Visions of Mars: The Modern Years

May 15, 2020 by

Since the dawn of civilization, humankind has looked toward the heavens for renewal and redemption. From the Ancient Greeks and Romans — who believed the stars and planets to be their gods and heroes — through the utopian writers of the late nineteenth century and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter gazing toward a red star on the horizon . . .

As I gazed upon it, I felt a spell of overpowering fascination — it was Mars, the god of war, and for me, the fighting man, it had always held the power of irresistible enchantment. As I gazed at it on that far-gone night it seemed to call across the unthinkable void, to lure me to it, to draw me as the lodestone attracts a particle of iron. . . . 

Even in H.G. Wells’s apocalyptic THE WAR OF THE WORLDS and its more recent sequels including Stephen Baxter’s THE MASSACRE OF MANKIND (2017), humanity is drawn to the heavens . . .

If the Martians can reach Venus, there is no reason to suppose that the thing is impossible for men, and when the slow cooling of the sun makes this earth uninhabitable, as at last it must do, it may be that the thread of life that has begun here will have streamed out and caught our sister planet within its toils. Dim and wonderful is the vision I have conjured up in my mind of life spreading slowly from this little seed bed of the solar system throughout the inanimate vastness of sidereal space.

The countless alien invasion and bug-eyed-monster pulp yarns inspired by Wells’s novel likewise end with humankind triumphant and gazing toward the heavens or the next galaxy with a sense of wonder.

As the pulps gave way to digest magazines and paperback books, the fiction of Mars also changed. Stepping away from the largely romantic adventures found in the Barsoom of Edgar Rice Burroughs and the monster yarns, it turned toward the frontier notions found in Ray Bradbury’s THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES.

Although the Mars of this 1950 fix-up novel is a dead and haunted planet, it still beckoned to readers and other writers. Despite an oftentimes more realistic approach to the red planet, a sense of wonder and romance is very much present in the Martian fiction of the 1950s and beyond.

Bradbury’s influence is readily seen in stories such as Clifford D. Simak’s “Seven Came Back” (AMAZING STORIES, October 1950), Robert A. Heinlein’s STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND (1961), J.G. Ballard’s “The Time-Tombs” (IF, March 1963), Roger Zelazny’s “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” (THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, November 1963), John Varley’s “In the Hall of the Martian Kings” (THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, February 1977), Ian McDonald’s DESOLATION ROAD (1988), and even Leigh Brackett‘s adventurous “Black Amazon of Mars” (PLANET STORIES, March 1951) and “The Last Days of Shandakor” (STARTLING STORIES, April 1952). The human newcomers are redeemed by accepting Mars, similar to the family in Ray Bradbury’s “The Million Year Picnic” (PLANET STORIES, Summer 1946), the last story in THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES.

The Martians were there — in the canal — reflected in the water. Timothy and Michael and Robert and Mom and Dad. The Martians stared back up at them for a long, long silent time from the rippling water. . . .

In the more realistic portrayals of Mars found in Arthur C. Clarke’s THE SANDS OF MARS (1951), Cyril Kornbluth’s and Judith Merrill’s OUTPOST MARS (originally serialized as “Mars Child” in GALAXY, May – July, 1951, as by Cyril Judd), Isaac Asimov’s “The Martian Way,” (GALAXY, November 1952), Walter M. Miller’s “Crucifixus Etiam” (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, February 1953), Theodore Sturgeon’s “The Man Who Lost the Sea” (THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, October 1959), James Blish’s WELCOME TO MARS (originally serialized as “The Hour Before Earthrise” in IF, July – September 1966), Frederick Turner’s A DOUBLE SHADOW (1978), Greg Bear’s MOVING MARS (1993), Ben Bova’s MARS (1992) and RETURN TO MARS (1999), Kim Stanley Robinson’s award-winning Mars trilogy — RED MARS (1992), BLUE MARS (1993), and GREEN MARS (1996) — Geoffrey A. Landis’s MARS CROSSING (2000), and even Andy Weir’s survival story, THE MARTIAN (2011) and the young adult anthology, THE CALLAHAN KIDS: TALES OF LIFE ON MARS (2013), the romance and wonder of the Martian frontier and the redemption of humanity are very much present for those who accept it.

One can even discern wonder and redemption in the twisted realities of Frederick Brown’s comical “Martians Go Home” (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, September 1954), Kurt Vonnegut’s THE SIRENS OF TITAN (1959), and Philip K. Dick’s MARTIAN TIME-SLIP (originally serialized as “All We Marsmen” in WORLDS OF TOMORROW, August – December 1963) and THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH (1964).

These are just a few of the many fine tales of Mars and Martians to be published since the release of THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES over seventy years ago. Please join PulpFest 2020 on Friday, August 7, as we welcome Albert Wendland to discuss modern visions of the planet Mars at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry in Mars, Pennsylvania. It’s the third and final segment of our series exploring “Visions of Mars,” celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of author Ray Douglas Bradbury.

(Pictured here are William Lampkin’s modified version of  Hannes Bok’s wrap around cover-art for THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION for November 1963, as well as GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION for May 1951 with front cover art by Chesley Bonestell.

