Monday, July 16, 2018

Bookshelf Essentials: The Bradbury Chronicles: Stories in Honor of Ray Bradbury


An occasional series in which we take an in-depth look at some of the selections featured as our weekly Bookshelf picks.

The Bradbury Chronicles: Stories in Honor of Ray Bradbury
Cover art by Tom Canty
Edited by William F. Nolan & Martin H. Greenberg
Roc/New American Library, 1991
UK edition: Severn House, 1992
Paperback edition: Roc, 1992
Dedication: Naturally, for Ray

Table of Contents:
Introduction: “A Half-Century of Creativity” by William F. Nolan
“Ray: An Appreciation,” foreword by Isaac Asimov
“The Troll” by Ray Bradbury
“The Awakening” by Cameron Nolan
“The Wind from Midnight” by Ed Gorman
“May 2000: The Tombstones” by James Kisner
“One Life, in an Hourglass” by Charles L. Grant
“Two O’Clock Session” by Richard Matheson
“A Lake of Summer” by Chad Oliver
“The Obsession” by William Relling, Jr.
“Something in the Earth” by Charles Beaumont
“The Muse” by Norman Corwin
“The Late Arrivals” by Roberta Lannes
“Hiding” by Richard Christian Matheson
“Salome” by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
“The Inheritance” by Bruce Francis
“The Man with the Power Tie” by Christopher Beaumont
“Centigrade 233” by Gregory Benford
“Filling Out Fannie” John Maclay
“Land of the Second Chance” by J.N. Williamson
“The November Game” by F. Paul Wilson
“The Other Mars” by Robert Sheckley
“Feed the Baby of Love” by Orson Scott Card
“The Dandelion Chronicles” by William F. Nolan
Afterword: “Fifty Years, Fifty Friends” by Ray Bradbury

-If you are a reader of science fiction, fantasy, horror, or mystery fiction, you are likely aware of the niche publishing trend which is the author tribute anthology, an anthology of original fiction written within an author’s fictional universe or under the conscious influence of an author’s style or recurrent themes. Stories in these volumes are often sequels or prequels to an author’s stories or novels. Authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and J.R.R. Tolkien have been the subjects of multiple tribute anthologies, though the trend has expanded over the years to include a large number of writers such as Robert Aickman, Robert W. Chambers, Jack Vance, George R.R. Martin, Isaac Asimov, Robert Bloch, Robert Silverberg, Mike Mignola, and others too numerous to list here. Twilight Zone writer Richard Matheson has been the subject of a tribute anthology (He is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson, edited by Christopher Conlon, 2009) and multiple volumes have been dedicated to Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, including the young adult anthologies of Walter B. Gibson and continuing with several volumes of original Twilight Zone fiction compiled by Serling’s widow, Carol.

Cover art by Tom Gauld
-The Bradbury Chronicles was the first of two Ray Bradbury tribute anthologies. It was compiled to mark the semicentennial of Bradbury’s first professionally published story, “The Pendulum,” written with Henry Hasse and published in the November, 1941 issue of Super Science Stories. A separate volume, Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury, edited by Sam Weller and Mort Castle, appeared in 2012. An interesting aspect of these two tribute anthologies is that they were compiled by the two leading Bradbury authorities at different times in Bradbury’s career. William F. Nolan, eight years younger than Bradbury, is the definitive chronicler of the prime years of Bradbury’s career. Nolan was the first to publish a journal, Ray Bradbury Review, dedicated to Bradbury’s fiction, and later published such volumes as The Ray Bradbury Companion (1975) and the retrospective volume Nolan on Bradbury (2013). Sam Weller arrived late in Bradbury’s career but took up the torch carried by Nolan and produced an authorized biography, incidentally titled The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury (2005), as well as Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews (2010). The Bradbury Chronicles is a play on the title of perhaps Bradbury’s most famous work, The Martian Chronicles (1950). A final note concerning the title: A 7-volume graphic novel series based on Bradbury’s fiction was released between 1992 and 1994 by Bantam books under the title The Ray Bradbury Chronicles. These volumes collected material originally published in single-issue form as Ray Bradbury Comics from Topps, as well as original work.

