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 . . .”)

 

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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!)

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.)

Bradbury in Hollywood

May 8, 2020 by

When his mother introduced him to the motion picture at the age of three — they saw Lon Chaney as THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME — Ray Bradbury should have been a perfect fit for Hollywood. Unfortunately, that has not always been the case.

Ray Bradbury made his first professional sale in 1941, a collaboration with Henry Hasse that sold to SUPER SCIENCE STORIES. Within five years, his stories were being adapted for the mass medium – not Hollywood – but radio. NBC’s MOLLÉ MYSTERY THEATRE broadcast “Killer Come Back To Me” on May 17, 1946. Originally appearing in the July 1944 issue of Popular Publications’ DETECTIVE TALES, the novella was one of the young author’s first sales to the detective pulps. The issue featured cover art by Rafael DeSoto.

The NBC radio drama was followed over the years by adaptations on SUSPENSE, RADIO CITY PLAYHOUSE, ESCAPE and DIMENSION X. A 1950 – 51 NBC science fiction program, DIMENSION X was one of the first weekly “adult” science fiction anthology programs to be featured on radio. Considering that Bradbury’s stories were adapted for ten of its fifty episodes, his work was almost certainly admired by the creators and listeners of DIMENSION X.

Ray Bradbury had not yet written FAHRENHEIT 451 nor assembled DANDELION WINE — two of his finest works — when his work and DIMENSION X caught the attention of Hollywood. George Pal used the radio program to promote his 1950 science fiction film, DESTINATION MOON. The film was also adapted by the NBC radio drama. A few years later, Harry Essex wrote the screenplay for IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, largely following the shot sequence and the dialog from Bradbury’s original screen treatment.  A sequence in the Warner Brothers film, THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, was tenuously based on Bradbury’s short story of the same title. It had been published in THE SATURDAY EVENING POST for June 23, 1951. John Huston’s 1956 film adaptation of Herman Melville’s MOBY DICK is essentially the work of Ray Bradbury.

Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Bradbury’s stories were also adapted for television, including a few teleplays by Bradbury himself. Among the notables were ABC’s live TALES OF TOMORROW, ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, and an original Christmas story for television’s STEVE CANYON. In 1961, Alfred Hitchcock secretly produced an hour-long television pilot, “The Jail,” another original by Bradbury for television. Unfortunately, the program never found a sponsor.

Rod Serling successfully launched his science fiction and fantasy classic, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, in 1959. The CBS program certain owed a lot to Bradbury, who recommended both Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson to Serling. Bradbury also wrote several scripts for the series, although only one was produced. Unfortunately, the show spawned a good deal of professional jealousy between the two talented scribes.

Several years after the brilliant adaptations of Ray Bradbury’s “The Jar” and “The Life Work of Juan Diaz” for THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR in 1964, Francois Truffaut directed FAHRENHEIT 451 (1966) and Jack Smight brought THE ILLUSTRATED MAN (1969) to life on celluloid. In 1980, Bradbury’s friend, Richard Matheson wrote the script for THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, an NBC miniseries that ran in 1980. Disney released SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES in 1983. The final release features re-shoots that were co-directed by Bradbury. More recently, THE SOUND OF THUNDER — based on the author’s 1952 short story of the same title — was considered to be one of the worst films of 2005.

Perhaps the most successful filmed adaptations of his work were THE RAY BRADBURY THEATERa Canadian-produced anthology series scripted by the author that ran on HBO and the USA Network from 1985 through 1992 — and THE HALLOWEEN TREE, an animated film produced by Hanna-Barbera for TBS. Bradbury received an Emmy Award for the latter in 1994.

To extensively cover the cinematic achievements of Ray Bradbury in less than an hour would require the imaginary visions of Bradbury’s time-travel concepts. Author Martin Grams, Jr. will present some of the highlights from the Hollywood career of Ray Bradbury featuring never-published archival materials. He’ll discuss Bradbury’s ten-year lawsuit against CBS for an unauthorized and uncredited adaptation of FAHRENHEIT 451 for PLAYHOUSE 90, examine the professional differences between Bradbury and Rod Serling, and more.

Join Martin at 9:30 PM on Friday, August 7, for “Bradbury in Hollywood,” one of the many informative and entertaining presentations planned for PulpFest 2020.

(Martin Grams, Jr. was 18 years old when he published his first book, a history of the radio/TV series, SUSPENSE. Since then, he has authored or co-authored over thirty books; contributed chapters, essays and appendices for numerous books; and written magazine articles for FILMFAX, SCARLET STREET, and Ed Hulse’s BLOOD ‘N’ THUNDER, to name just a few. He is the founder and organizer of the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, a three-day festival featuring Hollywood celebrities signing autographs, vendors offering vintage memorabilia and collectibles, seminars and more.

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 Friday, August 7, 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.)