To learn more about the fiction of Mars, we recommend the Mars entry in the online SFE: THE SCIENCE FICTION ENCYCLOPEDIA (which also includes a look at Mars in film and television), Book Riot’s MARS IN FICTION: A TIMELINE, 21 BEST MARS SCIENCE FICTION BOOKS on The Best Sci Fi Books, goodreads’s “100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books set on or about Mars,” and Mike Ashley’s “A Brief History of Sci-Fi’s Love Affair With the Red Planet,” a somewhat abridged version of his introduction to his anthology, LOST MARS, a collection of “Stories from the Golden Age of the Red Planet.”

Albert Wendland has made a career out of his life-long interests in science fiction — and photography, art, film, and travel. He teaches popular fiction, literature and writing at Seton Hill University, where he was director of its MFA in Writing Popular Fiction (the first program with exclusive attention to genre writing). His science-fiction “space noir” novel from Dog Star Books, THE MAN WHO LOVED ALIEN LANDSCAPES, was a starred pick-of-the-week by PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY. It was followed by the prequel, IN A SUSPECT UNIVERSE, described as “planetary-romance noir.” Dog Star just published a book of his poetry supposedly written by the protagonist of both novels, TEMPORARY PLANETS FOR TRANSITORY DAYS, on both interstellar and terrestrial subjects. He’s also written and published a study of science fiction, a chapter in MANY GENRES, ONE CRAFT, a poem in DRAWN TO MARVEL: POEMS FROM THE COMIC BOOKS, and several articles on science fiction and writing. He enjoys landscape photography, astronomy, film studies, graphic novels, and the “sublime.”

For a look at our entire programming schedule, please click the Programming button below the PulpFest banner on our home page.)

 

Visions of Mars: The Pulp Years

May 13, 2020 by

August 22, 2020 will be the 100th anniversary of author Ray Bradbury’s birth. With that occasion very much in mind, PulpFest 2020 plans to celebrate the centennial of the author’s birth as part of its salute to “Bradbury, BLACK MASK, and Brundage.”

So what better way is there to start the party than by talking about Ray Bradbury’s much lauded fix-up novel . . .

THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES

The first story to be published from THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES is the “The Million Year Picnic” (PLANET STORIES, Summer 1946). Appearing last in Bradbury’s book, the tale isn’t about Martians at all. . . . At least, not at first. Its readers eventually discover a whole new race of Martians. You’d recognize one of them if you looked in a mirror.

THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES constructs a complex pastiche of Mars, as imagined by Ray Bradbury. Many of the stories are melancholic, wistful. The book’s Martians are frequently dangerous, but not in ordinary ways. In “The Earth Men” (THRILLING WONDER STORIES, August 1948) the first humans to land on Mars are taken for madmen. They end up in a Martian insane asylum and are considered incurable.

Bradbury’s Martians are telepathic. This adds an unusual twist to their defense against colonization and invasion. In “Mars is Heaven!” (PLANET STORIES, Fall 1948), the Martians use telepathic trickery to convince the astronauts that they’ve returned home. The visitors are shown familiar sights and loved ones, long dead. This keeps the Earthmen off guard until it’s too late. They are killed. One wonders if Bradbury’s telepathic Martians are simply too sensitive to bear human contact.

In “Impossible” (SUPER SCIENCE STORIES, November 1949), a shape-shifting Martian is “caught” by the thoughts of the human settlers. The Martian is forced to change shape again and again, according to the whims of the nearest mind. Most of the humans, greedy for the apparent resurrection of their departed loved ones, care little for the being that is tortured by their thoughts. The Martian eventually dies from their callousness. The story was retitled, “The Martian,” for its appearance in THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES.

Ray Bradbury’s vision isn’t a simple or happy one. In many ways his stories are well ahead of their time, contemplative and complex, rather than seat-of-the-pants pulp adventures. Bradbury himself called them fantasies and not science fiction:

“I don’t write science fiction. 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?”

By this definition, most of the pulp era’s Mars stories should be considered fantasy. They are certainly unreal, encompassing everything from Bug-Eyed Monsters to sword and sandal epics. The red planet is a screen onto which dreams are projected, much like Edgar Rice Burroughs projected John Carter across space to take up his new life on Barsoom, his Martian’s name for Mars.

A Land of Myth and Legend

Many who wrote after Burroughs describe human-like Martians that are slightly different from Earthly humans. However, they are not so different that a love story can’t ensue. Sometimes, the resemblance is so close that a Martian may come to Earth and live as human.

Such is the case in Edmond Hamilton’s “The Prisoner of Mars” (STARTLING STORIES, May 1939). In this novel, a lost Martian prince, born on Earth and with no knowledge of his extraterrestrial heritage, ends up returning to his home planet and saving both worlds.

In “Shambleau” (WEIRD TALES, November 1933), Catherine Lucille Moore’s gun-for-hire, Northwest Smith, has a fateful encounter with a malevolent entity in a seedy Martian colony city. The ancient creature met by Smith is not a Martian, but resembles both a vampire and Medusa. It attacks in an appropriately chilling way.

