Visions of Bradbury: The Author at 100

May 1, 2020 by

Although he got his start as a writer of fantasy, horror, detective, and science fiction for the pulp magazines, author Ray Bradbury defied categorization. He referred to himself as a “magician of words.”

Bradbury was born on August 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Illinois and decided to become a writer around the age of twelve. From his earliest memories, he was a voracious reader and consumer of popular genre fiction (and the pulp magazines in which these stories flourished),
silent movies, radio programming, newspaper comic strips, circuses, magicians and more. From his earliest years forward, Ray Douglas Bradbury was enamored with the Buck Rogers newspaper strip and the works of Jules Verne, L. Frank Baum, Edgar Rice Burroughs and others.

After moving with his family to Los Angeles in 1934, the teenaged Bradbury discovered science fiction fandom. Through the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society, he met such people as Forrest J Ackerman, Hannes Bok, Leigh Brackett, Ray Harryhausen, Henry Hasse, Robert A. Heinlein, and Henry Kuttner. It was Kuttner, in particular, who took the young Bradbury under his wing, urging him to read more outside the fields of fantasy and science fiction, critiquing his stories, and simply telling the budding author to simply write and “shut up.”

Collaborating with Henry Hasse, Ray Bradbury sold his first story in 1941. Based on a work originally published in Bradbury’s self-published fanzine, FUTURE FANTASIA, “Pendulum” ran in the November 1941 issue of SUPER SCIENCE STORIES. The issue featured front cover art by Robert C.  Sherry. The Bradbury and Hasse team would sell two more collaborations before the younger Bradbury set off on his own.

With the help of writers Henry Kuttner and Leigh Brackett, as well as literary agent Julius Schwartz, Ray Bradbury began to find regular markets for his science fiction and fantasy in AMAZING STORIES, PLANET STORIES, SUPER SCIENCE STORIES, THRILLING WONDER STORIES, and WEIRD TALES. It was largely from the latter that Bradbury would draw the stories for his first book, the legendary DARK CARNIVAL, published by Arkham House in 1947.

In 1944, Ray Bradbury also began to contribute crime and detective fiction to DETECTIVE TALES, DIME MYSTERY MAGAZINE, NEW DETECTIVE MAGAZINE, and other pulps. At the urging of a friend, the young writer also started to submit his work to the more prestigious (and better paying) “slicks.” These included AMERICAN MERCURY, CHARM, COLLIER’S, MADEMOISELLE, and THE NEW YORKER. His story, “The Big Black and White Game,” published in the August 1945 issue of AMERICAN MERCURY, was included in THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES OF THE YEAR anthology. “The Homecoming,” published in the October 1946 issue of MADEMOISELLE (after being rejected by WEIRD TALES), found its way into the pages of THE O. HENRY PRIZE STORIES OF 1947.

As his fiction began to be read by a wider audience, Bradbury came to the attention of former COLLIER’S editor Don Congdon. About a year after writing Bradbury to express his admiration for the author’s work, Congdon became Ray Bradbury’s literary agent. During the summer of 1949, Bradbury’s representative arranged a meeting with Doubleday editor Walter I. Bradbury (no relation) in New York City. According to Sam Weller’s THE BRADBURY CHRONICLES, it was during this meeting that the Doubleday editor suggested: “What about all those Martian stories you’ve been writing for PLANET STORIES and THRILLING WONDER? Wouldn’t there be a book if you took all those stories and tied them together into a tapestry?”

Thus was born THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, published in 1950 by Doubleday and Company. It would be this work — a “fix-up” novel consisting of a mixture of previously published and new, loosely connected stories — that would assure Ray Bradbury’s success as an author.

Other books would follow his Mars collection, including THE ILLUSTRATED MAN in 1951, FAHRENHEIT 451 and THE GOLDEN APPLES OF THE SUN in 1953, THE OCTOBER COUNTRY in 1955, DANDELION WINE in 1957, A MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY  in 1959, R IS FOR ROCKET and SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES in 1962, THE MACHINERIES OF JOY in 1964, as well as many others. Bradbury would also make significant contributions to ESQUIRE, GALAXY, THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, PLAYBOY, THE SATURDAY EVENING POST, and other magazines.

Ray Bradbury won the World Fantasy Award in 1977, the SFWA Grand Master Award in 1989, the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1989, an Emmy Award in 1994, the National Medal of Arts in 2004, a special citation from the Pulitzer Prize jury “for his distinguished, prolific, and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy” in 2007, and many other awards. The author died on June 5, 2012, a few months shy of 92.

On Saturday, August 8, PulpFest 2020 welcomes Professor Garyn G. Roberts for “Visions of Bradbury: The Author at 100.” Bradbury’s pal for more than thirty years, Professor Roberts will discuss the Science Fiction Grand Master and “Poet of the Pulps,” beginning at 7:50 PM. Our 2013 Munsey Award winner promises to share many unique items that he collected during his long friendship with Ray Bradbury.