-The Bradbury Chronicles contains fiction from Twilight Zone writers Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont, as well as work from writers who were enjoying success in the early 1990s, such as F. Paul Wilson, Orson Scott Card, Gregory Benford, and Charles L. Grant. Rounding out the collection is a pleasing combination of science fiction veterans (Chad Oliver, Robert Sheckley), reliable horror and dark fantasy talents (Ed Gorman, J.N. Williamson, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, James Kisner), and relative newcomers such as Roberta Lannes and Richard Christian Matheson. The collection also includes prose fiction from Charles Beaumont’s son Christopher and William F. Nolan’s wife Cameron. There is a foreword by Isaac Asimov and a story and afterword by Bradbury. William F. Nolan provides an introduction to each story. So, let’s take a look at the stories and see how the authors approach the task of paying tribute to Ray Bradbury.

Introduction: “A Half-Century of Creativity” by William F. Nolan
-Nolan’s introduction serves to state the purpose of the volume. Nolan (b.1928), who has kept bibliographic records of Bradbury’s fiction since that first story in 1941, provides a brief overview of Bradbury’s sizable accomplishments in prose, poetry, drama, radio, film, and television. He proceeds to briefly examine Bradbury’s influence on the fields of science fiction and horror through Bradbury’s early works such as The Martian Chronicles, The October Country, and Dandelion Wine. Nolan concludes his introduction by giving a short preview of each story and its relation to Bradbury’s fiction. This introduction is utility in nature.

“Ray: An Appreciation” by Isaac Asimov
-This is a very short but surprisingly moving piece by Asimov (1920-1992), particularly when reading it now, after both men have passed on, knowing that we are never going to see talents such as these two writers again. In it, Asimov examines the ways in which Bradbury’s career and his own progressed alongside one another, even though the two writers rarely met and their careers developed in the different pulp arenas of weird fiction (Bradbury) and the pulps edited by John W. Campbell (Asimov). Typical of Asimov’s perceptive nature, he understood that although Bradbury was inaccurately (and unfairly) categorized as a science fiction writer, and grouped alongside Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein, Bradbury was, in many ways, the public face of American SF and held the position with honor and dignity. Asimov concludes by relating an amusing anecdote concerning a luncheon in which he and Bradbury were invited to Washington, D.C. by Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev. Asimov and Bradbury were invited by Gorbachev because they were the favorite writers of Gorbachev’s daughter.

“The Troll” by Ray Bradbury
-According to Nolan’s preface, this story was written in 1950 and filed away by Bradbury (1920-2012), who felt it should not be sent to market. Nolan found the story in Bradbury’s files and, with Bradbury’s blessing, presented it in this anthology. The tone is humorous and relates the tale of a big city psychiatrist who moves to a small town and confronts the local legend of a troll who dwells beneath a nearby bridge. The psychiatrist soon finds out that not all monsters live in the mind. The tale was very likely revised and updated for its presentation here. The story has been reprinted in New Masterpieces of Horror, edited by John Gregory Betancourt (1996), as well as in The Little Big Book of Chills & Thrills, edited by Lena Tabori and Natasha Tabori-Fried (2001).  

“The Awakening” by Cameron Nolan
First paperback edition,
artist unknown
-Cameron Nolan, wife of William F., presents a tale of the quiet sexual awakening of Douglas Spaulding, the young protagonist of Bradbury’s novel Dandelion Wine (1957). In the story, which serves as a sequel to Bradbury’s novel, Douglas, who lives with his spinster aunts, finds himself aroused when he discovers provocative pictures of his other aunt, Elmira, a beautiful woman who died young. While prowling among Elmira’s secret things, kept in stasis in her old bedroom, Douglas finds a kaleidoscope (a recurrent Bradbury motif) which precludes a ghostly but reassuring appearance by Elmira herself. Cameron Nolan, according to William F. Nolan’s preface, began to publish professionally at the age of 18 with a sale to a comic book market. She continued to write prolifically for the juvenile market, including as a staff writer for the teen magazine Tiger Beat. Her short fiction has also appeared in such anthologies as Masques IV, edited by J.N. Williamson (1991) and Voices of the Night, edited by John Maclay (1994). Both Williamson and Maclay also have stories in The Bradbury Chronicles.