In Leigh Brackett’s story, “Sea-Kings of Mars” (THRILLING WONDER STORIES, June 1949), Matt Carse unluckily stumbles into Mars’ distant past and becomes possessed by an ancient and powerful god. When published in paperback by Ace Books in 1953, Brackett’s story would be called THE SWORD OF RHIANNON.

In Bryce Walton’s “Man of Two Worlds” (SPACE STORIES, October 1952), the Earthman hero, Lee Thorsten, becomes trapped in a time loop on Mars that reveals him to be a hero from Earth’s ancient mythical past.

Unhuman Monsters

Not all Mars stories are sword and sandal adventures in the Burroughs tradition. Some follow the model established by H.G. Wells’s THE WAR OF THE WORLDS. In “The Human Pets of Mars” by Leslie F. Stone (AMAZING STORIES, October 1936), gigantic alien invaders — true Bug-Eyed Monsters — arrive on Earth. They have come to collect specimens (including a dog and a horse) to take back to Mars as pets. Whereas a more modern story might play this for laughs, Stone is quite serious in her commentary about human nature.

We also see unhuman Martians in both “A Martian Odyssey,” by Stanley G. Weinbaum (WONDER STORIES, July 1934), and Raymond Z. Gallun’s “Old Faithful” (ASTOUNDING STORIES, December 1934). In them, we see weird beings that are not at all human. However, the Martians in these two classics are helpful aliens and not hostile. In 1970, when the Science Fiction Writers of America voted on the best science fiction short stories to be published before the advent of the Nebula Award, “A Martian Odyssey” came in second behind Isaac Asimov’s “Nightfall.”

Death and the Afterlife

In several accounts, Mars is related to the afterlife. If not our Heaven, then a Martian version instead. In both “Seven Came Back,” by Clifford D. Simak (AMAZING STORIES, October 1950), and “The Mating of the Moons,” by Bryce Walton — writing as Kenneth O’Hara — (ORBIT SCIENCE FICTION, December 1953), we see a paradisiacal land only accessible to humans when access is granted through an act of service or by some other resonance with the Martians.

This connection to the dead and the dying leads us to back to Bradbury’s celebrated work, THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES. Although the stories are diverse, the overarching feeling is melancholia for a worn and tired ancient world, slowly crumbling to bits amidst the red planet’s cold desert sands.

Please join PulpFest 2020 on Thursday, August 8, as we welcome Sara to discuss these and other pulp visions of the planet Mars at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry in Mars, Pennsylvania. It’s the second part of our series exploring “Visions of Mars,” celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of author Ray Douglas Bradbury.

(Sara Light-Waller is a writer, illustrator, and avid pulp fan. Science fiction pulps are her favorites, especially space opera and thought variant stories. The Grand Prize winner of the 2020 Cosmos Prize — offered by First Fandom Experience for the best ending to the seventeen-part round-robin story that began in June 1933 — Sara has also published two illustrated New Pulp books with more to come. Catch up with her at Lucina Press where you can learn about her work and so much more.

Earle K. Bergey painted the cover art for the June 1949 THRILLING WONDER STORIES, one of many paintings he created for Standard Magazines’ science fiction line. Bergey’s art illustrates Leigh Brackett’s “The Sea-Kings of Mars.”

Although Robert Gibson Jones’s cover art for the October 1950 AMAZING STORIES is certainly not set on Mars, the issue features the Clifford D. Simak story, “Seven Came Back.” A reading of this exceptional short story suggests that it was inspired by Bradbury’s THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES and the P. Schuyler Miller story, “The Cave,” published in the January 1943 number of ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION. Simak’s tale was later reprinted in the May 1966 FANTASTIC.

For a look at our entire programming schedule, please click the Programming button below the PulpFest banner on our home page.)

Visions of Mars: The Early Years

May 11, 2020 by

Mars has long fascinated people, due to its color and not being “fixed” as were most other lights in the night sky. The ancient Greeks and the Romans christened the red planet, both naming it after their god of war.

Following the invention of the telescope in 1609, early astronomers began to discern some features of Mars, notably a dark spot on the planet’s surface — probably Syrtis Major — and a white one near its south pole. In 1877, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli called the lines he observed on Mars, “canali,” or “channels.” Unfortunately, Schiaparelli’s word was misinterpreted as “canals,” suggesting that intelligent life existed on Earth’s neighbor.

One person who helped popularize the Martian canals was French astronomer and popular science writer, Nicolas Camille Flammarion. A prolific author of more than fifty titles — including some early works of science fiction — Flammarion researched the so-called “canals” during the 1880s and 1890s. In his book, LA PLANÈTE MARS ET SES CONDITIONS D’HABITABILITÉ, Flammarion suggested, “the canals were the product of an intelligent species attempting to survive on a dying world.”

The idea of Martian canals inspired many of the writers of the late nineteenth century to imagine utopias on the red planet. Science fiction and pulp historian Mike Ashley lists Percy Greg’s ACROSS THE ZODIAC (1880), Robert Cromie’s A PLUNGE INTO SPACE (1890), Thomas Blot’s THE MAN FROM MARS (1891), James Cowan’s DAYBREAK (1896), UNVEILING A PARALLEL: A ROMANCE (1893) by “Two Women of the West,” and others in the anthology, LOST MARS (2018). Charles Cole’s VISITORS FROM MARS (1901) has Jesus Christ educated on the red planet, while Hugo Gernsback describes an advanced Martian civilization in “The Scientific Adventures of Baron Münchausen,” published in THE ELECTRICAL EXPERIMENTER from October 1915 through February 1917.

