NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 192 | July 25, 2009
“I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries…”
I’ve never been a great lover of science fiction, but I have always loved the stories, novels, and plays of Ray Bradbury. If you’re going to give me man in space—give me the human condition. Which is precisely what Bradbury has always done. The consciousness of his tales may be spatial—but his characters remain grounded in ways we comprehend and see ourselves.
I’m aware his style is sometimes condemned by the new sci-fi guard as old fashioned humanism. Yet what else is there that keeps us and makes us alive? Which is precisely why I admire all his work, sci-fi or straight—including his classic book of boyhood, DANDELION WINE.
Bradbury has grown old with a vengeance. Yes, he’s still out there—in the real world A wise man. We don’t honor these old writer-warriors enough.
I smiled when I saw this story recently on the front page of The New York Time. A photo of Ray holding up a sign that read: APPLAUSE. There’s nothing better than an angry old writer rallying readers to stand up and fight—be it book burners (FAHRENHEIT 451) or libraries cutting back on services because the public funding isn’t there—for all that makes us human.
Here’s the Bradbury. Here’s to the Public Library. Long may they both live. —Norbert Blei
At 88, a Writer Fights for Libraries, and Tells a Few of Life’s Tales
By JENNIFER STEINHAUER
VENTURA, Calif. — When you are pushing 90, have written scores of famous novels, short stories and screenplays, and have fulfilled the goal of taking a simulated ride to Mars, what’s left?
“Bo Derek. is a really good friend of mine and I’d like to spend more time with her,” said Ray Bradbury, peering up from behind an old television tray in his den.
An unlikely answer, but Mr. Bradbury, the science fiction writer, is very specific in his eccentric list of interests, and his pursuit of them in his advancing age and state of relative immobility.
This is a lucky thing for the Ventura County Public Libraries — because among Mr. Bradbury’s passions, none burn quite as hot as his lifelong enthusiasm for halls of books. His most famous novel, “Fahrenheit 451,” which concerns book burning, was written on a pay typewriter in the basement of the University of California, Los Angeles, library; his novel “Something Wicked This Way Comes” contains a seminal library scene.
Mr. Bradbury frequently speaks at libraries across the state, and on Saturday he will make his way here for a benefit for the H.P. Wright Library, which like many others in the state’s public system is in danger of shutting its doors because of budget cuts.
“Libraries raised me,” Mr. Bradbury said. “I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”
Property tax dollars, which provide most of the financing for libraries in Ventura County, have fallen precipitously, putting the library system roughly $650,000 in the hole. Almost half of that amount is attributed to the H. P. Wright Library, which serves roughly two-thirds of this coastal city about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
In January the branch the branch was told that unless it came up with $280,000 it would close. The branch’s private fund-raising group, San Buenaventura Friends of the Library, has until March to reach its goal; so far it has raised $80,000.
Enter Mr. Bradbury. While at a meeting concerning the library, Berta Steele, vice president of the friends group, ran into Michael Kelly, a local artist who runs the Ray Bradbury Theater and Film Foundation, a group dedicated to arts and literacy advocacy. Mr. Kelly told Ms. Steele that he could get Mr. Bradbury up to Ventura to help the library’s cause.
On Saturday, the two organizations will host a $25-a-head discussion with Mr. Bradbury and present a screening of “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit,” a film based on his short story of the same name.
The fund-raiser’s financial goal is not a long-term fix. That would come only if property taxes crawl back up or voters approve a proposed half-cent increase in the local sales tax in November, some of which would go to libraries.
Fiscal threats to libraries deeply unnerve Mr. Bradbury, who spends as much time as he can talking to children in libraries and encouraging them to read.
The Internet? Don’t get him started. “The Internet is a big distraction,” Mr. Bradbury barked from his perch in his house in Los Angeles, which is jammed with enormous stuffed animals, videos, DVDs, wooden toys, photographs and books, with things like the National Medal of Arts sort of tossed on a table.
“Yahoo called me eight weeks ago,” he said, voice rising. “They wanted to put a book of mine on Yahoo! You know what I told them? ‘To hell with you. To hell with you and to hell with the Internet.’
“It’s distracting,” he continued. “It’s meaningless; it’s not real. It’s in the air somewhere.”
A Yahoo spokeswoman said it was impossible to verify Mr. Bradbury’s account without more details.
Mr. Bradbury has long been known for his clear memory of some of life’s events, and that remains the case, he said. “I have total recall,” he said. “I remember being born. I remember being in the womb, I remember being inside. Coming out was great.”