“The Wind from Midnight” by Ed Gorman
Illustration for "The Dwarf"
by Joseph Mugnaini
from The October Country (1955)
-Gorman (1941-2016) presents a direct sequel to Bradbury’s 1954 story “The Dwarf,” which told of a dwarf who frequented a carnival to look into the funhouse mirrors which distorted him into a tall man. When a cruel trick is played on him by one of the carnival workers, the dwarf takes his own life. Gorman shows us the dwarf’s sister, also a diminutive person, who journeys to the carnival to find out what caused her brother to take his own life. The story is a masterful character study written in Gorman’s spare yet evocative prose style. Gorman perfectly captures the bleak and grimy world of the carnival without imitating Bradbury’s style. “The Wind from Midnight” was reprinted in Gorman’s 1992 collection Prisoners and Other Stories as well as his 1996 collection Moonchasers and Other Stories. Gorman was a prolific novelist, short story writer, and anthologist known for his mystery fiction, including the Jack Dwyer and Sam McCain series of mystery novels. Gorman was a co-founder of Mystery Scene magazine. Gorman also wrote novels of dark suspense and many short horror stories, the best of which are collected in The Dark Fantastic (2000).

“May 2000: The Tombstones” by James Kisner
Illustration for "Mars Is Heaven!"
by Herman Vestal
Planet Stories (Fall, 1948)
-Kisner (1947-2008) produces an interesting riff on Bradbury’s 1948 short story “Mars Is Heaven!” included in The Martian Chronicles as “The Third Expedition.” In Bradbury’s story a group of astronauts are deceived by murderous Martians into believing that Mars houses an idyllic afterlife composed of their dead relatives and sublime childhoods. Kisner’s twist on the tale is that one of the astronauts, an African-American man, was in sick bay when the other astronauts were wiped out by the Martians. This man did not have an idyllic childhood and thus the illusion does not work on him. Kisner is best remembered as one of the more interesting writers to emerge from the horror publishing boom of the 1980s, writing such novels as Zombie House, The Quagmire, and Night Blood under his name and under the pseudonyms Martin James and Eric Flanders. Kisner also wrote a number of short horror stories for the genre publications of the day. There has been a recent resurgence of interest in Kisner’s novels in the wake of Grady Hendrix’s award-winning book Paperbacks from Hell (2017), which examines the horror publishing boom of the 1980s.

First paperback edition
artist unknown
“One Life, In an Hourglass” by Charles L. Grant
-Grant (1942-2006) examines the lasting damage inflicted upon a young woman by Mr. Dark, the antagonist of Bradbury’s 1962 dark fantasy novel Something Wicked This Way Comes. In the story, a young woman named Cora is edging toward middle age and still waiting for the return of Mr. Dark many autumns after the evil entity was defeated in Bradbury’s novel. This waiting is a lingering effect of an intimate encounter with Mr. Dark and it has frozen Cora’s life in place and impaired her ability to connect with other people, especially men. Grant, who excelled in the sort of dark fantasy epitomized by Bradbury’s novel, manages to recapture the intimately disturbing aspect of the novel while taking a fresh angle on the events of Bradbury’s story. It serves as sequel of sorts to the novel but reads better as a companion piece. Grant was revered during his lifetime for his contributions to the horror genre as a novelist, short story writer, and anthologist. A proponent of “quiet horror,” Grant preferred atmosphere to excessive violence. He is known for his novels and stories centered around the fictional town of Oxrun Station as well as for his anthologies, particularly the Shadows series of original horror fiction. “One Life, In an Hourglass” was selected for Best New Horror 3 (1992) and included in the career retrospective Scream Quietly: The Best of Charles L. Grant (2012).

“Two O’Clock Session” by Richard Matheson
-Matheson (1926-2013) presents a spare story with an ingenious twist typical of his short fiction output, including his teleplays for The Twilight Zone. In the story, a psychiatrist is attempting a therapy session with a patient which maddeningly dissolves before an essential breakthrough occurs. Matheson adds another layer of surprise with a supernatural twist ending. “Two O’Clock Session” was included in Matheson’s 2003 collection Off Beat: Uncollected Stories and reprinted in Stephen Jones’s anthology Haunts: Reliquaries of the Dead (2011).