A much grimmer view of the inhabitants of Mars was postulated in the 1897 serialization of the science fiction novel, “The War of the Worlds.” Although H.G. Wells‘s Martians are still an advanced race, the author depicts them as many legged alien creatures who are wedded to giant walking machines in their war to conquer our planet. Wells’s invasion would inspire countless other popular tales including Homer Eon Flint’s “The Planeteer” (ALL-STORY WEEKLY for March 9, 1918), Austin Hall’s “The Man Who Saved the Earth” (ALL-STORY WEEKLY for December 13, 1919), and Edmond Hamilton’s “Across Space” (serialized in WEIRD TALES for September through November 1926). THE WAR OF THE WORLDS remains a popular story in contemporary media.

While H.G. Wells was scaring the bejesus out of the reading public, a more romanticized version of the red planet was also growing in popularity. In Gustavus W. Pope’s A JOURNEY TO MARS (1894), Mars is populated by three races with different skin tones, struggling for the throne of the red planet. Similarly romanticized versions of Mars can be found in British writer Edwin Lester Arnold’s LIEUT. GULLIVAR JONES: HIS VACATION (1905), Avis Hekking’s A KING OF MARS (1908), and other works.

Perhaps the impetus for the more romantic Mars was the work of American astronomer Percival Lowell. Between 1895 and 1908, Lowell wrote three books about Mars that “championed the now-abandoned theory that intelligent inhabitants of a dying Mars constructed a planet-wide system of irrigation, utilizing water from the polar ice caps, which melt annually. He thought the canals were bands of cultivated vegetation dependent on this irrigation.”

Which brings us to “Under the Moons of Mars,” a six-part serial credited to Norman Bean. The story began in the February 1912 issue of THE ALL-STORY. Retitled A PRINCESS OF MARS for its book publication, Bean’s serial is told by Captain John Carter of Virginia. A wondrous tale of four-armed Tharks and red-skinned Heliumites, of fantastic airships and many-legged thoats, of vast dead seas and long-abandoned cities, and of a lost princess and the man from another world who won her heart, the novel was actually the work of a gifted storyteller named Edgar Rice Burroughs. His tale inspired ten sequels and a host of adventures written by Otis Adelbert Kline, Leigh Brackett, Michael Moorcock, Will Murray, Mike Resnick, and a “magician of words” named Ray Bradbury.

At PulpFest 2020, we’ll be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of author Ray Bradbury. Our keynote address will be presented by Professor Garyn G. Roberts. Bradbury’s pal for more than thirty years, Garyn will discuss the life and works of the Science Fiction Grand Master and “Poet of the Pulps.”

As part of our celebration of the Ray Bradbury centennial, PulpFest 2020  will also pay tribute to the author’s lifelong affair with the planet Mars, best remembered through his work, THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES. As Ray Bradbury wrote in his introduction to Irwin Porges’s EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS: THE MAN WHO CREATED TARZAN:

“For how can one resist walking out of a summer night to stand in the middle of one’s lawn to look up at the red fire of Mars quivering in the sky and whisper, “Take me home.”

Please join PulpFest 2020 on Thursday, August 8, as we welcome Henry G. Franke, III to discuss early visions of the planet Mars at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry in Mars, Pennsylvania. It’s the first part of our series exploring “Visions of Mars,” celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of author Ray Douglas Bradbury.

(As many other creators before and after him, Frank R. Paul was very much inspired by the Martians of H.G. Wells. Pictured here is William Lampkin’s modified version of the artist’s cover art for the August 1927 issue of AMAZING STORIES. Wells’s “The War of the Worlds” was serialized in two parts by the Hugo Gernsback science fiction magazine.

P.J. Monahan, on the other hand, was inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs’ romantic adventures on the planet Mars. Pictured here is Monahan’s cover art for the April 8, 1916 issue of ALL-STORY WEEKLY, depicting a scene from Burroughs’ fourth novel of Barsoom, “Thuvia, Maid of Mars.” The story was serialized in three parts in the Munsey magazine.

Henry G. Franke, III is the Editor of The Burroughs Bibliophiles, the non-profit literary society devoted to the life and works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. The Bibliophiles publish THE BURROUGHS BULLETIN journal and THE GRIDLEY WAVE newsletter.  Henry is only the third editor of THE BURROUGHS BULLETIN since its debut in 1947. He was the Contributing Editor and penned the introductions for IDW Publishing’s Library of American Comics archival series reprinting Russ Manning’s Tarzan daily and Sunday newspaper comic strips. The first volume won the 2014 Eisner Award for Best Archival Collection – Strips. He has written articles and other book introductions on Tarzan comic books and strips for TwoMorrows Publishing, Titan Books, and IDW’s Library of American Comics. Henry was the Official Editor of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Amateur Press Association (ERBapa) in 1994-1996, 2004, and 2019-2020. He served in the United States Army from 1977 to 2009 and is now a government civilian employee of the Army.

