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‘Nothing so dangerous as an idea: Ralph Steadman’s illustrations for Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’

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Ray Bradbury needed somewhere quiet to write. His wife had given birth to a baby daughter and their neat home did not seem so large anymore. Bradbury couldn’t afford to rent an office, so he spent his writing time in the UCLA library. Then one day he heard the Morse code clatter of keys on rollers and discovered the library offered typewriters for hire in a basement typing room at ten cents per half hour. Loaded up with a bagful of dimes, Bradbury started work on his latest story Fahrenheit 451.

Bradbury never liked to know what he was doing or where he was going when he wrote—he just hammered out the words from “the secret motives within.” It took him ten days to write Fahrenheit 451. Ten days to run up-and-down stairs and pull books off shelves to find random quotes for his book. Ten days not knowing what he was writing just following the course of the words that tumbled out of his head to tell their tale.

Published in 1953, Fahrenheit 451 is the story of a future America where books are banned and firemen are professional arsonists who patrol the cities burning every book they find. The title Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which paper burns. Books are banned because they contain ideas that make people unhappy. The firemen burn the books to keep the people happy in their safe little spaces. Bradbury’s story could be our America today, where “politically correct” college students shut down ideas they cannot handle, and where “debate” means only talking to those who agree with you.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Fahrenheit 251 in 2003, renowned artist Ralph Steadman was commissioned to illustrate Bradbury’s classic tale with his signature manic scratch and splatter style. Steadman had famously collaborated with Hunter S. Thompson on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and over a long career has illustrated numerous books, articles and films as well as producing a vast collection of personal work. Though Steadman was said to be “jaded” about illustrating any more books, he was thrilled to illustrate Bradbury’s classic as he considered it “as important as 1984 and Animal Farm as real powerful social comment, because it’s about a fire brigade burning books.”

As someone once said, I think it was me: There is nothing so dangerous as an idea. Particularly one whose time has come…

When Bradbury saw Steadman’s vibrant illustrations, the author paid the artist the highest compliment:

You’ve brought my book into the 21st Century. Thank you.

Steadman’s flamboyant penmanship suits Bradbury’s style of writing “at the top of [his] lungs”—as both work intuitively, allowing accident and inspiration to lead them towards unknown destinations.
 
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There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.

 
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It was a pleasure to burn.
More of Steadman’s fiery illustrations for Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’ after the jump….

READ ON
Posted by Paul Gallagher
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12.18.2015
11:02 am
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Ray Bradbury’s advice on life and writing: ‘Don’t think about things, just do them’
03.11.2014
10:22 am
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Ray Bradbury told an audience at the San Diego Comic Con in 2010 that the secret to life is being in love—in love with life, with who you are and what you do. It was something the great writer reiterated in the documentary film A Conversation with Ray Bradbury.

“The things that you do should be the things that you love; and things that you love should be things that you do.”

It’s sound advice from a writer who said he was as a “Zen Buddhist” from the moment he was born.

“I live in the middle of existence, there are no perimeters, all I have to do is be.”

Bradbury also said something similar about writing: “Don’t think about things, just do them.” He believed over intellectualizing damaged the creative force.

“I never went to college — I don’t believe in college for writers.  The thing is very dangerous. I believe too many professors are too opinionated and too snobbish and too intellectual, and the intellect is a great danger to creativity … because you begin to rationalize and make up reasons for things, instead of staying with your own basic truth — who you are, what you are, what you want to be.  I’ve had a sign over my typewriter for over 25 years now, which reads ‘Don’t think!’ You must never think at the typewriter — you must feel.  Your intellect is always buried in that feeling anyway.”

Bradbury also described himself as a “Martian” and he advocated for the colonization of the Moon, with ambitions to populate Mars in 300 to 400 years time. From Mars, he hoped humans would travel on to the outward reaches of the universe. He was pleased that so many NASA astronauts had been inspired by reading his fictions. In the same way, Bradbury himself had been inspired to write by reading Edgar Rice Burroughs, Edgar Allan Poe, the Prince Valiant comics, and the poet Alexander Pope.

He loathed the Internet, and had no truck with eBooks or on-line publishers, claiming books were not just filled with great stories, but were important receptacles for our senses (the feel of the paper, the scent of the page), that kept safe good memories. Something the digital world, he believed, fails to do.

