PulpFest Profile — David & Daniel Ritter & First Fandom Experience

Sep 14, 2020 by

Pulp magazines have influenced writers, artists, film directors, software developers, and countless others over the years. Our “PulpFest Profiles” focus on contemporary creators who have drawn inspiration from these rough-paper fiction magazines.

 

 

At PulpFest 2019, I discovered an extraordinary project called, First Fandom Experience. Father and son, David and Daniel Ritter, are dedicated pulp fans and collectors with a special interest in the early days of science fiction fandom. They have created a database of materials made available through their website and in several books. Their most recent release is THE EARLIEST BRADBURY, which came out in 2020 to coincide with the hundredth anniversary of Ray Bradbury’s birth. Recently, I had the chance to sit down with David and Daniel and ask them some questions about their exciting First Fandom Experience project.

Sara Light-Waller (SLW): David, you’re Editor-in-Chief of First Fandom Experience and a long-time pulp fan. Please tell us about your initial inspiration for the First Fandom Experience (FFE) project.

David Ritter:  FFE is my second adventure in publishing related to science fiction in the 1930s. The first was The Cosmos Project. You can read about it and my background with it, here. The way COSMOS came together in the early 1930s is a microcosm of the overall phenomenon of organized fandom during that decade. Once The Cosmos Project was largely complete, I continued to explore the broader arc of fan history. This led me to what’s considered the canonical narrative of early fandom: Sam Moskowitz’s THE IMMORTAL STORM. Moskowitz captured the stories of many of the key people and events of the early years from his own first-hand experience and with his distinctive perspective.

While it was all well and good to read about the clubs, publications, and gatherings that bootstrapped the science fiction industry, it was also unsatisfying, I wanted to dig into the dirt myself. So I started to seek out more of the original material created by folks who have come to be known as the “First Fans.”

Detail from the cover of COSMOS

Detail from Hannes Bok’s cover for COSMOS (1933-1934). Image courtesy of First Fandom Experience.

I’d been toying with the idea of creating a facsimile edition of COSMOS, patterned after the chapter inserts from its original publication. At the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention in 2017, I kicked this idea around with Doug Ellis, one of the founders and organizers of the show. Doug is a prominent collector and publisher of several volumes of science fiction and pulp art. I also spoke with John L. Coker III, President and Archivist of the First Fandom organization. John has done more to preserve and honor the memories of the First Fans than anyone else through his various writing and publishing projects. He had been a contributor to The Cosmos Project, educating me and providing great material highlighting the key role of Conrad H. Ruppert and his printing press. It was John who suggested that perhaps more of the original fanzines from the early days could be brought out as facsimiles. This was the inception of First Fandom Experience.

Initially, I imagined that full facsimile runs of the key fan publications from the 1930s might be produced. Doug however, convinced me that this was impractical, if not entirely insane. Over the next few months and through many discussions, the alternate concept of a “visual history” of the period gradually formed.

At about this same time, I began to understand that anything approaching a robust visual treatment of early fandom would be a pretty massive job and that trying to do it as a part-time hobby would take many years. I suggested to my middle son, Daniel, that he quit his job and join the project full-time. When we look back in the future, I hope he thanks me for this. Time will tell.

SLW: Daniel, you’re Managing Editor of FFE, what are your thoughts about bringing old-school pulp to younger readers?

Daniel Ritter: It’s a challenge, but one I’m optimistic and enthusiastic about. Most science fiction readers my age (Millennials) are aware of the old-school “pulpiverse.” However, very few have any real familiarity with the literary content of old pulps, the history of pulps, or the history of fandom. They are familiar with big-name authors like Bradbury, Asimov, and Heinlein but younger readers have no real understanding of their works’ historical context. I have had much success engaging people my age by using these big-name authors as anchor points for unpacking the history and impact of early fandom. Certain themes also seem engaging to younger readers, such as how robots or rocket ships were imagined in the early days of science fiction. Social themes, like the relationship between science and society or how a space-bound culture ought to be structured, are particularly compelling because they are still incredibly relevant today.

Overall, I’ve found the best way to engage younger readers is to share our passion for the history of science fiction and fandom. Passion is infectious and a powerful way to introduce fandom’s history to younger readers. Especially when the stories relate to ideas and issues still relevant today.

Preparation-poem-1935

From the FFE Instagram page, “Preparation” poem and illustration by Planet Rambler a.k.a. H.W. Lewis Jr. from 1935. Image courtesy of First Fandom Experience.

SLW: Please tell us more about your FFE team.

First Fandom Experience (FFE): We describe First Fandom Experience as a collaborative publishing project. It really does take a village to bring together all the material and historical context necessary for our work. We are fortunate to have a core team of collectors and historians as collaborators, as well as a wide network of contributors who have provided important information and materials. We have deep gratitude for all of our collaborators.

Outside of David and Daniel, our core team consists of:

  • John L. Coker III, a long-time fan, collector, historian, and President of First Fandom, whose insight and knowledge has been essential to our work
  • Sam McDonald, a collector and researcher whose ability to locate obscure material is unparalleled
  • Doug Ellis, a collector extraordinaire who has helped fill many gaps in our archive.
  • Kate Baxter, a younger fan who has helped us secure many key artifacts from the dusty basements of library collections

There are many other people who have contributed to our work in many ways — too many to list here. In no particular order again:

  • Jim Emerson, publisher of “FUTURES PAST
  • Alistair Durie, a leading fan and collector in the United Kingdom
  • Robert A. Madle, a prominent “First Fan” who just celebrated his 100th birthday
  • Jonathan Eller, Director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies
  • Michael Saler, Professor of History at UC Davis
FFE books

Images courtesy of First Fandom Experience

SLW: You’ve published several books in the last few years, please tell us about them.