For a look at our entire programming schedule, please click the Programming button below the PulpFest banner on our home page.)

Ray Bradbury’s THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES

May 4, 2020 by

In his introduction to Irwin Porges’s EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS: THE MAN WHO CREATED TARZAN, Ray Bradbury suggested that during the summer of 1930, “a mob of boys and girls” were running away from him. That he made the summer excruciating and unbearable “for everyone.” Why you may ask?

You see my problem was Edgar Rice Burroughs and Tarzan and John Carter, Warlord of Mars.

Problem, you ask. That doesn’t sound like much of a problem.

Oh, but it was. You see, I couldn’t stop reading those books. I couldn’t stop memorizing them line by line and page by page. Worst of all, when I saw my friends, I couldn’t stop my mouth. The words just babbled out. Tarzan this and Jane that, John Carter here and Dejah Thoris there. And when it wasn’t those incredible people it was Tanar of Pellucidar or I was making noises like a tyrannosaurus rex and behaving like a Martian thoat, which, everyone knows, has eight legs.

In the view of Ray Bradbury, Edgar Rice Burroughs stands above other writers because of his . . .

. . .  unreason, because of his natural impulses, because of the color of the blood running in Tarzan’s veins, because of the blood on the teeth of the gorilla, the lion, and the black panther. Because of the sheer romantic impossibility of Burroughs’ Mars and its fairytale people with green skins and the absolutely unscientific way John Carter traveled there. Being utterly impossible, he was the perfect fast-moving chum for any ten-year-old boy. For how can one resist walking out of a summer night to stand in the middle of one’s lawn to look up at the red fire of Mars quivering in the sky and whisper, “Take me home.”

As a writer, Ray Bradbury first visited Mars in print in the story, “The Piper,” self-published in the Spring 1940 issue of his fanzine, FUTURIA FANTASIA. A revised version under the same title would appear in the February 1943 number of THRILLING WONDER STORIES. 

Originally published as by Ron Reynolds, “The Piper” is far removed from the Mars depicted in his seminal work, THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES. The first of his “Chronicles” stories — “The Million Year Picnic” — would first appear in the Summer 1946 PLANET STORIES. “Lorelei of the Red Mist,” a novella started by his friend and mentor, Leigh Brackett, and completed by Bradbury would also run in the same issue.

Initially released by Doubleday & Company seventy years ago today, THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES was a “fix-up” novel comprised of a mixture of previously published stories and bridge chapters. Crediting Sherwood Anderson’s WINESBURG, OHIO and John Steinbeck’s THE GRAPES OF WRATH as major influences on the book’s structure, Ray Bradbury labeled his book, a “half-cousin to a novel.”

Inspired by a suggestion by Doubleday editor Walter I. Bradbury (no relation), the initial outline for THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES was put together on a portable typewriter at the Sloane House YMCA in New York City in 1949. As the author later recalled, “It was a typical hot June night in New York. Air conditioning was still a luxury of some future year. I typed until 3 A.M., perspiring in my underwear as I weighted and balanced my Martians in their strange cities in the last hours before arrivals and departures of my astronauts.”

According to Sam Weller’s biography of the author — THE BRADBURY CHRONICLES: THE LIFE OF RAY BRADBURY — Walter Bradbury loved the idea behind THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES:

This idea for a novel-in-stories would provide a mirror for humanity, its faults, foibles, and failures. The book would be a cautionary tale, warning against the cultural perils that lay ahead.

Recognizing Ray Bradbury as a “rising literary talent who could be a key player in Doubleday’s new science fiction line,” the editor offered the writer a book deal on the spot, sending him back to Southern California with a check for $1500 for a pair of books.

Over the next year, Ray Bradbury reviewed all of his Martian stories, selecting and revising those to be included in his “book of stories pretending to be a novel.” Initially compiled as eighteen stories and eleven bridge chapters, it was paired down by the author and his editor, Walter Bradbury. Four segments were removed from the final manuscript.

THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES would be welcomed by both the science fiction community and, later, by mainstream critics led by the respected author, Christopher Isherwood. It has remained in print since 1950 and has been adapted for radio, comic books, theater, television, and as an opera and a video game. To date, although both MGM and Paramount have owned the book’s film rights, no motion picture version has ever been produced.

In Sam Weller’s book, LISTEN TO THE ECHOES: THE RAY BRADBURY INTERVIEWS, the Science Fiction Grand Master and “Poet of the Pulps” suggests:

I love to say it because it upsets everyone terribly — Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world . . . . By giving romance and adventure to a whole generation of boys, Burroughs caused them to go out and decide to become special. That’s what we have to do for everyone, give the gift of life with our books. Say to a girl or boy at age ten: “Hey, life is fun! Grow tall!” I’ve talked to more biochemists and more astronomers and technologists in various fields, who, when they were ten years old, fell in love with John Carter and Tarzan and decided to become something romantic. Burroughs put us on the moon. All the technologists read Burroughs.

