Friday, April 01, 2016

Supernatural Friday: How the October Country Led Me to Writing, or How Ray Bradbury Mentored Me Without Meaning To

You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
~Ray Bradbury

“I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.” 
Ray Bradbury

I just read a great article by author Jonathan Janz about why he likes Stephan King, and how King had led him to become a writer. Well, I have a confession. Being that I am of King’s generation and read most likely what he read growing up and even in college, I will tell you my secret. Which writer most influence me.

Edgar Allan Poe? HP Lovecraft? Yes, I devoured their stories, but it wasn’t them who put me on the path. No, it was two authors, and they were Ray Bradbury and Shirley Jackson. But I will talk about Ray Bradbury today. Bradbury’s books and stories are those even to this day I can read and reread. He is a master storyteller. Who I have seen much of his influences in Stephen King’s work.

Like Something Wicked This Way Comes. The young boys fighting the Dark and his carnival, and learn that wishes can become nightmares. That the innocence of childhood due to monsters can lead the way to growing up. A magical blend of creepiness and nostalgia

His Fahrenheit 451 (one of my husband’s favorite science fiction reads) is a science fiction where in the future where firefighters burn books, not put out the fires. It is a classic novel of censorship and defiance, as resonant today as it was when it was first published nearly 50 years ago. A dystopian novel many years before books like this were named that.

He wrote many themed short stories and combined them in books like Dark Carnival, The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, The Martian Chronicles, R is for Rocket, S is for Space, The Golden Apples of the Sun, The October Country, and I Sing the Body Electric and Other Stories (“I Sing the Body Electric” was originally a teleplay written by Bradbury for the 100thepisode of The Twilight Zone in 1962.).

Stories I remember well from the books above included “The Foghorn”: this story was the basis for the 1953 film The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, “The “Homecoming,” “The Sound of Thunder”: Bradbury examines what can happen due to one tiny mistake during a time travel prehistoric hunt that can change the history of the world, “The Veldt”: Bradbury imagines a world of enormous flat screen TVs, interactive video game playing, the future generation of children indifferent to violence or homicide, and smart houses 50 years before it is ever invented Except the lions on screen in this futuristic tale are not image, but the real deal. “I Sing the Body Electric”: though I Sing the Body Electric” was originally a teleplay written by Bradbury for the 100thepisode of The Twilight Zone in 1962, and was how I saw it first before I read it, and “The Lake”: a sort of classic ghost story, but about childhood too.  You can view "I Sing the Body Electric" that was telecast on Twilight Zone at

A favorite children’s book of his I love concerns Halloween. The Halloween Tree. Eight boys set out on a Halloween night and are led into the depths of the past by a tall, mysterious character named Moundshroud. They ride on a black wind to autumn scenes in distant lands and times, where they witness other ways of celebrating this holiday about the dark time of year. 

The past few years, I read One More for the Road, and the last of his books I read before his passing, Farewell Summer—sequel to his Dandelion Wine (I suggest read this one before Farewell Summer) and From the Dust Returned . 

From the Dust Returned grew out of a short story, "Homecoming," which appeared in the October 1946 issue of Mademoiselle magazine. Bradbury has published just five other stories about the Elliots, an outlandish, greathearted and loving-spirited Halloween creature clan and their "abnormal" adopted son Timothy. The novel is comprised of the previously published six stories interwoven with newer chapters and "connective tissue" that give us an unforgettable portrait of the rise and fall of a most peculiar brood.

Ray Bradbury takes me and others back to a time where as a child we all want to grow up, and yet, are afraid to. Growing up takes away the wonder of dinosaurs, settling Mars, a man whose illustrations on his flesh move and unsettle as we view them, and where vampires and ghosts share their home with a human boy who only wants to fit in with them. Where summer is just around the corner and autumn means we are have arrived at the October Country which Halloween resides in all its dark glory.

What are your favorite stories or novels by Ray Bradbury? And why do they touch you, and in what way?

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