FFE: Our first major publication was THE VISUAL HISTORY OF SCIENCE FICTION FANDOM, VOLUME ONE: THE 1930s. At over 500 pages, this was an ambitious effort to robustly cover the emergence and early development of science fiction fandom. It’s presented chronologically, touching on some pre-1930s activity but really taking foot in 1930. It is capped off with the 1939 Worldcon. This volume showcases our overall goals: telling the story of fandom through artifacts and materials produced by fans during this decade. It also includes several original, documentary-style comic sections, which bring to life key stories from the history.

THE EARLIEST BRADBURY is our second major publication. This volume is an exploration and celebration of Ray Bradbury’s earliest writings as a science fiction fan. It was produced in the same spirit as THE VISUAL HISTORY. We focus on the actual historical artifacts produced by Bradbury and his peers and present them in full facsimile form.

We’ve also published a full facsimile reproduction of the seminal fanzine SCIENCE FICTION DIGEST — later named FANTASY MAGAZINE — along with the serial novel COSMOS, that was originally published in its pages.

In the future, we hope to publish a collection of early fan art, and we have been discussing volume two of THE VISUAL HISTORY, which would cover the early 1940s.

SLW: In THE VISUAL HISTORY OF SCIENCE FICTION FANDOM you credit pulp collector, Robert A. Madle, as being a seminal part of FFE. Can you tell us more about that?

FFE: Among many other places, our quest for a comprehensive view of early fan history led us to the basement of Robert A. Madle in Rockville, Maryland. Bob was a prominent fan in the Philadelphia area beginning in the early 1930s and has since become a legendary collector and dealer in the field. I’m honored that he entrusted us to give a good home to his original copies of THE PLANET and THE TIME TRAVELER, seminal early fan publications without which any coverage of this era would be sorely incomplete. We’ve compiled a tribute to Bob’s seminal role in fandom on our website.

Madle letter

Image courtesy of First Fandom Experience

SLW: Your books and website are virtual cornucopias of rare information from the early days of science fiction fandom. Who are your favorite figures from those early days?

FFE: We often joke that if you were a young science fiction fan in the 1930s, you were a “Moskowitz person” or a “Wollheim person.” We both think we would be Wollheim people. His passion, idealism, and his bold vision of the role that science fiction fans could play in the world speaks to us even now. Wollheim was also surrounded by a crowd of interesting people like John B. Michel and Frederik Pohl, whose antics could spawn a sitcom. If we were teenagers in the late 1930s, I suspect we would have found ourselves attending meetings of the Futurians.

Cyril M. Kornbluth was a figure who is incredibly interesting to us. He is remembered by many of his peers as someone who always spoke his mind. Accounts from people like Damon Knight and Isaac Asimov describe stories like how he decided to read the entire encyclopedia, in order from A to Z. One account from Pohl suggests he never brushed his teeth. Others describe that when they first met, Kornbluth would punch them in the stomach — apparently as a way to make the meeting memorable.

The young Bradbury is another character who is almost larger than life. Charming, witty, and funny, his endearing voice on the page seems an honest reflection of his personality.

SLW: What would you like readers to get out of FFE books and your website?

FFE: We want to give people a visceral sense of what it was like to be one of the first fans of science fiction. The 1930s and early 1940s were an incredible period. Science fiction as a genre was born during that time. Fans, writers, artists, and editors defined and developed the science fiction genre over the following decades. Their impact is seen today in the community and genre we know and love.

he World Science Fiction convention program, 1939

The 1939 World Science Fiction convention program, with masthead by Frank R. Paul. Image courtesy of First Fandom Experience.

We want to share this history, bringing it to life so readers can understand and appreciate the origins and impact of the early fans. We hope to add depth and flavor to readers’ appreciation of both modern science fiction literature and community.

SLW: Who do you think is your largest audience — collectors, readers, others?

FFE: Collectors — and it’s probably fair to call most collectors historians — seem to be our largest audience. Our work is primarily historical and contains lots of facsimile reproductions of rare or obscure material. So it speaks loudest to those who already treasure this kind of material.

SLW: Ultimately, what’s your goal for FFE?

FFE: We hope to preserve the history and impact of early fandom. We believe this history is both interesting and important. The story of fandom speaks to the importance of imagination as a survival skill and a catalyst for change. What we can imagine, we can create — both good and bad. The infectious energy of fans who embrace and promote the possible gives us hope for the future. We want to ensure that their story remains a treasured part of the collective consciousness of the science fiction community.

SLW: Is there anything else you’d like to mention today?

FFE: We really appreciate the conversation! The annual PulpFest is a key part of the origin story for First Fandom Experience, and we look forward to our next chance to get together with our fellow fans.

Many thanks to David and Daniel Ritter for this great conversation. If you’d like to find out more about the First Fandom Experience project please stop by their website, follow them on Twitter (@FirstFandomExp), Instagram (firstfandomexperience) or subscribe to their blog. Their books can be purchased through their website or digitally through Amazon.

(A professional journalist and illustrator with over thirty years of experience, Sara Light-Waller is an accomplished new-pulp fiction author/illustrator with two books out and more on the way. She is also the winner of the 2020 Cosmos Prize for her illustrated short story, “Battle at Neptune.” A huge pulp fan, Sara is especially fond of science fiction pulps. The extent of her pulp fandom can best be measured by the oversized rendition of Frank R. Paul’s AMAZING STORIES cover that she painted on her garage. Sara is a member of the PulpFest organizing committee, a regular contributor to our homepage and THE PULPSTER, and often reads for PulpFest‘s “New Fictioneers.”)

PulpFest and Ray Bradbury on Instagram

Aug 27, 2020 by

Here is one of the many fine cover images that we’ve been posting to the PulpFest Instagram page over the last few days. It’s just one small part of our Ray Bradbury tribute, honoring the August 22 centennial of the author’s birth.

The image displayed here is the cover for the Spring 1944 issue of PLANET STORIES. Painted by “Ghastly” Graham Ingels, it’s the artist’s only cover for the Fiction House science fiction pulp. Best known for his work for EC Comics during the 1950s — notably THE HAUNT OF FEAR and TALES FROM THE CRYPT — Ingels also contributed interior art to PLANET STORIES and other Fiction House pulps.

