Pop Culture Wicked Bradbury

Something Wicked This Way Comes coverI’m a little late for the “pop culture” links for this month’s reading in my SF/F book club, Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes.  (I’m even later with my essay for last month’s book, never mind that!)  Back in April we read another Bradbury book, The Martian Chronicles, for our SF/F class and I posted some links as well as my essay.

First, a reminder that you can read a large number of Bradbury’s stories online thanks to Unz.org.  But let’s concentrate on this specific book: Something Wicked This Way Comes was published in 1962, so although it’s over 50 years old, it’s still well within copyright protection, which means no legal free copies online.  Many editions are available for purchase, including as a full-cast audiobook and in graphic novel format.

The novel was made into the 1983 Disney film Something Wicked This Way Comes, with Bradbury as the screenwriter. In a later interview, Bradbury said that he considered the film one of the better adaptations of his works.

Bradbury’s Pandemonium Theatre Company also debuted a play based on the novel in Los Angeles on October 1, 2003, directed by Alan Neal Hubbs, also associated with the 1970 stage adaptation of Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. The play received generally favourable reviews, stating that it captured the lyricism and dark tone of the novel, and praising its special effects.

The novel was also produced as a full-cast radio play by the Colonial Radio Theatre on the Air, and released by Blackstone Audio on October 1, 2007; Bradbury wrote the script, modified for audio from his stage play.  It was was produced as a radio play for the BBC Radio 4 Saturday Play series as a different adaptation, and was broadcast on 29 October 2011 and 7 December 2012.

Many popular culture references and influences can be found in television shows, novels, comics, and games, from The Simpsons to South Park.  Wikipedia cites no less than six songs or albums named for the book.  More generally, just about any creepy travelling carnival, like the one in later seasons of Heroes, or the focus of the excellent HBO mini-series Carnivàle, contains a nod to Bradbury’s novel.  Heck, wouldn’t you say that Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, which we read a few months ago, also contained a bit of an homage with its bizarre, carnivalesque entertainments at the House on the Rock?


Ferris wheel at night © David Karp 2007.  No copyright challenge intended, it’s just a gorgeous photo that I wanted you to see.

Dreaming of Fairyland

The Martian Chronicles, cover by Robert WatsonThe Week 8 reading assignment for my online class on Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World was Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles.

I first read this book when the 1979 BBC-NBC mini-series came out.  I remember exactly where I was won over: in the second chapter, “Ylla”, I read the following:

“Here’s your scarf.” He handed her a phial. “We haven’t gone anywhere in months.” […]

From the phial a liquid poured, turned to blue mist, settled about her neck, quivering.

I absolutely loved the image of that ephemeral scarf wrapping itself around the Martian Ylla’s shoulders.

Here is my 300-word essay.  Continue reading “Dreaming of Fairyland”

Pop Culture Bradbury

The Martian Chronicles (TV series)To go with my online class Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World, I started a series of posts listing companion materials in pop culture, preferably ones that are a little forgotten, have not received the attention I think they deserve, or take an unusual angle.  All the better if they are available online, double-plus for free.

These are the ones I propose to accompany this week’s reading, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury.  Resources are more limited than on previous weeks because the works are still covered by copyright.

If you are in the UK, there is now a legal ebook version.  “Bradbury had long held firm against the encroachments of the internet. He believed that “there is no future for e-books, because they are not books. Ebooks smell like burned fuel”, and also dismissed the internet in an interview with the New York Times in 2009, calling it a “big distraction … It’s meaningless; it’s not real. It’s in the air somewhere.””  Which is interesting, from an author who featured electronic books in his stories over sixty years ago!

You can read a large number of Bradbury’s stories online thanks to Unz.org.

Back in 1950 there was an abridged version of The Martian Chronicles as a radio play on the NBC radio program “Dimension X.”  You can download an MP3 version of the first episode from Old Time Radio Downloads (about 6 MB).  Plus, the original was sponsored by Wheaties!  What’s not to like?  Scroll down the list for more episodes.

In 1979, there was a three-part mini-series as a result of a BBC-NBC partnership that gave a somewhat more complete version, but much of the story was changed.  You can check it out on DiscloseTV, here is Part 1.  Sure, it was less than stellar (ha-ha), but the anticipation of it is what got me to read the original Bradbury stories as a kid.

The Stanley Myers soundtrack of that television series was not bad, though; it can be found on iTunes.

Leonard Nimoy reads the shorts stories “Usher II” and “There Will Come Soft Rains” from The Martian Chronicles.

As a classmate pointed out, a crater on the moon bears the name Dandelion Wine in honour of his renowned short story collection, and British pop singer Elton John based his song “Rocket Man” on the Bradbury story of the same name.  (Reference: NNDB.)

The site of the Curiosity rover’s landing on Mars was named Bradbury Landing by NASA in August 2012.

The Martian Chronicles illustration