Fri
Jun 15 2012 9:00am

Five Seldom Mentioned Bradbury Creations You Need to Check Out

When Ray Bradbury passed away last week, we all lamented the loss of the man who created classics like The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and more. But what about the stuff nobody talks about? What about the quieter, lesser-known pieces of Bradbury art out in there in the world? With a man this prolific, there’s a staggering amount of work to wrap your mind around.

Below are five Bradbury-penned pieces I rarely hear mentioned that are totally worth a look.

The Cat’s Pajamas

Released in 2004, this short story collection contains Bradbury offerings which were, for the most part, brand new. Sporting an awesome cover illustration drawn by Bradbury himself (around the same time), several of these stories are not only slick little prose masterpieces, but also very touching. The best stories here are the quietist, particularly the title story, “The Cat’s Pajamas.”  A man and woman place a rescued cat in the center of a bed as they try to settle their disagreement as to who should adopt it. The cat doesn’t move from its spot—but someone else does. And, in “The Mafioso Cement-Mixing Machine,” a man wants F. Scott Fitzgerald to finish writing The Last Tycoon, and succeeds in getting his wish!   

Overall, there’s a sense in all of these stories that Bradbury isn’t trying to blow your mind with anything new, but instead to deliver the tightest, prettiest sentences around.

 “Christ, Old Student in A New School” from Again, Dangerous Visions

When I first read Again, Dangerous Visions as a teenager I was totally disappointed by this entry. It was Bradbury but it was a poem! About Jesus! Booooring. I felt ripped off. Shouldn’t a Bradbury entry in Ellison’s racy anthology be an awesome crazy short story with twists and turns? But then you grow up, you change, and you realize this is a beautiful, painful piece of work. Am I sure what it’s really about? Not totally, but I do I think it suggests that Jesus is a space alien. Bradbury (like Ridley Scott!) certainly isn’t the first person to suggest Jesus might be some kind of alien, but this is a poem more about failure and confusion than anything else. Again, the ideas here aren’t really what’s important. It’s a beautiful, epic poem which will make any earnest reader super sad.

Theatre Versions of “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit” and “The Veldt”

In a nifty paperback book called The Pandemonium Theatre Company Presents The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit and Other Plays, dramatized versions of famous and charming Bradbury stories are presented in script format. I’ve never actually seen a staged production of any of these scripts, but even approached as closet dramas, these are fantastic.  The famous story “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit,” about a perfect suit shared by a group of similarly-sized men during the course of one evening is even more adorable and novel when rendered exclusively through dialogue. Bradbury goes a little over the top with stage directions here, and I’m sure anyone with an MFA in script writing would likely freak out. But still, his exuberance and specific vision for these stories as works of drama is charming.

Most interesting is the stage version of “The Veldt.” The play only suggests the holographic lions, and in doing so, actually becomes a beautiful minimalist piece of work. A worthy companion piece to an unforgettable story.

“The Smile”

This story has been anthologized a bunch of places, though I first read it in A Medicine for Melancholy. The premise revolves around a post-apocalyptic society which hates art, and willing to destroy it to prevent the culture from becoming the way it once was. To this end, they are about to destroy a painting which is loathsome to them all for the simple fact that it depicts something. The painting is of course, the Mona Lisa, and in the rubble of an old society, crazed people (even worse than some of the Fahrenheit 451 folks) rip it to shreds. Touchingly, the famous smile of the painting is saved by a young boy. To me, this story is far darker than most of Bradbury’s work insofar as the contempt the future humans have for art is so savage and disorganized. If you know someone who has never read a Bradbury story, in my opinion, this one would be a fantastic introduction.

Dinosaur Tales

Bradbury’s love of dinosaurs is one of the things that makes him the original nerd. This collection includes all his stories which either deal with dinos directly or reference them. The beautiful story “The Fog Horn” is here, as is the very famous time-travel story “A Sound of Thunder.” More importantly, the collection features a heartfelt introduction from the legendary stop-motion pioneer Ray Harryhausen. Best fact about the two Rays: Harryhausen and Bradbury knew each other as teenagers. Harryhausen captured the attention of a young Bradbury because the latter Ray noticed the former Ray making weird dinosaur masks. The pair wore the dinosaur masks to a local movie theater and were dinosaur buddies for the rest of their lives.

What is your favorite obscure or rarely mentioned Bradbury?


Ryan Britt is the staff writer for Tor.com.