Ray Bradbury’s “The Monster Maker” — a short story reprinted in THE COLLECTED STORIES OF RAY BRADBURY: A CRITICAL EDITION, VOLUME 1: 1938-1943 — originally appeared in this particular issue of PLANET STORIES. Bradbury established himself as one of the leading “Golden Age” voices of science fiction in the pages of the Fiction House magazine.

Join us every Monday through Friday — between 7:30 and 8 PM, eastern time — for selected images and commentary related to Bradbury appearances on the PulpFest Instagram page. Why not become one of the 1100+ followers we have on Instagram? You’ll find us at https://www.instagram.com/pulpfest/.

PulpFest and Ray Bradbury on Instagram

Aug 24, 2020 by

As part of our celebration of the centennial of Ray Bradbury’s birth, PulpFest will explore some of the author’s magazine fiction on our Instagram page. For the next few weeks, PulpFest will post magazine cover images and remarks concerning Bradbury and his development as a writing professional on Instagram.

As we recently mentioned in our post, “PulpFest Historical — Bradbury’s Centennial,” Ray Bradbury sold his first story in 1941. A collaboration with Henry Hasse, “Pendulum” was based on a work originally published in Bradbury’s own FUTURE FANTASIA. The two authors would sell two more collaborations before the younger Bradbury set off on his own.

Beginning tonight, we’ll discuss the first regular market for Bradbury’s solo work: WEIRD TALES. Between 1942 and 1948, editor Dorothy McIlwraith published 25 Ray Bradbury short stories and a poem in “The Unique Magazine.” The content of Bradbury’s first book — DARK CARNIVAL, published by Arkham House in 1947 — was largely drawn from his WEIRD TALES fiction.

Later this week, we’ll turn our attention to the science fiction pulps. There, Bradbury established himself as one of the leading lights of the genre’s “Golden Age” as World War II drew to a close. PulpFest will also explore his work for the crime and detective pulps, as well as his fiction in the digest and “slick” magazines.

Every Monday through Friday — between 7:30 and 8 PM, eastern time — we’ll post selected images related to Bradbury appearances, plus commentary, to the PulpFest Instagram page. Why not become one of the 1100+ followers we have on Instagram? You’ll find us at https://www.instagram.com/pulpfest/.

(Ray Bradbury’s novella, “The Fireman,” originally appeared in the February 1951 issue of H. L. Gold’s GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION. Bradbury’s story would serve as the basis for his classic dystopian novel, FAHRENHEIT 451.

Chesley Bonestell painted the cover art for the February 1951 issue of GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION. The artist was much admired for his contributions to the science fiction digest magazines, including ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION, and THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION. He later collaborated with several authors on such books as THE CONQUEST OF SPACE, THE EXPLORATION OF MARS, and BEYOND THE SOLAR SYSTEM. The Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists’ Chesley Award for achievement in science fiction and fantasy art is named for him, and a crater on Mars and asteroid 3129 Bonestell are also named in his honor.)

PulpFest Historical — Bradbury’s Centennial

Aug 22, 2020 by

Ray Douglas Bradbury was born on August 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Illinois. From an early age, he was a voracious reader and consumer of popular culture — movies, pulp magazines, radio programming, newspaper comic strips, circuses, magic, and more. He was enamored with the Buck Rogers newspaper strip, the stories of L. Frank Baum, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and more. By age twelve, he wanted to write.

After his family moved 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 science fiction and fantasy, critiquing his stories, and advising the budding author to simply “shut up and write.”

Ray Bradbury sold his first story in 1941. A collaboration with Henry Hasse, “Pendulum” was based on a work originally published in Bradbury’s own fanzine, FUTURE FANTASIA. The two authors would sell two other collaborations before the younger Bradbury set off on his own.

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

Bradbury also began to contribute crime and detective fiction to DETECTIVE TALES, DIME MYSTERY MAGAZINENEW DETECTIVE MAGAZINE, and similar pulps. At the urging of a friend, the young writer began 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 — found its way into the pages of THE O. HENRY PRIZE STORIES OF 1947.

As his fiction began to be discovered by a wider audience, Ray Bradbury came to the attention of former COLLIER’S editor Don Congdon. About a year after writing to express his admiration for the author’s work, Congdon became Ray Bradbury’s literary agent. During the summer of 1949, Bradbury’s new 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?”

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

Other books would follow Bradbury’s Mars novel. These included 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, and many others. Bradbury would also make significant contributions to ESQUIRE, GALAXY, THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, PLAYBOYTHE 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.

Although he got his start as a writer of fantasy, horror, detective, and science fiction stories for the pulp magazines, Ray Bradbury defied categorization. He was truly — as he often called himself — a “magician of words.”

(Ray Bradbury’s short novel, “The Creatures That Time Forgot,” garnered Chester Martin’s cover illustration for the Fall 1946 issue of PLANET STORIES. Published as “Frost and Fire” in R IS FOR ROCKET, the story concerns a world with such extreme conditions that its inhabits — the descendants of space explorers who had crashed on the planet — live for just eight days.

Bradbury’s novella was later adapted to film by Elaine and Saul Bass and released in 1983. Two years later, it was adapted by Klaus Janson as a graphic novel and published by DC Comics.

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). Of course, there’s also the PulpFest 2020 program book, THE PULPSTER #29. It will soon be available for $15, plus postage, and feature a number of articles about Ray Bradbury.)

Highlights from THE PULPSTER

Jul 27, 2020 by

THE PULPSTER #29While 2020 may be looking like the “Year Without Pulp Conventions,” we have something for you to look forward to — this year’s number of THE PULPSTER.

Yes, the annual magazine for PulpFest will be available soon despite PulpFest being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It won’t be a regular edition. Think of it as THE PULPSTER ANNUAL. While not Sears Roebuck catalog thick like an AMAZING STORIES ANNUAL, number 29 of THE PULPSTER will be almost twice as large as last year’s edition, coming in at 84 pages plus covers.