“A Lake of Summer” by Chad Oliver
-Oliver (1928-1993) perfectly captures the Bradburyesque quality of American boyhood with this moving fantasy concerning a young boy (shades of Douglas Spaulding from Dandelion Wine) who ventures out onto a lake during a dangerous storm only to be rescued by Larson, the town hermit who died in a house fire some time before. Though he never wrote for The Twilight Zone, Oliver was an early member of the Southern California Group, which included Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, George Clayton Johnson, John Tomerlin, and William F. Nolan. Oliver moved away from the Los Angeles area where the Group was centered to teach anthropology at UT Austin in his home state of Texas. Oliver incorporated anthropology into such highly regarded SF novels as Mists of Dawn (1952), The Winds of Time (1956), and The Shores of Another Sea (1971). “A Lake of Summer” was included in the 2003 collection of Oliver’s short fiction, Far from this Earth and Other Stories.

“The Obsession” by William Relling, Jr.
-Relling, Jr.’s (1954-2004) tale features an adventure of Uncle Einar, a character from the 1947 Bradbury story of the same title. Uncle Einar is a winged vampire, part of Bradbury’s Elliot Family of friendly monsters (from such tales as “The Homecoming,” “West of October,” and “The April Witch”), who is lured onto a television talk show, alongside a descendant of Dr. Van Helsing from Dracula, with unforeseen results. Relling also slyly names the show producer Harker. The tone is humorous to the point of spoof but nonetheless enjoyable. Relling, Jr. wrote three horror novels during the late 1980s and early 1990s as well as a number of short stories for the genre publications of the day, including stories and essays for Night Cry magazine. Relling also wrote an essay series, “Adventures in the Scream Trade,” for Horrorstruck and 2 A.M. magazines. 

“Something in the Earth” by Charles Beaumont
Gamma 2
cover by Morris Scott Dollens
-It was a treat to find a “lost” Beaumont (1929-1967) story in this anthology. I say lost because “Something in the Earth” was originally published in the small-circulation magazine Gamma in 1963 and never reprinted in any anthology or Beaumont collection until its appearance in The Bradbury Chronicles. It concerns an old man who attempts to protect the last vestige of wilderness on his property by resisting the inevitable onrush of urban development in a futuristic society. It is thematically related to Bradbury’s 1953 story “The Meadow,” which concerns a security guard’s efforts to protect a movie set from being destroyed. “Something in the Earth” was reprinted in the Beaumont career retrospective Mass for Mixed Voices (2013).

“The Muse” by Norman Corwin
-Corwin’s (1910-2011) short humorous tale stands as a tribute to Ray Bradbury more than a tale which can stand alone. As the title indicates, it concerns Corwin’s run-in with Bradbury’s fickle muse named Polyhymnia. Corwin, of course, is a legend as a radio dramatist who has also written a number of screenplays and teleplays over a long and highly productive career. Corwin was a friend of Bradbury’s as well as noted influence on Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling, who, like Corwin, used broadcast media to tackle social issues. William F. Nolan included Corwin’s prose work in his anthologies A Sea of Space (1970) and The Future Is Now (1970).

“The Late Arrivals” by Roberta Lannes
Illustration by
Alexander Leydenfrost
Planet Stories (Summer, 1946)
-Lannes (b. 1948) presents a Martian Chronicles story about a late-arriving family to the new frontier of Mars. This family, however, is not a happy one. The financially stressed parents are neglectful and frequently abusive of their two children, who are hopelessly caught in a web of despair in an uncontrollable situation. This remains so until a Martian family takes notice of the children and offers to rescue them from their predicament. Lannes is highly regarded as a writer of horror and dark fantasy short stories, many of which have found their way into “best of the year” anthologies. Her stories have also appeared in anthologies from leading genre editors such as Dennis Etchison, Ramsey Campbell, Stephen Jones, and Ellen Datlow. A selection of Lannes’s stories were published as The Mirror of Night (1997), with an introduction by Harlan Ellison. Lannes continues to produce speculative fiction with her most recent story, “Painting the Burning Fence,” appearing in Adam’s Ladder: An Anthology of Dark Science Fiction (2017).