Like Edgar Rice Burroughs before him, Ray Bradbury has inspired a fair share of “technologists.” As astronaut Chris Hadfield wrote in his introduction to the 2015 Folio Society edition of THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES:

The spaceship was improbable, at best. Having been blasted from the Earth’s surface, pushed hard to an incredible speed, and then having to endure a silent nine-month coast through interplanetary space, it was now being pulled unstoppably by the gravity of planet Mars, inexorably down into the Martian atmosphere. Jealously protecting its precious cargo, a carton-of-eggs rover named Curiosity, the ship gradually, deliberately gave its life to the wicked heat, the punishing deceleration and the sudden, final impact onto the dusty surface of Mars. And as the newly landed Curiosity slowly, safely awoke and began to look around, its robot eyes showed us a new place in our history – just south of Mars’ equator, on an ancient sea floor in Gale Crater, forevermore known as Bradbury Landing. The dreamers and scientists and engineers who guided Curiosity to the landing site chose that name because “many of us and millions of other readers were inspired in our lives by stories Ray Bradbury wrote to dream of the possibility of life on Mars.” Those stories, the sparks of imagination that helped fire the flames that lifted Curiosity, are . . . THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES.

(At PulpFest 2020, we’ll be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of author Ray Bradbury. Our keynote address will be presented by Professor Garyn G. Roberts. Bradbury’s pal for more than thirty years, Garyn will discuss the life and works of the Science Fiction Grand Master and “Poet of the Pulps,” including “The Million Year Picnic,” originally published in the Summer 1946 PLANET STORIES and featuring front cover art by Chester Martin.

We’ll also have presentations on Bradbury in comic books, television, and film. Filling out our Bradbury salute will be several presentations concerning Mars in fiction, a look at early science fiction fandom, and more.)

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.)

New for PulpFest 2017 — Hardboiled Dicks, Dangerous Dames, and a Few Psychos II

Nov 7, 2016 by

PulpFest 2017 Post Card backBeginning with its first convention in 2009, PulpFest has drawn countless raves from pop culture enthusiasts. Planned as the summertime destination for fans and collectors of vintage popular fiction and related materials, PulpFest seeks to honor pulp fiction and pulp art by drawing attention to the many ways they have inspired writers, artists, film directors, software developers, game designers, and other creators over the decades. That’s why PulpFest is renowned for its fantastic dealers’ room and wide range of interesting and entertaining programming. So what will be happening at PulpFest 2017?

Back in October, we told you about the hardboiled dicks that transformed the traditional mystery story into the tough guy (and gal) crime fiction that remains popular to this very day. Today, we’re turning our attention to the dangerous dames of the pulps, the hardboiled ladies who helped to pave the way for such modern day gumshoes as Sue Grafton‘s Kinsey Millhone, Marcia Muller‘s Sharon McCone, and Sara Paretsky‘s V. I. Warshawski. Collectively, these authors and their characters have helped the hardboiled school of detective fiction writing evolve in new directions.

Many leading authors of contemporary female hardboiled detective fiction cite Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, as well as the Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton series books, as major influences on their writing. Pulp collector and mystery author Bill Pronzini has also suggested that writers such as Grafton, Muller, and Paretsky “owe at least of small debt of gratitude to” pulp authors Georgiana Ann Randolph Craig, better known as Craig Rice; Leigh Brackett, whose novel NO GOOD FROM A CORPSE led to her co-writing the screenplay for Chandler’s THE BIG SLEEP; and Dorothy Dunn, who published over sixty stories in DIME DETECTIVE, DETECTIVE TALES, BLACK MASK, and other detective pulps.

sheena-queen-of-the-jungleAdditionally, female pulp characters such as Cleve Adams’s Violet McDade and Nevada Alvarado, Lester Dent’s Pat Savage, Paul Ernst’s Nellie Gray and Rosabel Newton, John Russell Fearn’s Golden Amazon, Walter Gibson’s Myra Reldon and Margo Lane, Robert E. Howard’s Bêlit, the “Queen of the Black Coast,” C. L. Moore’s Jirel of Joiry, Norvell Page’s Nita Van Sloan, Les Savage’s Senorita Scorpion, Theodore Tinsley’s Carrie Cashin, Gene Francis Webb’s Grace Culver, and the pseudonymously written Domino Lady and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, all depicted women in roles often reserved for men. Generally, they performed equal to or better than their male counterparts. These dangerous dames helped to remove women from the drawing rooms of Carolyn Wells and Agatha Christie, the love and western romance pulps, and into the mean streets of “a world gone wrong.”

We’ll be back in a month with another post on our 2017 themes. Next time, we’ll explore the psychos of the pulps. Meanwhile, stay tuned to PulpFest.com for news on our “New Fictioneers” readings, Saturday Night Auction, and much more.  We’ll have a new post each and every Monday in the weeks ahead. So visit often to learn all about PulpFest 2017, “Summer’s Hardboiled Pulp Con!”

(Designed by PulpFest’s artistic director, William Lampkin, our PulpFest 2017 post card features the work of artist Norman Saunders. His painting was originally used as the cover for the May 1936 number of Fiction Magazines’ SAUCY ROMANTIC ADVENTURES. Saunders painted all three covers for the magazines that featured The Domino Lady.