And a lot of great content will be filling those pages!

THE PULPSTER has two major themes this year: the 100th anniversary of the birth of author Ray Bradbury, and the 100th anniversary of the debut of BLACK MASK.

Garyn G. Roberts heads up the section on Ray Bradbury with three pieces: a general look at the life of the writer, an essay on Bradbury his friend, and a look at Bradbury’s contributions to the Popular Publication detective pulps. Samuel James Maronie offers a fan’s reflection on meeting Bradbury at a 1996 convention.

Next, we shift from Bradbury himself to the author’s Martian legacy. Leading off, Michael Chomko writes about the influences that led Bradbury to create his singular vision of the Red Planet in THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES. Then, Sara Light-Waller looks at the depiction of Mars through the pulp years. Henry G. Franke III writes about “Bradbury, Burroughs, and Mars,” and how Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom inspired a young Bradbury. Wrapping up, Albert Wendland discusses how the exploration of Mars by orbiters and rovers has changed the way the planet is portrayed in science fiction.

The second feature section — celebrating BLACK MASK — kicks off with an excerpt from Milton Shaw’s book, JOSEPH T. SHAW: THE MAN BEHIND “BLACK MASK.” Milton Shaw looks at the beginnings of BLACK MASK, and what his father, “Cap” Shaw, accomplished during his 10 years at the pulp magazine’s influential editor.

Will Murray looks at the BLACK MASK writers who “left too many tales untold.” Next, John Wooley looks at Kenneth White, who took over the editor’s fedora at BLACK MASK during the 1940s. Christopher Ryan tells of the surprising response from high school seniors in his lit class to reading a BLACK MASK story, William Cole’s “Waiting for Rusty.” Then Craig McDonald explores the possibility that there may have been an actual killer in the pages of BLACK MASK. And wrapping up the BLACK MASK section, Brooks E. Hefner, co-director of the Circulating American Magazine project, looks at the pulp’s circulation from 1925 – 1940.

If that weren’t enough, we have several other articles in store for readers.

Darrell Schweitzer treats us to a discussion he had with science-fiction authors and couple Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton in 1977, shortly before Hamilton’s death. Stuart Hopen takes a deeper look at Philip Wylie, whose works inspired both the Man of Bronze and the Man of Steel — Doc Savage and Superman — and other fictional heroes.

Tony Davis celebrates the brief reign of Canada’s “King of the Pulp Writers,” Thomas P. Kelley. And Martin Grams Jr. traces the history of “Renfrew of the Mounties.” We also take a look at folk-rocker Bob Dylan’s use of pulp magazine images, written by yours truly.

Robert Deis writes about model and actress Eva Lynd, who was featured in numerous men’s adventure magazine covers and illustrations during the 1960s. Eva was to be the guest of honor at PulpFest 2020 and hopes to attend next year.

Rounding out the magazine is our “Final Chapters” department, celebrating the lives of those in the pulp community that we’ve recently lost.

We hope to have THE PULPSTER to the printer by mid-August, so copies should be available for purchase through Mike Chomko, Books, Bud’s Art Books, and other purveyors by September. (The price is to be determined.) If you’re interested in reserving your copy now, please contact Mike at mike@pulpfest.com.

(The cover of THE PULPSTER #29 features Frank Kelly Freas’ artwork for “Lorelei of the Red Mist,” from the Fall 1953 issue of TOPS IN SCIENCE FICTION, originally published by Fiction House.)

The Earliest Bradbury

Jul 6, 2020 by

An Exploration and Celebration of Ray Bradbury’s Earliest Writings as a Science Fiction Fan

 

Ray Bradbury is an author who inspires fanaticism in his readers. A virtuoso composer with language, he sang the bodies electric and human, blending science fiction with eerie horror and mysticism to create stories that have stood the test of time. Today, he is perhaps the most revered of the science fiction Grand Masters of the 20th century. Among his fans are countless “completists,” who have made it a mission to absorb as much of his work as possible. We at First Fandom Experience are proud to fall into this camp.

Bradbury’s work is, as the saying goes, part of the furniture of our minds. But at some point in our pursuit of finding every word written by Ray Bradbury, we tripped and fell down a rabbit hole. We wanted to access the time before Bradbury was a grandmaster; the time before he was a professional author. We wanted to explore the period when he was an amateur writer, testing the waters and honing his craft.

So, we began digging. Some of Bradbury’s pre-professional work, like FUTURIA FANTASIA — the fanzine he published in 1939 and 1940 — is well known. Bradbury published his own facsimile edition of the fanzine with Michael Graham and Craig Graham in 2007. But much of his other amateur work is obscure and unavailable to most readers, existing only in the archives of fanatical collectors or in special library collections. It has been our pleasure to locate these artifacts and compile them in full facsimile format in our new collection, THE EARLIEST BRADBURY.

To be clear, Bradbury entered the ranks of professional authors at a young age. Born in 1920, Bradbury entered organized science fiction fandom, formally, in October 1937, when he joined the Los Angeles Science Fiction League (LASFL). He sold his first story, “The Pendulum” (a collaboration with Henry Hasse), in August 1941. He received payment for the story on August 22, his 21st birthday. This period from 1937 to 1941 — from his entry into fandom to the publication of his first professional story — is the time we explore in THE EARLIEST BRADBURY.

Ray Bradbury’s early writing is everything one might expect to see from a young amateur destined for mastery. Many of his early articles, written under pseudonyms like “Kno Knuth Ing and D. Lerium Tremaine,” were silly and satirical, packed with puns and bad jokes, and shining examples of the kind of juvenalia that filled the pages of many fanzines of the time. Bradbury’s penchant for puns, sharp wit, and love of humor quickly earned him the title of the “funny man” of the LASFL.