“Hiding” by Richard Christian Matheson
-Matheson (b. 1953), son of Richard Matheson, presents an inimitable short fantasy about a young married couple who experiences their first argument with unexpected results. The husband hides away from the wife in their home but never comes out, even after years have passed, only leaving little pieces of evidence that he still moves around unseen. Richard Christian Matheson began his career as a television writer (Amazing Stories, Tales from the Crypt, Nightmares & Dreamscapes, Masters of Horror) but also made his mark in prose fiction with his concentrated, disturbing short-short stories, collected in Dystopia (2000). His only novel, Created By (1993), is a horror satire which takes on the television industry. 

“Salome” by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Illustration for "The Homecoming"
by Lawrence Sterne Stevens
Famous Fantastic Mysteries (Dec. 1952)
-Yarbro (b. 1942) gives us another story set in the world of Bradbury’s Elliott Family. This time the odd young vampire Timothy is shown in his adult years attempting to foster a romantic relationship with a co-worker only to find himself battling the young woman’s overprotective cat Salome. Yarbro is known for her long-running series of historical horror novels chronicling the lives of the immortal vampire Count St. Germain, which began with Hotel Transylvania (1978). Yarbro is hugely prolific, having produced numerous novels, short stories, collections, and essays in and out of the SF genre. She has won Grand Master awards from the World Fantasy, Bram Stoker, and International Horror Guild conventions. 

“The Inheritance” by Bruce Francis
-Ray Bradbury’s 1944 story “The Lake” is a ghost story which relates the drowning death of a young girl through the perspective of a young boy who grows to manhood, returns to the scene of the tragedy, and experiences a gentle encounter with the young girl’s ghost. The missing portion of the story is the time immediately after the young girl’s death, when the repercussions of the incident reverberate through the community and through the life of the young boy. Bruce Francis gives us a haunting portrait of these events told through the harrowing lens of a family tragedy. The story is highly effective and one of the most memorable of the anthology. Francis does not attempt a stylistic imitation of Bradbury in order to display his own talent as a prose stylist. Francis is described by William F. Nolan as having once owned “the largest Bradbury collection on the West Coast.” Francis wrote one novel, Scenic Route (1990), and a few short stories for such anthologies as Charles L. Grant’s Shadows 3 (1980).

“The Man with the Power Tie” by Christopher Beaumont
-Beaumont (b. 1950) presents a directly connected variation of Bradbury’s 1966 story “The Man in the Rorschach Shirt” with this tale about a psychiatrist whose necktie elicits an emotional response in those who see it. Beaumont is the oldest son of Twilight Zone writer Charles Beaumont and first entered the entertainment industry as a young actor in guest roles on television series such as Bonanza and The Brady Bunch. A technical job in the industry followed before Beaumont began selling his scripts to television series such as Fame and Highway to Heaven. “The Man with the Power Tie” was Beaumont’s first published prose story. Beaumont has also provided prefatory essays for collections of his father’s work.

“Centigrade 233” by Gregory Benford
Cover art by
Joseph Mugnaini
-In this clever variation of Bradbury’s 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451, Gregory Benford (b. 1941) presents a future society which fosters a high-price collector’s market for objects of the past but finds the only useful purpose for books is burning them. The story is a conscious attempt to create an alternate future from that presented in Bradbury’s novel but with the same ultimate outcome. It is also a love letter to the Golden Age of science fiction with its focus on the early pulp magazines. The story was reprinted in the December, 1991 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, collected in Benford’s 1995 collection Matter’s End, included in the 2011 anthology Future Media (ed. Rick Wilber), and reprinted in The Best of Gregory Benford (2015). Despite the admittedly interesting variation on Bradbury's dystopian theme, I didn’t respond as positively to the story as the many reprints would suggest of the story’s quality. Perhaps I’m simply suffering fatigue with variations of Fahrenheit 451. Benford is a longtime professor of physics at UC Irvine as well as an important author of hard SF who has been hugely prolific since the 1960s. Benford has won the Nebula Award twice as well as the Ditmar, BSFA, and Phoenix Awards. I first became aware of Benford as a commentator on the Canadian public television series Prisoners of Gravity, some episodes of which can be found online and which come highly recommended.