He also recalled watching the film “Pumping Iron,” which features Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in his body-building days, and how his personal recommendation of the film for an Academy Award helped spark Mr. Schwarzenegger’s Hollywood career. He remembers lining his four daughters’ cribs with Golden Books when they were tiny. And he remembers meeting Ms. Derek on a train in France years ago.
“She said, ‘Mr. Bradbury.’ I said, ‘Yes.’ She said: ‘I love you! My name is Bo Derek.'”
Ms. Derek’s spokeswoman, Rona Menashe, said the story was true. She said her client would like to see some more of Mr. Bradbury, too.
Mr. “Bradbury’s wife, Maggie, to whom he was married for over five decades, died in 2003. He turns 89 in August.
When he is not raising money for libraries, Mr. Bradbury still writes for a few hours every morning (“I can’t tell you,” is the answer to any questions on his latest book); reads George Bernard Shaw; receives visitors including reporters, filmmakers, friends and children of friends; and watches movies on his giant flat-screen television.
He can still be found regularly at the Los Angeles Public Library branch in Koreatown, which he visited often as a teenager.
“The children ask me, ‘How can I live forever, too?'” he said. “I tell them do what you love and love what you do. That’s the story on my life.”
[from THE NEW YORK TIMES, June 20, 2009]
Raymond Douglas “Ray” Bradbury (August 22, 1920) is an American mainstream, fantasy, horror, science fiction, and mystery writer.
Best known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury is widely considered one of the greatest and most popular American writers of speculative fiction of the twentieth century. Ray Bradbury’s popularity has been increased by more than 20 television shows and films using his writings.
Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois, to a Swedish immigrant mother and a father who was a power and telephone lineman. His paternal grandfather and great-grandfather were newspaper publishers. Bradbury was a reader and writer throughout his youth, spending much time in the Carnegie Library in Waukegan. He used this library as a setting for much of his novel Something Wicked This Way Comes, and depicted Waukegan as “Green Town” in some of his other semi-autobiographical novels—Dandelion Wine, Farewell Summer—as well as in many of his short stories.
He attributes his lifelong habit of writing every day to an incident in 1932 when a carnival entertainer, Mr. Electrico, touched him with an electrified sword, made his hair stand on end, and shouted, “Live forever!” The Bradbury family lived in Tucson, Arizona, in 1926–27 and 1932–33 as his father pursued employment, each time returning to Waukegan, but eventually settled in Los Angeles in 1934, when Ray was thirteen. Bradbury graduated from the Los Angeles High School in 1938 but didn’t attend college. Instead, he sold newspapers at the corner of South Norton Avenue and Olympic Boulevard. In regards to his education, Bradbury said:
“Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”
Having been influenced by science fiction heroes like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, he began to publish science fiction stories in fanzines in 1938. Ray was invited by Forrest J Ackerman to attend the now legendary Clifton’s Cafeteria Science Fiction Club. This was where Ray met the writers Robert A. Heinlein, Emil Petaja, Fredric Brown, Henry Kuttner, Leigh Brackett, and Jack Williamson. His first published story was “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma”, which appeared in the fan magazine Imagination! in January, 1938. Launching his own fanzine in 1939, titled Futuria Fantasia, he wrote most of its four issues, each limited to under a hundred copies. In the first issue, Issue No. 1, from the summer of 1939, was his short story “Don’t Get Technatal” under the pseudonym Ron Reynolds, the editorial “Greetings! At Long Last — Futuria Fantasia!”, and the poem “Thought and Space”.
Bradbury’s first paid piece, “Pendulum”, written with Henry Hasse, was published in the pulp magazine Super Science Stories in November, 1941, for which he earned $15. He became a full-time writer by the end of 1942. His first book, Dark Carnival, a collection of short works, was published in 1947 by Arkham House, a firm owned by writer August Derleth. A chance encounter in a Los Angeles bookstore with the British expatriate writer Christopher Isherwood gave Bradbury the opportunity to put The Martian Chronicles into the hands of a respected critic. Isherwood’s glowing review followed and substantially boosted Bradbury’s career. Ray Bradbury married Marguerite McClure (1922–2003) in 1947, and they had four daughters.