But even as an amateur, we see glimpses of what Bradbury would become as an author. His talent with language is clear, not only in the delightful deployment of puns and wit in his humor pieces but in powerfully evocative phrases that pepper his early fiction. The iconic poetic style and otherworldly themes that would define much of his later work began to take shape in his early years as a young fan in the LASFL.

Bradbury became deeply entrenched in the Los Angeles science fiction community. Through it, he met many of the people who would help him on the road to a professional career. It was at the 100th meeting of the LASFL in August 1939 that Bradbury met Robert Heinlein, who had a profound impact on Bradbury’s career. Forrest J Ackerman edited IMAGINATION! — the first fanzine Bradbury wrote for — and famously lent Bradbury $50 so that he could attend the 1939 WorldCon. It was at WorldCon that Bradbury met Julius Schwartz, who would later sell Bradbury’s first story.

For a Bradbury fanatic, the story of his early years as an amateur fan and writer is a fascinating prequel to his long professional career. It reveals a relentlessly jovial, if juvenile, writer pursuing mastery of a craft he deeply and authentically loved. It brings light to the many influences that shaped him and provides insight into a community of science fiction fans that produced not just Bradbury the Grand Master, but many others who went on to define the genre for decades.

As Bradbury fanatics, we hope to honor and celebrate Ray Bradbury’s legacy by exploring his earliest contributions to fandom. THE EARLIEST BRADBURY combines original artifacts with historical commentary to bring this story to life.

(PulpFest is pleased to welcome father and son, David and Daniel Ritter, as guest writers to our website. David is the Editor-in-Chief of First Fandom Experience, while Daniel serves as the organization’s Managing Editor. First Fandom Experience attempts to generate a more direct and visceral sense of what it would have been like to be an early science fiction fan, striving to preserve an essential part of cultural history in both letter and spirit.

We’d like to thank David and Daniel for their contribution to our celebration of the centennial of Ray Bradbury’s birth. Planned as one of the themes for this year’s PulpFest, we’ll continue our salute to the “Poet of the Pulps” in the pages of our annual program book, THE PULPSTER. Watch for further details about this very special issue, right here, later this month.

THE EARLIEST BRADBURY — featuring cover art by Overstreet Hall of Fame member, Mark Wheatley — is now available from First Fandom Experience for $125, postage paid. Please visit their website for further details.)

Bradbury in Oz

Jun 15, 2020 by

Outside of two tales in SHORT STORIES and another reprinted in MYSTERY MAGAZINE, L. Frank Baum certainly isn’t considered a pulp writer. He’s primarily known for his children’s books, particularly THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ and its sequels. So why was PulpFest 2020 planning to host a Baum presentation? What gives?

Why it’s all because of Aunt Neva, of course!

Ray Bradbury’s aunt was just ten years older than her nephew “Shorty.” Still, it was Neva Bradbury who introduced Ray to the fantastic:

“My aunt Neva helped bring me up in a world of let’s pretend, in a world of masks and puppets that she made, in a world of stages and acting, in a world of special Christmases and Halloweens. It was she who read me my first fairy tales, she who read Poe aloud to me when I was seven and taught me all about fabulous mythological country from which I never quite emerged.”

In other words, it was Aunt Neva Bradbury who taught young Ray all about the wonderful world of Oz.


The Yellow Brick Road to the Pulps

Excluding Native American myths, American culture lacks traditional mythological heroes. Certainly, it has some — Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, Pecos Bill, and John Henry, for example — but the dramatic kings and queens, knights and sorcerers are simply not present.

In the 19th century, American children were raised with hero tales that didn’t quite jibe with their own lives. L. Frank Baum changed all that when he published the first of his celebrated children’s books, THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ in 1900. In the Second Edition to Baum’s AMERICAN FAIRY TALES, published a few years later, he writes that American boys and girls will now have fairy tale adventures set in their own country, and that “…there is no good reason why they [fairies] should not inhabit our favored land….” It was a ground-breaking idea that gave American children permission to dream about adventures starting in their own backyards.

Baum was a pioneer in other ways, too. In THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ, Dorothy Gale is remarkable simply because she is ordinary and not a princess in disguise. Baum’s storytelling style is refreshingly informal, and finger-shaking morality sinks to subtext. He makes it perfectly clear that everyone, no matter how humble, has the right and power to define their own destinies. His straightforward, steadfast American heroes and heroines inspired children for generations to come. Baum’s last Oz story, GLINDA OF OZ (1920), was published posthumously and came out the same year as Ray Bradbury’s birth.

Ray Bradbury’s family encouraged creativity and his early life was filled with stage magicians, comic strip heroes, and fantastical books and plays. As a child, he wanted to be a magician and in a 1952 interview states that he transferred his “methods of magic from the stage to a sheet of Eaton’s Bond paper — for there is something of the magician in every writer….” These miracles related, not only, to the writer’s craft but also to Bradbury’s — like Baum’s — penchant for creating the miraculous out of the ordinary.

In ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING: ESSAYS ON CREATIVITY (1990), Bradbury talks about how his early experiences became the seeds of later stories. One of his personal writing exercises involved creating lists of nouns and using them as jumping-off points for stories and characters. In childhood, he met a carnival stage magician called, Mr. Electrico, who commanded the boy to “Live forever!” Bradbury revisits “Mr. Electrico” in his 1962 novel, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, transforming him into the carnival master,”Mr. Dark,” who lives off the life force of others. Both SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES and his earlier work, DANDELION WINE (1957), are highly-personal stories, and both are set in the same fictitious town which stands in for his hometown of Waukegan, Illinois.

In later works, Bradbury becomes more philosophical, exploring themes of nuclear war, racism, censorship, and military threats by foreign powers. But even in these works, there remains a sense of nostalgia for a simpler life and ordinary miracles.  As the 20th century became more complex, homespun ideas and straightforward narratives seemed faded and unsophisticated. After all, what is the value of a simple stage magician when faced with the doom of nuclear war? Perhaps during the pulp era something might have been said about that in science fiction, but not later. Story styles had just changed too much.