(To learn more about Ray Bradbury, we recommend BECOMING RAY BRADBURY, by Jonathan R. Eller (University of Illinois Press, 2011), NOLAN ON BRADBURY, by William F. Nolan (Hippocampus Press, 2013), and THE BRADBURY CHRONICLES: THE LIFE OF RAY BRADBURY, by Sam Weller (HarperCollins Publishers, 2005).

The November 1942 issue of WEIRD TALES — with cover art by Richard Bennett — features the first Ray Bradbury story to be published by “The Unique Magazine,” “The Candle.” The story’s ending was suggested by Bradbury’s mentor, Henry Kuttner.

Garyn G. Roberts, PH.D., has written extensively about the pulps, both professionally and as a fan. He has edited or co-edited some of the best collections from the pulps including A CENT A STORY: THE BEST FROM TEN DETECTIVE ACES, MORE TALES OF THE DEFECTIVE DETECTIVE IN THE PULPS, THE COMPLEAT ADVENTURES OF THE MOON MAN, THE MAGICAL MYSTERIES OF DON DIAVOLO, and THE COMPLEAT GREAT MERLINI SAGA.

Roberts’s anthology, THE PRENTICE HALL ANTHOLOGY OF SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY, a college level textbook, is notable for the attention paid to the pulp magazines. It was honored with the Ray and Pat Browne National Popular Culture Book Award. His comprehensive examination of Chester Gould’s creation, DICK TRACY AND AMERICAN CULTURE, was a Mystery Writers of American Edgar Allan Poe Award finalist.

Garyn regularly contributes research for, edits, and provides introductions for books by Battered Silicon Press Dispatch Box, Haffner Press, Steeger Books, and other publishers. He has published extensively on the life and works of his friends, Ray Bradbury and Robert Bloch, and often serves as a presenter and panelist at conventions.)

80 Years of Terror!

Jul 28, 2014 by

Terror Tales 34-09Back in the days of bread lines and hobo jungles, millions of readers found escapist thrills in the pages of cheaply produced magazines printed on rough pulpwood paper. Pulp magazines catered to every imaginable reading taste from detective yarns to pirate stories, from jungle adventures to science fiction, from sports stories to romance tales. But the wildest of them all were the notorious horror tomes known collectively as the shudder pulps.

The so-called “shudder” or “weird-menace” titles were a blood-red splash of color in the grey days of the Great Depression. They announced their monthly wares with circus-poster-style covers featuring voluptuous under-dressed beauties being pursued by hordes of leering lunatics as bent as boomerangs. Their promise: cheap thrills, and plenty of them. In their nightmare universe it was always a dark and stormy night. Tethered damsels suffered in the clutches of fiends such as hell-mad surgeons, warped scientists, and masked and cowled cultists, eagerly abetted by legions of demented dwarfs and horny hunchbacks. They stripped, whipped, and boiled their curvaceous victims with the enthusiasm of medieval inquisitors. Even the requisite rock-jawed heroes of these stories suffered a purgatory of horrors in order to rescue their brutally treated fair maidens.

The weird-menace magazines lasted for but a few brief years, roughly from 1933 to 1941, when the actions of blue-nosed watchdogs helped propel them from the market. In contrast to previous horror magazines with their literate but fusty eldritch mysteries, the new breed of terror pulps dared go where no newsstand magazines had gone before. Dime Mystery 33-10Join PulpFest 2014 on Friday, August 8th, at 9:30 PM as we celebrate the eightieth anniversary of Terror Tales, the best of the weird-menace magazines.

Popular culture professor Garyn G. Roberts, winner of the 2013 Munsey Award and editor of some of the best collections from the pulps; Ed Hulse, publisher of Murania Press books and a consultant for the Dime Detective series from Altus Press; and Walker Martin, who writes about pulp collecting for Steve Lewis’ Mystery*File blog, will weigh in on this Popular Publications title, as well as other shudder pulps–Ace Mystery, Dime MysteryEerie Mysteries, Eerie Stories, Horror StoriesMystery Novels and Short Stories, Mystery Tales, Spicy Mystery Stories, Thrilling Mystery, Uncanny Tales, and others.

To learn more about the images used in this post, click on the illustrations.

Weird Menaces: The Shudder Pulps

Jul 6, 2014 by

Terror Tales 39-11Not only will we be celebrating science fiction’s “Golden Year of 1939” and “75 Years of Fantastic Fiction,” PulpFest 2014 intends to pay homage to “The Weird-Menace Magazines of 1934.” Called shudder pulps, these magazines experienced a brief period of popularity that began in late 1933 and ran until 1941, when a concerted reform movement brought an end to the genre.

