and Ends

Friday, October 31st, 2008

I’ve finished reading Bradbury Books for a while. I read 11 books (I didn’t count Vintage Bradbury because it only has a couple of new stories).

Here are two books with intriguing titles published in the UK. The titles are different, but the The Silver Locusts is really Martian Chronicles and The Day it Rained Forever is The Illustrated Man without the extra story arc.

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I bought The Silver Locusts in the old Werewolf Book Shop, back when I was in college and was very disappointed that I had spend a quarter for a book I already owned.

Bradbury’s stories were made into Comics, but they were so intense that they were banned. They were republished in the 60s.

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This one was a gift and it was supposed to be autographed by Bradbury. It is not Bradbury’s signature (I have several authentic signed Bradbury books). I later heard from the Washington State District Attorney and the people were convicted of fraud.

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The Vintage Bradbury

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

vintagebradbury There are only three stories in The Vintage Bradbury (1965) that were not in the previous anthologies. The Vintage Bradbury is the first (of many) Bradbury greatest hits collections. This one dates from 1965 and I remember being disappointed that there were only a few new stories. The stories are not really new, just not previously anthologized.

My favorite is the story The Illustrated Man. The collection called The Illustrated Man does not contain a story called the Illustrated Man, which in my opinion is a strange thing. The story is an expansion of the idea that appear as the interstitial material in the collection and is pretty good. I like the last view of the Illustrated man’s final illustration as it appeals to my math sensibilities.

There is a Martian story called Night Meeting which is better than many of the Mars stories in or out of The Martian Chronicles. It is about a meeting between a Man and a Martian across millions of years. There is also a Mexican story And the Rock Cried Out. I am not a big fan of Bradbury’s Mexican stories, but this one has a very good premise. What would happen if Americans suddenly become the world’s illegal aliens without the mighty US government to protect our interests? I liked it.

The rest of the stories, Bradbury’s Greatest Hits, are diminished by the fact that they appeared everywhere. Each of the stories has been anthologized and adapted to radio or TV many times and I’ve read them enough that they have lost their appeal to me. Rather than read the Vintage Bradbury, I would suggest reading Some of the previously discussed anthologies or jump right into Martian Chronicles or Dandelion Wine.

There is an Introduction by Gilbert Highet that contains nothing new or interesting and can be skipped.

I am counting this as Book #10 in my October is Bradbury Month series, even if it only had three new stories. These three stories are worth seeking out the Vintage Bradbury. I don’t think that they can be found in other collections.

Ray Bradbury – Quicker Than the Eye

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

bradburyquicker Continuing with reading only Ray Bradbury books in October – This is the fourth book that I’ve read. I am averaging a little less than a new book every two days (not counting weekends when I don’t have much time to read).

I have the feeling that I’ve read some of the stories in Quicker Than the Eye. The stories were published in 1995 and 1996, but I don’t remember where I would have read them. I don’t read Playboy or American Way, but many of these appeared in F&SF and Omni, so I might have read them there.

Comparing these stories to the stories in Golden Apples of the Sun, you realize that Ray has mellowed over the years. There is no lurking danger or hidden fear in any of these stories. They, for the most part, are much happier and romantic than the earlier works. Many of the stories are downright maudlin (Maudlin: Extravagantly or excessively sentimental; self-pitying; Affectionate or sentimental in an effusive, tearful, or foolish manner, especially because of drunkenness).

To give you an example, in the story Another Fine Mess, Ray writes about a pair of ghosts haunting a stairway in Hollywood. The ghosts are Laurel and Hardy trying to move a piano. You can’t be afraid of the ghosts of Laurel and Hardy. At the end, the two women who try to banish them invite them to come back once a year. Maudlin, I said. Maudlin, I meant.

There are other stories about the ghost of Bradbury’s mother and the death of a dog, but the sweet sentimentality ruins the stories for me. I smile when I read them and I did enjoy them, but I am eager for the chilled spine or the goose bumps on my arm. I don’t want these feel-good stories.

There are a couple of more chilling stories. Dorian in Excelsus is about what happened to Dorian Gray’s portrait, but it is a one dimensional story where just the one thing happens and then it ends, no real plot to it, just an interesting idea. There is also The Finnegan about a hidden monster in the woods, but that too is over quickly and the final revelation is telegraphed a little too early in the plot to have an impact.

I am going back to his earlier works. I still have a couple of new books in the queue, but I want to cleanse my pallete a little and read some stories from Weird Tales before I get back to the more recent Bradbury.

Ray Bradbury – The Cat’s Pajamas

Monday, October 6th, 2008

cats_pajamasb I found The Cat’s Pajamas at the Allendale Town Wide Garage Sale two weeks ago. The hardcover cost me only 50¢. It was a pretty good buy for four bits and just in time for October. I figure to read 12 to 15 Bradbury books this month.

The Cat’s Pajamas was published in 2004 and half the stories are fairly recent and half are old, mostly unpublished, stories from early in his career. Ray has a cellar full of stuff that he has put aside. He claims he has written a thousand words a day since he was 12 and that he still has all of it.