As can be seen from this conversation, Ray Bradbury was one of those very precious writers, whose infectious enthusiasm for life inspires and makes everything just that little bit better.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.11.2014
10:22 am
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Just a really cool photo of Ray Bradbury and Marlene Dietrich, 1935
05.20.2013
11:00 am
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Future Sci-Fi great Ray Bradbury looks fresh-faced (he was but 15 years old) and diva’s diva Dietrich, as ever, is just looking fierce when the pair were photographed together outside the gates of Paramount Pictures in 1935.

I tried to figure out how these two would have known each other. All I could find was an interview Bradbury did with Playboy in 1995 which might explain the circumstances of how they met:

Playboy: What brought you to Hollywood in the first place?

Bradbury: The Depression brought me here from Waukegan, Illinois. The majority of people in the country were unemployed. My dad had been jobless in Waukegan for at least two years when in 1934 he announced to my mom, my brother and me that it was time to head West. I had just turned 14 when we got to California with only 40 dollars, which paid for our rent and bought our food until he finally found a job making wire at a cable company for $14 a week. That meant I could stay in Los Angeles, which was great. I was thrilled.

Playboy: With what aspect of it?

Bradbury: I was madly in love with Hollywood. We lived about four blocks from the Uptown Theater, which was the flagship theater for MGM and Fox. I learned how to sneak in. There were previews almost every week. I’d roller-skate over there—I skated all over town, hell-bent on getting autographs from glamorous stars. It was glorious. I saw big MGM stars such as Norma Shearer, Laurel and Hardy, Ronald Coleman. Or I’d spend all day in front of Paramount or Columbia, then zoom over to the Brown Derby to watch the stars coming or going. I’d see Cary Grant, Marlene Dietrich, Fred Allen, Burns and Allen—whoever was on the Coast. Mae West made her appearance—bodyguard in tow—every Friday night.

There’s also this snip from a 1991 LIFE interview:

I still have my autographs and a few roller skate ball bearings left over from those days so long ago. Almost all of the people I met then are gone, but miraculously Marlene and George have survived. The light that comes out of these pictures is a constant rerun of my life as a somewhat silly but always loving boy, terribly reluctant to enter manhood.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
A Writer’s Life: Ray Bradbury on writing and the importance of the subconscious
 

Posted by Tara McGinley
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05.20.2013
11:00 am
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A Writer’s Life: Ray Bradbury on writing and the importance of the subconscious

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‘A writer moves about, observing, seeing as much as he can, trying to guess how man will play the game,’ Ray Bradbury said in Story of a Writer, a documentary on his life and work from 1963.

‘Constantly measuring the way life is, against the way he feels it ought to be. He is a magnet passing through a factual world, taking from it what he needs.’

Bradbury was always generous with his advice and encouragement, always willing to explain his method of writing to those who wanted to know. Writing was like a love affair.

“You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

Bradbury worked his apprenticeship as a writer in libraries, which he later described as places where:

...anything could happen there and always did. All you had to do was pull a book from the shelf and suddenly the darkness was not so dark anymore.

In the “The Importance of Being Startled,” the afterword to his final novel, Farewell Summer, Bradbury described the process by which he wrote:

The way I write my novels can best be described as imagining that I’m going into the kitchen to fry a couple of eggs and then find myself cooking up a banquet. Starting with very simple things, they then word-associate themselves with further things until I’m up and running and eager to find out the next surprise, the next hour, the next day or the next week.

Surprise is everything with me. When I go to bed at night I give myself instructions to startle myself when I wake in the morning.

As Bradbury explained in Story of a Writer, allowing the ‘subconscious time to think’ was essential.

‘The time we have alone; the time we have in walking; the time we have in riding a bicycle; are the most important times for a writer. Escaping from a typewriter is part of the creative process. You have to give your subconscious time to think. Real thinking always occurs on the subconscious level.

‘I never consciously set out to write a certain story. The idea must originate somewhere deep within me and push itself out in its own time. Usually, it begins with associations. Electricity. The sea. Life started in the sea. Could the miracle occur again? Could life take hold in another environment? An electro-mechanical environment?’

This was the kind of thinking that made Bradbury’s book so irresistible. Anything was possible with Bradbury. He had a joyous, child-like enthusiasm for life that infused his books, with a brilliance and pleasure, that makes them so very, very special.