Although he is often described as a science fiction writer, Bradbury does not box himself into a particular narrative categorization:
First of all, I don’t write science fiction. I’ve only done one science fiction book and that’s Fahrenheit 451, based on reality. Science fiction is a depiction of the real. Fantasy is a depiction of the unreal. So Martian Chronicles is not science fiction, it’s fantasy. It couldn’t happen, you see? That’s the reason it’s going to be around a long time—because it’s a Greek myth, and myths have staying power.
On another occasion, Bradbury observed that the novel touches on the alienation of people by media:
In writing the short novel Fahrenheit 451 I thought I was describing a world that might evolve in four or five decades. But only a few weeks ago, in Beverly Hills one night, a husband and wife passed me, walking their dog. I stood staring after them, absolutely stunned. The woman held in one hand a small cigarette-package-sized radio, its antenna quivering. From this sprang tiny copper wires which ended in a dainty cone plugged into her right ear. There she was, oblivious to man and dog, listening to far winds and whispers and soap-opera cries, sleep-walking, helped up and down curbs by a husband who might just as well not have been there. This was not fiction.
Besides his fiction work, Bradbury has written many short essays on the arts and culture, attracting the attention of critics in this field. Bradbury was a consultant for the American Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and the original exhibit housed in Epcot’s Spaceship Earth geosphere at Walt Disney World.
Bradbury was a close friend of Charles Addams and collaborated with him on the creation of the macabre “Family” enjoyed by New Yorker readers for many years and later popularized as The Addams Family. Bradbury called them the Elliotts and placed them in rural Illinois. His first story about them was “Homecoming,” published in the New Yorker Halloween issue for 1946, with Addams illustrations. He and Addams planned a larger collaborative work that would tell the family’s complete history, but it never materialized and according to a 2001 interview they went their separate ways. In October 2001, Bradbury published all the Family stories he had written in one book with a connecting narrative, From the Dust Returned, featuring a wraparound Addams cover.
From 1951 to 1954, 27 of Bradbury’s stories were adapted by Al Feldstein for EC Comics, and 16 of these were collected in the paperbacks, The Autumn People (1965) and Tomorrow Midnight (1966). Cover art for both books was done by famed fantasy artist Frank Frazetta. The reprints were published by Ballantine Books.
Also in the early 1950s, adaptations of Bradbury’s stories were televised on a variety of shows including Tales of Tomorrow, Lights Out, Out There, Suspense, CBS Television Workshop, Jane Wyman’s Fireside Theatre, Star Tonight, Windows, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. “The Merry-Go-Round,” a half-hour film adaptation of Bradbury’s “The Black Ferris,” praised by Variety, was shown on Starlight Summer Theater in 1954 and NBC’s Sneak Preview in 1956. Director Jack Arnold first brought Bradbury to movie theaters in 1953 with It Came from Outer Space, a Harry Essex screenplay developed from Bradbury’s screen treatment, “The Meteor”. Three weeks later, Eugène Lourié’s The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), based on Bradbury’s “The Fog Horn,” about a sea monster mistaking the sound of a fog horn for the mating cry of a female, was released. Bradbury’s close friend Ray Harryhausen produced the stop-motion animation of the creature. Bradbury would later return the favor by writing a short story, “Tyrannosaurus Rex”, about a stop-motion animator who strongly resembled Harryhausen. Over the next 50 years, more than 35 features, shorts, and TV movies were based on Bradbury’s stories or screenplays.
In 1969, The Illustrated Man was brought to the big screen, starring Oscar winner Rod Steiger, Claire Bloom, & Robert Drivas. Containing the prologue, and three short stories from the book, the film received mediocre reviews. The Martian Chronicles became a three-part TV miniseries starring Rock Hudson which was first broadcast by NBC in 1980. The 1983 horror film Something Wicked This Way Comes, starring Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce, is based on the Bradbury novel of the same name.
In 1984, Michael McDonough of Brigham Young University produced “Bradbury 13,” a series of thirteen audio adaptations of famous Ray Bradbury stories, in conjunction with National Public Radio. The full-cast dramatizations featured adaptations of “The Man,” “The Ravine,” “Night Call, Collect,” “The Veldt,” “Kaleidoscope,” “There Was an Old Woman,” “Here There Be Tygers,” “Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed,” “The Wind,” “The Fox and the Forest,” “The Happiness Machine,” “The Screaming Woman”, and “A Sound of Thunder”. Voiceover actor Paul Frees provided narration, while Bradbury himself was responsible for the opening voiceover; Greg Hansen and Roger Hoffman scored the episodes. The series won a Peabody Award as well as two Gold Cindy awards. The series has not yet been released on CD but is heavily traded by fans of “old time radio”.