It’s tempting to believe that in the latter half of the 20th century Baum’s work was also relegated to nostalgia. Or was it? Doors still open to Oz in television shows and movies. The humbug behind the curtain has become popularized myth, and the ruby slippers (from the 1939 movie, as Dorothy’s slippers are silver in the books) represent the comfort of finding one’s way home.

THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ was the beginning of a mythical journey for American children, one that is still followed today. Certainly, it has been partially obscured under the glitter of Hollywood’s treatment and later stories by other authors. But the sparkle remains, for what ordinary person is not a hero in their own life? Baum made this possible for us, and Ray Bradbury took up his pen to follow.

(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.

Pictured here is Laurent Durieux’s poster art for L. Frank Baum’s THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ. A designer and teacher for nearly three decades, the fifty-year-old Brussels illustrator and graphic artist began to draw seriously upon discovering the work of Jean Giraud — better known as Moebius. According to Ben Marks, Durieux studied at the Graphic Communication at l’Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Visuels de la Cambre with Luc Van Malderen. Durieux’s work is popular throughout the world.

Ray Bradbury’s first book, DARK CARNIVAL, published by Arkham House in 1947, is dedicated to his Aunt Neva Bradbury:

“Auntie Neva, with all of my love and my thanks — because years ago, you told me magical tales and played me magical music when you were a very magical person — and some of the magic stayed with me and came out in these stories . . .”)

 

Science Fiction: To What Purpose?

May 22, 2020 by

In 1911, when Hugo Gernsback introduced what he at first termed “scientific fiction,” it was his hope that these stories would stimulate his readers’ imaginations, leading to scientific progress and a better world. In the April 1916 issue of THE ELECTRICAL EXPERIMENTER, Gernsback wrote:

A world without imagination is a poor place to live in. No real electrical experimenter, worthy of the name, will ever amount to much if he has no imagination. He must be visionary to a certain extent, he must be able to look into the future and . . . he must anticipate the human wants. . . . Imagination more than anything else makes the world go round. If we succeed in speeding it up ever so little our mission has been fulfilled.

When he introduced AMAZING STORIES ten years later, Hugo Gernsback seemed to have changed his tune. In an editorial appearing in the magazine’s first issue — dated April 1926 — Gernsback wrote:

“By ‘scientifiction’ I mean the Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and Edgar Allan Poe type story — a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision.”

The names displayed on the covers of the early AMAZING STORIES — Edgar Rice Burroughs, Murray Leinster, A. Merritt, Edgar Allan Poe, Garrett P. Serviss, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and others — likewise indicated that Gernsback’s vision had evolved. He had learned that his “readers wanted more than instructive fiction. They wanted to be entertained, to escape, to experience that sense of wonder that good visionary fiction brought.”

The question that Hugo Gernsback asked through his magazines, early science fiction fandom grappled with both vocally and in print:

What is the purpose of science fiction?

Some believed it was to teach science and inspire scientists; others believed it was to offer adventurism and escape from reality; still others believed it was to envision a better future for all.

Discussions around this question are at the core of the science fiction genre’s history.  On Thursday, August 6, PulpFest 2020 will welcome David and Daniel Ritter of First Fandom Experience for an exploration of the conversation concerning science fiction’s purpose during the early years of organized fandom.

Beginning in the late 1920s and coursing through the 1939 WorldCon and beyond, First Fandom Experience will examine Hugo Gernsback and science fiction as a teaching device; the emergence of “thought experiments” as a sub-genre; the “escapist” camp of science fiction fandom; Michelism and the infamous 1937 “Mutation or Death” speech written by Jon B. Michel and delivered by Donald A. Wollheim; activism in early science fiction fandom; the Technocracy Movement and the Los Angeles fan scene, including a young fan by the name of Ray Bradbury; and how all these things relate to the idea of creating the future.

So please join us for PulpFest 2020 from August 6 through August 9 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry in Mars, Pennsylvania for “Science Fiction: To What Purpose?”

(If you were born between 1945 and 1960 and are a science fiction fan, your first introduction to the genre likely came from reading one of the masters who began their work in the 1930s — Asimov, Bradbury, Campbell, Clarke, Smith. All of these great writers began their work as fans. What had these authors experienced that shaped their visions? What would it have been like to know them when they were first discovering speculative fiction and others who loved it? These questions inspired David Ritter to start First Fandom Experience. For the organization’s Editor-in-Chief, born in 1960, this project has been a way to better understand the origin story of his own origin as a fan.

As a millennial, Daniel Ritter — the Managing Editor of First Fandom Experience — was exposed to science fiction through the hand-me-downs of older readers and fans, like his father. Daniel’s childhood bookcase was packed with well-read copies of books that were published before he was born. The foundation of his love for science fiction was born from the pages of these books. Daniel has spent his entire life swimming in the ocean of the genre, and he is now privileged to study the very early days of science fiction.

The Science Fiction League was one of the earliest associations formed by science fiction fans. It was created by Charles D. Hornig and Hugo Gernsback in February 1934 in the pages of WONDER STORIES. The League — which eventually grew to about 1,000 members — lasted about ten years. Its emblem — designed by Frank R. Paul — was first published in the April 1934 issue of WONDER STORIES.

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

Ray Bradbury in the 25th Century

May 20, 2020 by

Bradbury and the Comics

Like movies, that “magician of words,” Ray Bradbury, was a graphic story enthusiast long before such people became commonplace. When he was nine years old, the future author spotted a brand new comic strip — BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY — in his hometown newspaper, the WAUKEGAN NEWS. It was October 1929. The young Bradbury began to save every episode.

Two years later, the future writer discovered Hal Foster’s Sunday TARZAN strip. In early 1934, came Alex Raymond’s FLASH GORDON. Foster’s PRINCE VALIANT followed in 1937. He collected them all.

“Without all this splendid mediocrity, this sublime and wondrous trash in my background, I don’t think I would be any sort of writer today.”