I never thought that Ray Bradbury would have a writer’s “trunk”, that box of stuff that every writer has that he has written, but never sold, but I can understand now. Ray Bradbury writes what comes into his mind and not all of that is publishable. The first story, Chrysalis, not the one published in S is for Space (he liked the title so he reused it), but one sitting in a trunk, is about a black man who wants to be white. It is not an easy subject even now, but 60 years ago, no publisher would touch it with a ten foot pole.

I can remember finding out from my friend Billy See that he had a sunburn. He was black and I couldn’t tell he had burned, but he showed me his back and the skin was peeling. Black people can be more sensitive to the sun than white people. I never dreamed that Billy could have a sunburn because I connected it to having a tan and Billy had a permanent tan. I remember coming back from a few weeks in South Carolina and Billy laughing at me, saying, “You’re one of us, now” because I had a really dark tan from playing 12 hours a day on the beach.

Bradbury must have had a similar experience, wrote about it, and discovered that editors did not want to publish it. He found it in his trunk and luckily it appears now, more than 60 years later.

Many of the stories in this collection are like that. They are all interesting stories, but each has an element that has kept them out of print. Some of the early stories are not O. Henry-like in that they have emotional impact, but no real plot. I can see an editor who did not really know Bradbury rejecting these stories with a polite note and Ray putting the story away.

Every other story is a more modern story. These are better written and more story-like, but I mostly like the older stories, even with the flaws. The older stories have the emotional intensity, bright colors, scents and sounds, and the dark imagination that marks Ray’s first 20 years. I did like the title piece. The Cat’s Pajamas is very cute story of two people who find a stray cat and fall in love as they fight over who gets to keep it. It is beautifully written, as only Bradbury can write, but the execution is weak. It could have used some rewrites and could have had some stronger points here and there. The young Bradbury would not have let the story away in the version that’s in the book. He would have worked it a little and given it much more impact at the end. As it stands, it is just cute, but not great. I am a cat lover, so I liked it. I am a lover of Bradbury’s stories, so I liked it, but it does have its flaws.

Lastly, there are Bradbury’s poems. They are not to my taste. I skimmed them, but would not recommend them, even to a lover of Bradbury stories.

If you like Bradbury, read this for the old stories, and enjoy most of the new stories.

Ray Bradbury – Zen in the Art of Writing

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

bradburyzen It’s not like anyone can really teach you how to write. The craft part of writing is like any other job. It’s like driving a bus or programming java. It soon gets old quickly. I know a few writers who think that writing for money every day is deathly boring and soul sucking.

Creative writing, however, is one of those things that you are compelled to do, whether you want to or not. Zen in the Art of Writing is not a writing manual, a guide to writing, a book of tips and tricks or even a book advice to the wannabee writer. It is a book about Bradbury’s love of writing.

Bradbury has written about a thousand words a day since he was 12. He didn’t sell anything until he was 20, and he remembers clearly writing The Lake, his first real story, as an almost religious experience. He says the tears were streaming off the tip of nose and onto the typewriter as he finished.

Zen in the Art of Writing is a collection of ten essays and a preface written at different times in Ray’s career. How to Keep and Feed a Muse, the earliest, was published in 1961. Run Fast, Stand Still, or, The Thing at the Top of the Stairs, or, New Ghosts From Old Minds, the most recent essay, was published in 1986. The book itself is from 1990. (My copy is signed by Bradbury). It is a short work, about 50k. I read most of it on the bus this morning.

I found all the essays worth reading, with the caveat that reading them won’t tell you how to write. The essay entitled Drunk and in Charge of a Bicycle the most fun because it explained in a little detail how he came up with the ideas for some of his stories.

For instance the Foghorn, a compelling story, is described:

One night my wife and I were walking along the beach in Venice, California, where we lived in a thirty-dollars-a-month newlyweds’ apartment,we came on the bones of the Venice pier and the struts, tracks, and ties of ancient roller-coaster collapsed on the sand and being eaten by the sea.

"What’s that Dinosaur doing lying here on the beach?" I said.

Bradbury woke in the middle of the night with the answer. The Santa Monica Bay foghorn was sounding.

Of course, I thought, the dinosaur heard that lighthouse foghorn blowing, thought it was another dinosaur arisen from the deep past, came swimming for a loving confrontation, discovered it was only a fog horn, and died of a broken hearth there on the shore. 

Bradbury wrote the story that night and sent it the next day to the Saturday Evening Post, where they bought it.

A few months later, my grandfather, who subscribed to the Saturday Evening Post, read The Foghorn and remembered it. Years later when Grandpa saw me reading a Ray Bradbury book, he asked me if I had read The Foghorn. "Good Story" he said.

One thing that Bradbury does that may help a writer is to start on a blank page doing word associations. He keeps a list of pregnant phrases that might lead to stories. He starts with one of them doing free associations of words and ideas and often wanders into a story. He follows the story while he is writing as though he were actually reading it and is often surprised at how it ends. Some of his best stories were written this way.

Bradbury writes that he typically does seven rewrites of a story. This, of course, was before word processors, so he just didn’t edit a story, he started at the beginning and wrote the story again. He had the advantage of being able to borrow words, phrases and even paragraphs from the previous versions, but each rewrite was a creative experience where he would extend or compress or explore the story in a different way.

Bradbury also wrote that he sometimes writes a story in a fever, puts it in an envelope and mails it out immediately on finishing. He doesn’t say which method produces the best stories.