The Spring 1951 issue of  STORIES OF SHEENA, QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE, a Fiction House magazine, was the only issue of this pulp. It featured front cover art by Allen Anderson. He worked for Fawcett Publications from 1929 through 1939. After moving to New York City in 1940, Anderson painted covers for pulp magazines published by Ace, Fiction House, Harry Donenfeld, and Martin Goodman.)

A Century Ago in a Galaxy Called California

Dec 14, 2015 by

Pardon the play on words in the title, but it was hard to resist with the seventh STAR WARS movie, THE FORCE AWAKENS, premiering in theaters across the world at the end of this week. But why write about STAR WARS on a website devoted to PulpFest, Summer’s AMAZING Pulp Con?

Two words: Leigh Brackett. Four more words: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Considered by many to be the best of the STAR WARS films, the original treatment for the fifth episode of George Lucas’ series was written by Leigh Brackett. Shortly after delivering her untitled screenplay to Twentieth Century Fox, the so-called “Queen of the Space Opera” passed away. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK went on to become one of the highest grossing films of all time, and in 1981, received a Hugo Award for best dramatic presentation.

Born one-hundred years ago on December 7, 1915, Leigh Brackett was the wife of author Edmond Hamilton. Together, they were two of the many writers who helped to popularize the so-called “space operas” of the pulp magazines. Ed started first as the leading contributor of science fiction to WEIRD TALES during the 1920s. With stories about alien invasions, space police, and evolution gone wild, the author became known as “world-wrecker” Hamilton. In later years, he was asked by Standard Magazines’ Leo Margulies to work up something involving a “Mr. Future, Wizard of Science.” Eventually, the character evolved into Captain Future, a super-scientist headquartered on the Moon. In each issue of the pulp, Hamilton’s hero and his faithful assistants — known as the Futuremen — would save the solar system and, in later issues, the universe. When Mort Weisinger began working for DC Comics in 1941, he turned to Standard’s leading writers of science fiction — including Hamilton — to write the adventures of Superman and other comic book heroes.

Leigh Brackett came later to the pulps, selling her first story to ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION in late 1939. The bulk of her science fiction appeared in Fiction House’s PLANET STORIES and Standard’s THRILLING WONDER STORIES and STARTLING STORIES. A native of southern California, she began collaborating on screenplays during the middle forties. Supposedly, Hollywood film director Howard Hawks was so impressed by her crime novel NO GOOD FROM A CORPSE that he had his secretary call in “this guy Brackett” to help William Faulkner write the script for THE BIG SLEEP. Released in 1946 and starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, it is considered a classic of film noir. During the fifties and sixties, Brackett, Hawks, and actor John Wayne collaborated on several motion pictures, included RIO BRAVO, HATARI, EL DORADO, and RIO LOBO. Leigh Brackett died in 1978.

In 1972, Brackett and Hamilton served as the guests of honor at the first Pulpcon, the forerunner to PulpFest. Years later in 2009, the town of Kinsman, Ohio — where Brackett and Hamilton lived after they had married — began celebrating this famed couple of pulp history. The celebration evolved into KinCon, a convention exploring the worlds of Edmond Hamilton and Leigh Brackett. Although the event is currently on hiatus, KinCon continues to celebrate these two exceptional pulp fictioneers through its website on Facebook.

Like KinCon, PulpFest seeks to draw attention to the profound effect that the pulps had on American popular culture, reverberating through a wide variety of media — comic books, movies, paperbacks and genre fiction, television, men’s adventure magazines, radio drama, and even video and role-playing games. Planned as the summertime destination for fans and collectors of vintage popular fiction and related materials, PulpFest honors pulp fiction and pulp art by drawing attention to the many ways the magazines and their creators — people like Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton — have inspired writers, artists, film directors, software developers, game designers, and other creators over the decades.

Join PulpFest 2016 to be part of this great celebration of American popular culture. Start making your plans right now to join the 45th convening of “Summer’s AMAZING Pulp Con” in 2016. It will take place July 21st through July 24th at the Hyatt Regency Columbus and the Greater Columbus Convention Center in the beautiful downtown of Columbus, Ohio.

(After studying art by correspondence, Allen Anderson worked as a staff artist for Fawcett Publications in Minneapolis from 1929 to 1939. He moved to New York City in 1940 and began painting covers for pulp magazines published by Ace Magazines, Fiction House, Harry Donenfeld, and Martin Goodman. He also painted comic book covers for Ziff-Davis from 1949 to 1953. From 1947 through 1953, he contributed about thirty front cover paintings to PLANET STORIES — including the Winter 1948 issue — a Fiction House pulp magazine best remembered for the many entertaining space operas that appeared in its rough paper pages. In later years, Anderson opened a small advertising agency and worked as a sign painter. )

A Thrilling PulpFest!