18 comments
Dawn Napier
1. Dawn Napier
"Death Is a Lonely Business." I think it was the first Bradbury I ever picked up. I was nine or ten when I read it, and I did a book report on it for school.
The lady eating mayo from a jar still haunts me.
JUAN DIEGO GOMEZ
2. juandiegomez
"All Summer in a Day", about how cruel innocent children can be
Ryan Britt
3. ryancbritt
@1 Dawn
Yes! Mayo lady!

@2
Oh God yes. The children of Bradbury are all over the map, but he does scary quite well.
Dawn Napier
4. Patricia Mathews
I saw "The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit" on stage, live, down at Albuquerque's Hispanic Cultural Center auditorium, a very nice venue. It was done as a 50s period piece set in Los Angeles, and was very moving, especially as it showed quite nicely how the suit helped each of the men to his dream. Well acted, well staged, and I am very glad I went.
Dawn Napier
5. ElizabethB
I love the book and lesser-known cartoon of "The Halloween Tree." I can still remember gleefully grabbing it from the video store shelves at Halloween time every year. Finding out that 1) there was a book 2) it was written by RAY BRADBURY (I knew the video before I was formally introduced to Bradbury in 7th grade English with "There Will Come Soft Rains" after which I devoured his catalog from the local library) and finding out even later that 3) Lenord Nimoy voices Professor Moundshroud and 4) Bradbury HIMSELF narrates the whole thing, just made it so much more wonderful. I still watch it every Halloween on a VHS tracked down on eBay (I suspect that is the main reason I still have a VCR).
Ryan Britt
6. ryancbritt
@4
That sounds beautiful.

@5
Oh wow. Must track that down. Thanks.
Chris Hawks
7. SaltManZ
Hm. The title says "Oft-Mentioned", which is not what you were going for.
Ryan Britt
8. ryancbritt
@7
Yes! You are right. I was struck with insanity! Fixed now.
Dawn Napier
9. SF
@2, 3: There was a great adaptation of "All Summer in a Day" that played on HBO in the early 80s. Quite powerful.

There was also either a record or a radio show that did a great adaptation of "The Fog Horn" at one point. Think it was a record, a collection of stories, "Golden Apples of the Sun."
Dawn Napier
10. Uncle Sim Einar
I have actually taken part in a performance of Kaleidoscope, that short story-come-play of his involving a spaceship, a cluster of meteors, and someone entering the atmosphere as a meteor. I did more than take part in it, I provided some of the soundtrack for that performance.

I love Frost and Fire, and googling for its traces on the ether, I find that I'm far from being the only one.
Rob Munnelly
11. RobMRobM
I always liked a Bradbury short story that was anthologized. I think it was called October Game. The narrator is arranging for a Halloween party for his teenaged eight year old daughter while thinking dark thoughts about his failing marriage. Then they start playing the game in the dark where you pass around body parts of a witch....

EDIT - Found it on line - here is the appropriately creepy, and brilliantly written opening paragraphs:

He put the gun back into the bureau drawer and shut the drawer. No, not that way. Louise wouldn't suffer. It was very important that this thing have, above all duration. Duration through imagination. How to prolong the suffering? How, first of all, to bring it about? Well. The man standing before the bedroom mirror carefully fitted his cuff-links together. He paused long enough to hear the children run by switftly on the street below, outside this warm two-storey house, like so many grey mice the children, like so many leaves. By the sound of the children you knew the calendar day. By their screams you knew what evening it was. You knew it was very late in the year. October. The last day of October, with white bone masks and cut pumpkins and the smell of dropped candle wax.
A.J. Bobo
12. Daedylus
I have seen a staged production of The Veldt. As I recall, it was a bare set with just a door frame in the center of the stage. There's minimal action, but lots of good Bradbury dialog. It's absolutely terrifying. I'm very happy to see it get some love here. Thanks, Ryan.
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Dawn Napier
16. Samizdat
@RobMRobM
"The October Game" was one of my all time favorite stories. The best line, I found, and the most prophetic in light of the cold war:

"There was a feeling of autumn coming to last a million years. There would be no spring."
Dawn Napier
17. SueQ
The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit is my pick. Also, because it reminds me of my widowed great-grandmother's boyfriend, Claude. He had two suits: his white suit which he called (yes!) his ice cream suit and a black suit which he called his burying-in suit. Claude's two suits would have been appropriate in many of Ray's stories.
Rob Munnelly
18. RobMRobM
Samizdat - agreed. I also loved the last line - a bit of a spoiler so I won't reproduce it here. What a great story.
Douglas Merrill
19. merrilld
"The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair," from The Toynbee Convector. Plus quite a few stories from We'll Always Have Paris and One More For the Road.
Douglas Merrill
20. merrilld
"The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair," from The Toynbee Convector. Plus quite a few stories from We'll Always Have Paris and One More For the Road.

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