Noted pulp authority Don Hutchison, author of The Great Pulp Heroes, has contributed a look at the weird-menace genre, “Pulp Horrors of the Dirty Thirties,” to this year’s issue of The Pulpster, our award-winning program book. Offered here are just a few of Don’s gory details concerning “The Shudder Pulps.”

Pulp Horrors of the Dirty Thirties: An Excerpt

Back in the days of bread lines and hobo jungles, millions of readers found escapist thrills in the pages of cheaply produced magazines printed on rough pulpwood paper. Pulp magazines catered to every imaginable reading taste from detective yarns to pirate stories, from jungle adventures to science fiction and even romance. But the wildest of them all were the notorious horror tomes known collectively as the shudder pulps.

The so-called “shudder” or “weird-menace” titles were a blood-red splash of color in the grey days of the Great Depression. They announced their monthly wares with circus-poster-style covers featuring voluptuous under-dressed beauties being pursued by hordes of leering lunatics as bent as boomerangs. Their promise: cheap thrills, and plenty of them.

Dime Mystery 33-10In their nightmare universe it was always a dark and stormy night. Tethered damsels suffered in the clutches of fiends such as hell-mad surgeons, warped scientists, and masked and cowled cultists, eagerly abetted by legions of demented dwarfs and horny hunchbacks. They stripped, whipped, and boiled their curvaceous victims with the enthusiasm of medieval inquisitors. Even the requisite rock-jawed heroes of these stories suffered a purgatory of horrors in order to rescue their brutally treated fair maidens.

The weird-menace magazines lasted for but a few brief years, roughly from 1933 to 1941, when the actions of blue-nosed watchdogs helped propel them from the market. In contrast to previous horror magazines with their literate but fusty eldritch mysteries, the new breed of terror pulps dared go where no newsstand magazines had gone before. These few magazines were largely responsible for the low opinion people held (and still hold) of the entire pulp fiction field. Many dealers sold them under the counter, and New York’s mayor Fiorello La Guardia singled them out when he warned the pulp publishers to clean up their act or get out of town.

With stories written to a strict formula by seasoned pros, shudder pulps featured some of the most unashamedly lurid fiction and art ever produced for the newsstands of middle America. Each month they announced their presence with covers illustrating in chromatic detail the titillating promise of stories like: “Flesh For the Goat Man,” “The Corpse Wants Your Widow,” “Food for the Fungus Lady,” “Mate For the Thing in the Box,” and “Summer Camp for Corpses.”

Horror Stories 35-01The first of the new breed of fiction mags, Dime Mystery, lurched onto the newsstands in October of 1933. It was the brainchild of Popular Publication’s resourceful young publisher Henry Steeger and took off like skyrockets. Popular Publications lost little time in producing not one, but two companion monthlies: Terror Tales, followed by Horror Stories.

Readers responded in large numbers to the lure of these purple prose set-ups and the inevitable pay-off in hell-spawned horrors. Soon, other publishers rushed into print with similar books of their own. Chief among them was publisher Ned Pines, whose Thrilling Mystery was a clone of Popular’s Dime Mystery. Believing that the public can never get too much of a bad thing, more newcomers tested the limits of sensationalism. There was Ace Mystery, Eerie Mysteries, Eerie Stories, Mystery Novels and Short Stories, Mystery Tales, Spicy Mystery Stories, Uncanny Tales, and others.

In the early 1940s there developed a public rejection of the permissiveness and thrill-seeking of the thirties. When New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia threatened to rid his city of sex-and-sadism magazines, publishers retrenched in fear of losing newsstand sales as well as their U. S. postal mailing privileges. As shudder pulp stalwart Bruno Fischer described it “Clean-up organizations started throwing their weight around and gave editors jitters, and artists and writers were instructed to put panties and brassieres on the girls.”

Speed Mystery 43-01Dime Mystery was retooled as a straight mystery magazine. Spicy Mystery soldiered on for awhile, but was then re-titled Speed Mystery. Terror Tales and Horror Stories were shut down in 1941. Pulp fiction’s bloody reign of terror had ended, not with a bang but with a whimper. Unfortunately, in discarding key ingredients of their appeal, the magazines failed to develop new innovations, much less new readers. And, with the coming of World War II, the extent of human madness and misery could no longer be viewed–much less enjoyed–as mere fiction. In a more innocent time, it was thought that the brand of horror perpetrated by the fiends of the shudder pulps was purely imaginary. Now people knew that such things–and worse–were possible.

If you’d like to read the unabridged version of Don Hutchison’s article, it will be appearing in the PulpFest 2014 program book, The Pulpster. You’ll find ordering instructions at the bottom of our post entitled “To Infinity and Beyond.” It was featured on our home page on June 15th.

To learn more about the images used in this post, click on the illustrations.