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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05.11.2013
09:42 am
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For Your Consideration: Mr. Rod Serling

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Years ago a friend wrote me a story about how we all started talking but in doing so, stopped listening to each other. It was a short and simple story, adapted I believe from its Aboriginal origins, that also explained how our ears developed their peculiar, conch-like shape.

Like all the best tales, it began: Once upon a time, in a land not-so-very-far-away, we were all connected to each other by a long umbilical loop that went ear-to-ear-to-ear-to-ear. This connection meant we could hear what each of us was thinking, and we could share our secrets, hopes and fears together at once

Then one day and for a whole lot of different reasons, these connections were broken, and the long umbilical loops dropped away, withered back, and creased into the folds of our ears. That’s how our ears got their shape. They are the one reminder of how we were once all connected to each other.

It was the idea of connection - only connect, said playwright Dennis Potter, by way of E. M. Forster, when explaining the function of all good television. A difficult enough thing, but we try. It’s what the best art does - tells a story, says something.

It’s what Rod Serling did. He made TV shows that have lived and grown with generations of viewers. Few can not have been moved to a sense of thrilling by the tinkling opening notes of The Twilight Zone. The music still fills me with that excitement I felt as a child, hopeful for thrills, entertainment and something a little stronger to mull upon, long after the credits rolled.

Serling was exceptional, and his writing brought a whole new approach to telling tales on television that connected the audience one-to-the-other. This documentary on Serling, starts like an episode of The Twilight Zone, and goes on to examine Serling’s life through the many series and dramas he wrote for TV and radio, revealing how much of his subject matter came from his own personal experience, views and politics. As Serling once remarked he was able to discuss controversial issues through science-fiction:

“I found that it was all right to have Martians saying things Democrats and Republicans could never say.”

His work influenced other shows (notably Star Trek), and although there were problems, due to the demands of advertisers, Serling kept faith with TV in the hope it could connect with its audience - educate, entertain and help improve the quality of life, through a shared ideals.

As writer Serling slowly “succumbed” to his art:

‘Writing is a demanding profession and a selfish one. And because it is selfish and demanding, because it is compulsive and exacting, I didn’t embrace it, I succumbed to it. In the beginning, there was a period of about 8 months when nothing happened. My diet consisted chiefly of black coffee and fingernails. I collected forty rejection slips in a row. On a writer’s way up, he meets a lot of people and in some rare cases there’s a person along the way, who happens to be around just when they’re needed. Perhaps just a moment of professional advice, or a boost to the ego when it’s been bent, cracked and pushed into the ground. Blanche Gaines was that person for me. I signed with her agency in 1950. Blanche kept me on a year, before I made my first sale. The sale came with trumpets and cheers. I don’t think that feeling will ever come again. The first sale - that’s the one that comes with magic.’

Like Richard Matheson, Philip K Dick, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Serling is a hero who offered up the possible, for our consideration.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.19.2012
08:27 pm
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A 6-year-old judges classic novels based on their covers, hilarity ensues!

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Sunny Chanel over at Babble hands over the blogging mic to her 6-year-old daughter and lets her judge classic novels by their covers.

Atlas Shrugged:

This is about Daydis (her spelling it’s actually – Daedalus). He is an ancient god guy who prays a lot. This book is about him crying. He is crying because he doesn’t like himself at all, because he hates himself. It looks like a saddy, saddy, saddy bookie.”

Note: she loves Greek Mythology at bedtime hence the Daedalus reference. And really, who doesn’t?

 

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Animal Farm:

It looks like a book for kids. I think it’s about a donkey and a pig that do not like each other and they both live on a farm for animals. The same farm. It looks like it would be a funny book with a good really nice ending.

 

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On the Road:

I think it’s about a car. A car that goes to Mexico, Indonesia and other places. It’s about a car that goes on all sorts of adventures. The guy on the cover is a teen, he likes to drive people places a lot. And he’s French.

 

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Fahrenheit 451:

I think this is about a gigantic robot who goes on fire and he doesn’t like himself. It has a sad ending. It looks like a book for teens. The title means fire, a really really really big fire since the number is 451, that would mean it was really hot. So the robot must get really hot. Maybe that is why he is so sad.