From 1985 to 1992 Bradbury hosted a syndicated anthology television series, The Ray Bradbury Theater, for which he adapted 65 of his stories. Each episode would begin with a shot of Bradbury in his office, gazing over mementoes of his life, which he states (in narrative) are used to spark ideas for stories. Five episodes of the USSR science fiction TV series This Fantastic World adapted Ray Bradbury’s stories I Sing The Body Electric, Fahrenheit 451, A Piece of Wood, To the Chicago Abyss, and Forever and the Earth. A Soviet adaptation of “The Veldt” was filmed in 1987.
The 1998 film The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, released by Touchstone Pictures, was written by Ray Bradbury. It was based on his story “The Magic White Suit” originally published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1957. The story had also previously been adapted as a play, a musical, and a 1958 television version. In 2002, Bradbury’s own Pandemonium Theatre Company production of Fahrenheit 451 at Burbank’s Falcon Theatre combined live acting with projected digital animation by the Pixel Pups. In 1984 Telarium released a video game for Commodore 64 based on Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury and director Charles Rome Smith co-founded Pandemonium in 1964, staging the New York production of The World of Ray Bradbury (1964), adaptations of “The Pedestrian,” “The Veldt”, and “To the Chicago Abyss.”
In 2005, the film A Sound of Thunder was released, loosely based upon the short story of the same name. Short film adaptations of A Piece of Wood and The Small Assassin were released in 2005 and 2007 respectively. In 2008, the film Ray Bradbury’s Chrysalis was produced by Roger Lay Jr for Urban Archipelago Films, based upon the short story of the same name. The film went on to win the best feature award at the International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival in Phoenix. The film has been picked up for international distribution by Arsenal Pictures and for domestic distribution by Lightning Entertainment. A new film version of Fahrenheit 451 is being planned by director Frank Darabont.
- * In 2007, Bradbury received the French Commandeur Ordre des Arts et des Lettres medal.
- * For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Ray Bradbury was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6644 Hollywood Blvd.
- * An asteroid is named in his honor, “9766 Bradbury,” along with a crater on the moon called “Dandelion Crater” (named after his novel, Dandelion Wine).
- * On April 16, 2007, Bradbury received a special citation from The Pulitzer Board, “for his distinguished, prolific, and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy.”
- * On November 17, 2004, Bradbury was the recipient of the National Medal of Arts, presented by then-President George W. Bush and Laura Bush. Bradbury has also received the World Fantasy Award life achievement, Stoker Award life achievement, SFWA Grand Master, SF Hall of Fame Living Inductee, and First Fandom Award. He received an Emmy Award for his work on The Halloween Tree. He received the Prometheus Award for Fahrenheit 451.
- * The “About the Author” sections in several of his published works claim that he has been nominated for an Academy Award. A search of the Academy’s awards database proves this to be incorrect. One short film he worked on, Icarus Montgolfier Wright was nominated for an Academy Award, but Bradbury himself has not been.
- * Ray Bradbury Park was dedicated in Waukegan, Illinois in 1990. The author was present for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.The park contains locations described in “Dandelion Wine”, most notably the staircase.
- * Honorary doctorate from Woodbury University in 2003. Bradbury presents the Ray Bradbury Creativity Award each year at Woodbury University. Winners include sculptor Robert Graham, actress Anjelica Huston, Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown, director Irvin Kershner, humorist Stan Freberg, and architect Jon A. Jerde.
- * Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award for 2000 from the National Book Foundation.
- * In 2008, he was named SFPA Grandmaster.
- * The Ray Bradbury Award, presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for screenwriting, was named in Bradbury’s honor.
In 2004 it was reported that Bradbury was extremely upset with filmmaker Michael Moore for using the title Fahrenheit 9/11, which is an allusion to Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, for his documentary about the George W. Bush administration. Bradbury expressed displeasure with Moore’s use of the title but stated that his resentment was not politically motivated. Bradbury asserts that he does not want any of the money made by the movie, nor does he believe that he deserves it. He pressured Moore to change the name, but to no avail. Moore called Bradbury two weeks before the film’s release to apologize, saying that the film’s marketing had been set in motion a long time ago and it was too late to change the title. Both Bradbury and Michael Moore have said that there is absolutely no animosity between them, and have nothing but professional respect for each other’s work.
- * Bradbury’s works and approach to writing are documented in Terry Sanders’ film Ray Bradbury: Story of a Writer (1963). source