According to Orty Ortwein, author of “Ray Bradbury: Comic Book Hero,” the comics helped to create the writer that Bradbury became. In return, the writer helped move the graphic storytelling medium forward.

In 1951, E.C. Comics began adapting Ray Bradbury’s fiction to the graphic format without payment or credit to the young author. In 2002, E.C. artist and editor Al Feldstein explained during a panel with Bradbury, Mark Evanier, and Julius Schwartz at Comic-Con International in San Diego, California:

“You have to understand how we worked, Bill Gaines and I. Bill Gaines was taking Dexedrine pills to lose weight, only he used to take them at night before dinner, so he was up all night wired. And he used to read, and he’d read things, and we used to have story ideas four times a week, and he brought in some story ideas, and I said those two combined would be great, and that’s the two stories into one that I wrote as an original story.”

Feldstein was referring to “Home to Stay,” a story featuring artwork by Wally Wood that was published in E.C. Comics’s WEIRD FANTASY #13, dated May-June 1952. The adaptation was drawn from “Kaleidoscope” and “Rocket Man,” two stories collected by Bradbury and published in THE ILLUSTRATED MAN (1951). Unbeknownst to the author at the time, E.C. had also adapted two stories from his book, DARK CARNIVAL (1947).

Rather than threatening the company with a lawsuit, Ray Bradbury wrote to E.C. publisher Bill Gaines:

“Just a note to remind you of an oversight. You have not as yet sent on the check for $50 to cover the use of secondary rights on my two stories ‘The Rocket Man’ and ‘Kaleidoscope.’ . . .  I feel this was probably overlooked in the general confusion of the office work, and look forward to your payment in the near future.”

Now in his thirties and very much a fan of the graphic storytelling format, Bradbury was actually pleased to see what E.C. had done with his stories. He ended his letter with a suggestion . . .

“Have you ever considered doing an entire issue of your magazine based on my stories in DARK CARNIVAL, or my other two books, THE ILLUSTRATED MAN and THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES?”

Although Gaines did not take the author up on his idea for an all-Bradbury comic book, nor acknowledge his company’s trespass, he did pay Ray Bradbury the $50. He also arranged to adapt more stories, eventually publishing about thirty graphic adaptations based on Bradbury’s fiction.

Al Feldstein called the time when he was adapting Ray Bradbury’s stories to the comic book format, the most inspiring period of his life:

“To have the privilege to take this guy’s work, which was spectacular, and adapt it into the comic format, and try to be faithful to it, all of it, because every word is precious. It was a great pleasure and also a great tutorial for me as a writer. And I was really just a part-time writer. I wasn’t really a professional writer. I was an artist, and you’re an inspiration to me as an artist, because the way you wrote. You wrote like a painting. You took words that were colors and phrases that were brushstrokes, and you painted a visual picture that everyone in their own minds saw.”

In addition to some of the best illustrators in comic books — Jack Davis, Will Elder, Graham Ingels, Jack Kamen, Joe Orlando, Al Williamson, Wally Wood, and others — adapting his work, Bradbury was the only writer whose name was regularly displayed on E.C. covers. Although he received just $25 for each adaptation, the E.C. adaptations were introducing the author’s fiction to legions of young readers. Many surely went on to read the writer’s stories in the Bantam paperback editions of THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, THE ILLUSTRATED MAN, and later books.

As his name grew in stature, Ray Bradbury asked E.C. Comics to remove his name from their comic book covers. However, he allowed them to adapt his work for as long as they desired. Unfortunately, as E.C. became the bane of those who claimed such books led to “juvenile delinquency and homosexuality,” the publisher ended its comic book line in early 1956.

In 1993, writer, editor, and publisher Byron Preiss reprised the E.C. Comics/Ray Bradbury success story when he gathered together some of the best comic book illustrators of his day — Richard Corben, Dave Gibbons, Mike Mignola, P. Craig Russell, Daniel Torres, Tim Truman, Matt Wagner, and others — to adapt some of the author’s best-known works to the graphic story format. The result was a seven-book anthology series with the overarching title, THE RAY BRADBURY CHRONICLES. Over a dozen of these stories also appeared in a five-issue comic book series that was published by Topps Comics. Bradbury himself wrote introductions for all five issues of RAY BRADBURY COMICS.

More recently, Hill & Wang published FAHRENHEIT 451, THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, and SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES in the graphic novel format. Adapted by contemporary illustrators and released from 2009 to 2011, none received much acclaim.

Ninety years ago, Ray Bradbury’s classmates mocked him for collecting BUCK ROGERS. They taunted, “There aren’t going to be any rocket ships. We aren’t ever going to land on Mars or the moon.”

Initially, his peers convinced him. He tore apart his scrapbooks and tossed his collection into the trash. “It was all kids’ stuff, the ray guns and the rocket ships. But it was also Ray Bradbury’s head, heart, and soul.

Today, the graphic story medium is a leading popular culture format across the globe. As Ray Bradbury wrote in his introduction to THE AUTUMN PEOPLE, a collection of E.C. comic book adaptations of his work that was published by Ballantine Books in 1965:

“. . . it appears we are vindicated. The Pop Art people come along, late in the day, to tell us about comic strips and characters. . . . Our answer is: we knew it all the time! Don’t tell us about what we have already loved and loved well!

Please join PulpFest 2020 on Friday, August 7, as we welcome Don Simpson to discuss graphic visions of Ray Bradbury’s work at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry in Mars, Pennsylvania. It’s part of our celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of author Ray Douglas Bradbury.

(Ray Bradbury received the 2010 Icon Award from Comic-Con International, recognizing his efforts to create “greater awareness of and appreciation for comic books and related popular art forms.”

Pittsburgh’s Donald E. Simpson is the cartoonist/creator of the comic books MEGATON MAN, BORDER WORLDS, and BIZARRE HEROES. He’s also the creator of several international underground comix sensations, published under the pseudonym Anton Drek, and the author of the young adult maxi-series, MS. MEGATON MAN. Don has taught workshops in cartooning and figure drawing for a number of years, and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in History of Art and Architecture in 2013. He regularly reviews fiction and nonfiction books for the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE.