Jul 23, 2015 by

40-01 Ghost Super-DetectiveJoin PulpFest in a few weeks for a salute to Ned Pines Standard Magazines — the Thrilling Group! Although many pulp collectors find much of the fiction published by Standard to be “less than thrilling,” they often find the cover art to be quite striking.  So why are we celebrating Standard Magazines? Although the pulp line turns 84 this year — hardly a sexy anniversary — many leading figures in the history of Pines Publishing have notable anniversaries in 2015: Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, THRILLING ADVENTURES writer and creator of the first comic book is 125; Tom Curry, western writer and creator of The Rio Kid, and Leo Margulies, managing editor of the “Thrilling Group,” are 115; Norman Daniels, who created the Black Bat and wrote many hero pulp stories for the group, and Thrilling publisher Ned Pines are 110; and Mort Weisinger, editor of CAPTAIN FUTURE and other Thrilling magazines, as well as DC’s Superman comic books, and Leigh Brackett and Henry Kuttner, both writers for Standard’s science-fiction pulps, are 100 years old. That’s eight reasons to make 2015 the year for Standard Magazines.

So what will we be doing to THRILL you at PulpFest 2015? There’s plenty! We’ve scattered presentations on Standard Magazines and Comics throughout our programming line-up. Click on the titles below to see what we’ll be offering from Thursday evening, August 13th through Saturday evening, August 15th. We hope that you find it . . . THRILLING!

Thursday, August 13

8:40 PM — Thrilling Detectives (John Wooley and John Gunnison)

10:10 PM — Saddle Up! A Look at the Western Heroes of the Thrilling Group (Ed Hulse)

10:50 PM — Play Ball: A Look at the Sports Pulps (Michelle Nolan)

Friday, August 14

7:05 PM — Leo Margulies: The Little Giant of the Pulps (Ed Hulse, Will Murray and Philip M. Sherman)

10:40 PM — Thrilling Heroes of Standard’s Pulps and Comics (Matt Moring, Will Murray, Michelle Nolan, and Garyn Roberts)

Saturday, August 15

8:45 pm — The Thrilling Adventures of Rudolph Belarski  (David Saunders)

Thrilling Comics 1939-1So here’s your chance to wish all these giants a “happy birthday” as PulpFest 2015 pays tribute to this leading pulp magazine publisher. The action begins on Thursday evening, August 13th and runs through Sunday, August 16th at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Click here to learn how to register for “Summer’s Great Pulp Con!” Afterward, book a room for three nights by visiting www.pulpfest.com/2015/06/16872/ and join your friends at the “pop culture center of the universe” for a salute to Ned Pines and the “Thrilling Group!”

(That’s the first issue of THE GHOST, SUPER-DETECTIVE, dated January 1940, and featuring cover artwork by Rafael de Soto, as well as the first issue of THRILLING COMICS, dated February 1940, and featuring cover artwork by Alexander Kostuk. PulpFest 2015 will be paying tribute to the Thrilling Heroes of Standard’s Pulps and Comics on Friday evening, August 14th, at 10:40 PM.)

 

Space Operas in the Sky

Jun 6, 2014 by

Planet Stories 39-WAlthough Fiction House had been around since the 1920s, it waited until 1939 to enter the science-fiction field. A year before, it had joined the comic book industry with Jumbo Comics, home to Sheena, “Queen of the Jungle.” Perhaps trying to hedge its bets, Fiction House launched a science-fiction pulp, Planet Stories, and a science-fiction comic book, Planet Comics, at the same time.

Over the years, Fiction House had developed a reputation for offering action-packed stories of adventure in its pulps. Planet Stories would prove to be no exception to this rule. Over its 71 issues, the rough-paper magazine would be home to countless science-fiction adventure stories called “space operas.”

In her introduction to The Best of Planet Stories #1, acclaimed author and screenwriter Leigh Brackett writes: “Planet, unashamedly, published “space opera” . . . . a story that has an element of adventure . . . . of great courage and daring, of battle against the forces of darkness and the unknown . . . The so-called space opera is the folk-tale, the hero-tale, of our particular niche in history . . . . These stories served to stretch our little minds, to draw us out beyond our narrow skies into the vast glooms of interstellar space, where the great suns ride in splendor and the bright nebulae fling their veils of fire parsecs-long across the universe; where the Coal-sack and the Horsehead make patterns of black mystery; where the Cepheid variables blink their evil eyes and a billion nameless planets may harbor life-forms infinitely numerous and strange.”

Running from 1939 – 1955, the early issues of Planet Stories featured writers such as Eando Binder, Nelson Bond, Ray Cummings, Ed Earl Repp, and Ross Rocklynne. By the middle-forties, Leigh Brackett and Ray Bradbury reigned supreme with the former offering seventeen “science fantasies,” while the latter introduced readers to The Martian Chronicles. They were joined by less-acclaimed authors such as Alfred Coppel, Gardner F. Fox, Henry Hasse, Emmett McDowell, and Basil Wells. The late forties and early fifties found the magazine publishing work by Poul Anderson, James Blish, Philip K. Dick, Chad Oliver, Mack Reynolds, and other greats who would go on to develop science fiction’s modern era.

Planet Stories 42-WPerhaps it was Planet Stories’ emphasis on cover art with a strong dose of sex—usually imagined by Allen Anderson or Frank Kelly Freas—that helped turn “space opera” into a pejorative term. Per Leigh Brackett, “It was fashionable for a while, among certain elements of science-fiction fandom, to hate Planet Stories. They hated the magazine, apparently, because it was not Astounding Stories.” For seventy-one issues, rather than aiming for the cerebrum, it aimed for the gut. Who is to say that one target is more valid than the other?