Friday, July 18, 2014

Ray Bradbury

Story of a Writer (see post at bottom)  is a 1963 half-hour documentary on Ray Bradbury by David L. Wolper.   Included is Bradbury's "Dial Double Zero," a short story about intelligence within a telephone system.  Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois, but during the depression his family moved to Los Angeles as his father was looking for work, but the images of small-town Midwest life remained a part of his storytelling. 

Bradbury discovered SF fandom in his youth, meeting Ray Harryhausen, Forrest J. Ackerman, and Henry Kuttner, and began publishing his fanzine, Futuria Fantasia in 1939.  His first professional sale was the story, Pendulum, with Henry Hass for Super Science Stories.  In that year he met Leigh Brackett, who generously coached him in writing techniques. He later collaborated with her, completing her Lorelei of the Red Mist.  Ms. Brackett wrote the first half, and Bradbury completing it.  It's sort of a space opera romance.   I haven't read it, but here's a synopsis:
Hugh Starke, space-rat and convict, was being pursued by spacecraft into the unknown parts of Venus. He had just pulled off the largest lone wolf heist in the history of that planet. But now it looked like he was going to pay the ultimate price for his misdeeds. But fate had a strange twist on Starke's life when he woke up in a different body. A body that was strong and powerful. In a body of a Venusian barbarian named Conan. But was Starke anything more than a puppet in this new body? For he soon found out the strings were being pulled by the beautiful, but terrible, Rann. For Rann was like the siren, Lorelei, and it was Hugh-Starke-called-Conan that would have to fight her or be lured to his doom.

By the 40's Bradbury's style started to jell blending poetic and evocative elements, consciously symbolic, with strong nostalgic elements and leaning towards the macabre, some would say his writing is less SF and leans more towards fantasy and horror or weird fiction.  One story, The Million Year Picnic, appears in The Martian Chronicles, which is one of his more famous books.  It has interwoven stories, which tell of humans trying to colonize Mars.  It was later made into a TV miniseries.  

Most of his work adapted to film is fairly worthwhile.  Two early B-movies were loosely based on short stories by him:  It Came From Outer Space and The Beast From 20,000 Fanthoms.  Two other films from his books were The Illustrated Man, which is about a man covered in magical tattoos, that spring to life.  The other is Fahrenheit 451, a film directed by Francois Truffaut, is a dystopian future where books are burned that are deemed dangerous.  One of the main characters is a fireman that does some of the book burning, until he has an epiphany and sees the error of his ways.  From what I've read Bradbury was not happy with the way Fahrenheit 451 was adapted to screen, but I've always enjoyed the film.  


At 7:06 AM, Blogger Richard Bellush said...

Bradbury was among my staple authors when I was growing up -- along with Heinlein, Asimov, and HG Wells among others, all of whom fortunately were prolific. The 1980s HBO "Ray Bradbury Theater" (I have the DVD box set) is enjoyable too, partly because most of the tales are familiar.

His faults are tied up with his strengths, and they trace back to that Norman Rockwell-like background of his that you mention. Today, for most Americans, that is as alien an environment as anything on Mars.

I haven't read "Lorelei of the Red Mist" -- one of the rare books of his I've missed. I like all of the film adaptations you mention. Bradbury also wrote the screen play to the 1956 version of "Moby Dick" with which he struggled until some sudden insight let him bang it out in a few days.

At 9:01 AM, Blogger El Vox said...

I'd forgotten about the HBO series Richard. I might have seen one or two of them, but I actually don't remember, maybe they'll have them on YT. I think there was also a TV series made of the Martin Chronicles, which I don't think I've ever seen either.

Yes, I guess that small town background and feel also tie-in with the time period as well as I pick up on that when watching some of those old SF films and Twilight Zone episodes from that age.

Funny that you mentioned that that is probably an alien environment to modern audiences ie. younger audiences, and you're probably right. Funny thing is, some time back, I noticed I started feeling awful alien when trying to relate to them as well.
And the beat goes on...

At 7:52 AM, Blogger Roman J. Martel said...

I wrapped up my first read of Fahrenheit 451 a month or two ago. Liked the concept, the characters and the themes. But his style really wasn't working for me. I also read "Something Wicked This Way Comes" (which was also made into an interesting film, by Disney no less). I had the same issues. I loved the concept but his language actually pulled me out of the story. Both times the short novels felt like a slog to get through. Maybe I need to try some of his earlier more pulpy work.

At 2:37 PM, Blogger El Vox said...

I have to agree with you Roman about Bradbury's style. It's not for me either, or I prefer other authors due to their style. And it may be that I just haven't read the right one yet by him either. That's a hard thing to describe, but I guess it has to do with personal taste just like anything else. I'll give you credit though for still trying to find a story by him that agrees with you.

I prefer though to stick with authors that I find easy to read.


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