 

Read more of Judging a Book by Its Cover: A 6-year-old Guesses What Classic Novels Are All About

Via Nerdcore

Posted by Tara McGinley
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07.20.2012
01:11 pm
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Ray Bradbury has died

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Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Dandelion Wine, The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles, died yesterday, June 5th, at the age of 91. Bradbury was a colossus of modern fiction, writing everything form fantasy, science-, and speculative-fiction to comedy, crime and mystery. He wrote twenty-seven novels, several screenplays, most notably for John Huston’s film version of Moby Dick, as well as plays, and hundreds of classic short stories.

Bradbury was an immense talent, yet in the early part of his career, his success as a mass market “pulp” author often led critics to overlook the quality of his writing, and its seismic influence on others - his fiction formed the template for future speculative science-fiction and fantasy writers to follow. Bradbury had a beautiful, poetic and lyrical style of writing, most notable in Dandelion Wine, which made his authorial voice unmistakable.

Indeed the quality of Bradbury’s writing helped science-fiction out of the pulp ghetto into the hallowed groves of literature. Though most associated with that genre, Bradbury denied he was a science-fiction writer, instead claimed he was a fantasy writer whose work owed much to the traditions of classical literature:

“First of all, I don’t write science fiction. I’ve only done one science fiction book and that’s Fahrenheit 451, based on reality. It was named so to represent the temperature at which paper ignites. 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? That’s the reason it’s going to be around a long time—because it’s a Greek myth, and myths have staying power.”

Born in Waukegan, Illinois on August 22, 1920, Bradbury grew up in small town America - a world of dusty roads, with few cars, and tarmac avenues with old trolley buses ploughing the metal rails along main street. He also once claimed, in a BBC documentary, that his memory and experience was the source for much of his writing, and said his memory stretched back to his earliest experiences as a baby, being breast-fed in his mother’s arms.

He grew up reading books and watching Flash Gordon serials at the local cinema, and monster movies with Boris Karloff, while following the adventures of heroes in the early garish comics that later went on to deliver Batman, Superman and Tales from the Crypt.

“Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”

Reading inspired his writing and Bradbury started his own fictions, eventually submitting short stories to pulp magazines in his teens - his first published story was “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma”, which appeared in the fanzine Imagination! in January, 1938. He received his first check of $15 for his story “Pendulum” (co-written with Henry Hasse) in 1941, when it was published in Super Science Stories. By 1942, he was able to have a career as a writer, writing stories for the various pulp magazines that were then available.

He progressed from stories to novels, with first big success being The Martian Chronicles, which was aided by a chance meeting with author Christopher Isherwood, who admired Bradbury’s work, and passed the book onto a critic who gave it a glowing review. From there, Bradbury had a career befitting the talents of such a great and marvelous man.

Bradbury’s influence has infused much of our cultural world - from films to comics, science to the imagined landscape of small town America, which is still very much as he described it in his fictions. Indeed, Bradbury’s vision of small town America was a precursor to Stephen King’s Castle Rock.

I greatly admire Bradbury’s work, and like everyone else grew-up reading his books, and regularly returned to them in my adult years. It seems as we grow older that all we reap is death, and this year has been a harsh harvest. Still, we should perhaps recall Bradbury’s line from Fahrenheit 451:

“Stuff your eyes with wonder. Live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made up or paid for in factories.”

R.I.P. Ray Bradbury 1920-2012.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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06.06.2012
01:13 pm
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Snap shot: Ray Bradbury’s reaction to watching F*CK ME RAY BRADBURY
08.22.2010
11:24 am
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Is it too good to be true? I hope this is real! From Ain’t It Cool:

Ok - giggle… I love that somebody did this. Here’s Ray Bradbury’s reaction to watching FUCK ME RAY BRADBURY and Susan Gerbic-Forsyth, her friend Matt Edward showed it to him. This has serious ruleage in tow!

Previously on Dangerous Minds: ‘Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury’

Update: Ray Bradbury turns 90 today. Happy Birthday!

(via Nerdcore)

Posted by Tara McGinley
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08.22.2010
11:24 am
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‘Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury’
08.17.2010
04:30 am
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Rachel Bloom
wrote and stars in Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury and embodies just about everything I love about women. As Dr. Tim said, “intelligence is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” A woman with a well-stacked bookshelf is my idea of bliss. And anyone who wants to fuck Ray Bradbury is a friend of mine.

Ray’s 90th birthday is on August 22nd. There’s a groovy article on the master at the L.A. Times website. Click here.

Posted by Marc Campbell
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08.17.2010
04:30 am
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