Orty Ortwein is a librarian in Zionsville, Indiana and a volunteer for the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum in Waukegan, Illinois. His article “Ray Bradbury: Comic Book Hero” ran in the August 22, 2019 THE SATURDAY EVENING POST and proved to be an invaluable reference for this article. We recommend Orty’s article to anyone interested in Ray Bradbury and/or the graphic medium of storytelling.

Of course, pictured above you’ll find Joe Orlando’s cover for WEIRD FANTASY #19 — dated May/June 1953 — and the fourth volume of THE RAY BRADBURY CHRONICLES, with front cover art by William Stout.

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

 

Bradbury on the Silver Screen

May 18, 2020 by

From a very early age, Ray Bradbury had a love for the cinema. His passion was born through his mother, Esther Bradbury. In 1924, she began taking her son — not yet four years old — to the movies in downtown Waukegan, Illinois. The first film that they saw together was Lon Chaney’s THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME. According to Bradbury biographer, Sam Weller, “this movie laid the groundwork in his fertile mind for what would later become Ray’s trademark — the strange, the fantastic, the imaginative all wrapped up in a story most decidedly human. . . . THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME ignited a lifelong love of film — a medium that later forged his keen sense of story and his grasp of quick narrative movement.”

The author himself noted, “When I talk of myself as being a child of my time, perhaps the biggest truth is that I am a cinematic child of my time, in that this influence has probably had a lot to do with the direction my writing has taken over the years, the type of writing I have done, and the way I have expressed myself.”

Ray Bradbury’s stories are visual, almost cinematic. Hence the wonderful EC Comics adaptations by Johnny Craig, Jack Davis, Joe Orlando, Al Williamson, Wally Wood, and other artists. It’s also one of the reasons that Mutual Pictures of California bought the movie rights to his short story, “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.” Bradbury later called his story “The Foghorn,” for its publication in THE GOLDEN APPLES OF THE SUN (1953).

Originally published in the June 23, 1951 issue of THE SATURDAY EVENING POST, Bradbury’s story concerns a lovelorn sea serpent, “. . . hid away in the Deeps. Deep, deep down in the deepest Deeps.” Hearing the call of a lonely fog horn, the creature leaves its cold and dark lair to seek another of its kind. Sadly, all the monster finds is the lighthouse and its foghorn. In anguish, the dinosaur destroys the lighthouse and returns to “the deepest Deeps.”

Hoping to capitalize on Ray Bradbury’s growing popularity and reputation, producers Jack Dietz and Hal E. Chester changed the name of their film — THE MONSTER FROM BENEATH THE SEA — to match the POST story. They also gave Bradbury story credit and promoted their film with his name. The author’s only contribution to the film is the lighthouse attack scene.

Released by Warner Brothers in 1953 and featuring animation effects by Ray Bradbury’s close friend, Ray Harryhausen, THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS was the first of the atomic monster films. Its financial success led to the many giant monster movies of the 1950s and 60s, including Ishirō Honda’s GODZILLA (1954). The film also helped to launch Ray Harryhausen’s lauded career as the master of “Dynamation.”

While Chester and Dietz were interested in acquiring the rights to Ray Bradbury’s story to capitalize on his popularity, Universal Pictures had other plans for the author. Although likely knowing of his stature as a leading science fiction author, the studio approached him in 1952 to help them develop a monster movie.

Ever ambitious, Bradbury offered Universal two choices: he’d develop a screen treatment about a bug-eyed-monster attacking Earth or a story about aliens arriving on our planet without harmful intent.

“I wanted to treat the invaders as beings who were not dangerous, and that was very unusual. The only other film like it was THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, two years before. These two films stand out as treating creatures who understand humanity. The studio picked the right concept and I stayed on.”

According to Sam Weller’s THE BRADBURY CHRONICLES: Bradbury’s work for Universal “. . . went far beyond the parameters of the normal, present-tense, narrative film treatment. The final 111-page outline, completed in early October, was heavy on dialogue and camera direction. It was a point-by-point, scene-by-scene blueprint for a writer to adapt into script form.” The film’s screenwriter Harry Essex later suggested: “Ray Bradbury wrote a screenplay and called it a treatment.”

Director Jack Arnold’s IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE was released on May 25, 1953, and was “immediately recognized as a groundbreaking work of 1950s science fiction paranoia, echoing the burgeoning national obsession with Martians, flying saucers, and incidents like the alleged 1947 crash of an alien craft in the desert outside Roswell, New Mexico. . . . instead of rehashing the tired cliché of an intergalactic monster set to devour civilization, he flipped the space-invader genre on its collective ear by portraying human beings as the real villains of the story.”

IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE was Universal’s first science fiction film and their first official 3-D release. In later years, filmmaker Steven Spielberg credited IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE as an inspiration for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. Apparently, he had seen it six times as a kid.

Although Ray Bradbury would be part of the Hollywood scene for many years to come — he would write the screenplay for John Huston’s MOBY DICK (1956), help get THE TWILIGHT ZONE off the ground, co-direct the reshoots for Disney’s SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (1983), script all 65 episodes of THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER (1985 – 1992), win an Emmy Award for THE HALLOWEEN TREE in 1994, and more — these two fifties B-movies were perhaps the most influential works of cinema to be associated with the author.

PulpFest 2020 is very pleased to highlight THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS and IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE as part of its celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of author Ray Douglas Bradbury.

(Pictured here are James R. Bingham’s interior illustration for Ray Bradbury’s “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms,” from THE SATURDAY EVENING POST for June 23, 1951, as well as one of the movie posters advertising the 1953 Universal Pictures release. The art is probably the work of Joseph Smith. Directly below “SPACE” in the title logo of the movie poster are the words: “From Ray Bradbury’s great science fiction story.” You can’t shut a great author out!)