“Filling Out Fannie” by John Maclay
-This very short story by Maclay (b. 1944) examines the inner life of the character Fannie from Bradbury’s 1985 detective novel Death Is a Lonely Business. Fannie, an obese woman, is murdered by a killer who preys upon the lonely. In Maclay’s story, he displays Fannie’s outward loneliness as hiding her true nature, which is that of a woman who possessed passionate goals, one of which was, absurdly enough, to take her weight gain as far as she possibly could. Maclay’s tale is little more than a character piece, one which examines a minor character in a lesser-read Bradbury work. For these reasons the story does not entirely satisfy as a narrative but will likely be of interest to readers who enjoy Bradbury’s novel. Maclay is a prolific writer of SF and horror, having written many short stories, poems, and essays in the genres. His short fiction has been collected in such volumes as Mindwarps (1991) and Night Tales (1998), and he has also edited the anthologies Nukes (1986) and Voices from the Night (1994).

“Land of the Second Chance” by J.N. Williamson
-J.N. Williamson (1932-2005) is one of the few writers in this anthology who makes a conscious attempt to emulate Bradbury’s idiosyncratic prose style. As a result he ends up immolating a multitude of the author’s creations in a confusing jumble which suggests that Bradbury’s characters are given a double-edged chance at immortality by the villainous Ice Doctor, who entraps the characters in a prison of their own memories. Later in the anthology, William F. Nolan attempts something similar with his “The Dandelion Chronicles” but is far more successful because Nolan understands that cramming Bradbury references into a (necessarily) flimsy narrative is best achieved through parody. Unfortunately, Williamson is deadly serious and his narrative falters under the weight of its convictions. Among readers of horror fiction Williamson is known as a prolific novelist in a career which goes back to the mid-1960s. Williamson fully embraced the horror publishing boom of the 1980s by producing a slew of horror novels for companies such as Leisure and Zebra which benefited from now-collectible cover illustrations. Williamson was equally successful as an editor overseeing the uniformly excellent Masques series of horror anthologies, which ran five volumes from 1984 to 2006. Williamson also edited a well-regarded how-to book for genre writers, How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction (1987). Williamson was awarded a Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2002. 

“The November Game” by F. Paul Wilson
Illustration by
Lee Brown Coye
Weird Tales (March, 1948)
-Wilson (b. 1946) presents a direct sequel to Bradbury’s 1948 story “The October Game,” a macabre masterpiece concerning a husband who takes revenge upon his wife one Halloween night in a particularly grisly manner concerning their daughter. Wilson’s tale follows the Father after his arrest and incarceration in a nasty and absolutely enjoyable piece of short fiction which relates its horrid events with gleeful aplomb. There is a surreal quality to Wilson’s story which is not found in Bradbury’s original but works for the fact that Wilson does not attempt to imitate Bradbury stylistically. Though Bradbury’s story has been reprinted dozens of times since its original publication, it did not appear in a Bradbury collection until 1980’s The Stories of Ray Bradbury. One suspects that, as time moved on and Bradbury diversified as a writer, the viciousness of the story caused him some embarrassment though it is without doubt one of Bradbury’s most popular horror stories and has been reprinted as recently as 2015 in October Dreams II: A Celebration of Halloween (ed. Richard Chizmar & Robert Morrish). F. Paul Wilson included “The November Game” in his short fiction collection Aftershock & Others: 19 Oddities (2009) and Paula Guran included the tale in her 2011 themed anthology Halloween. Wilson became a fixture on the horror scene with the publication of his 1981 novel The Keep. Since then he has published several additional novels, including the popular Repairman Jack series, and dozens of short stories in the premier genre markets. Wilson has won multiple Bram Stoker and Prometheus Awards. 

“The Other Mars” by Robert Sheckley
Illustration by Vincent Napoli
Thrilling Wonder Stories
August, 1948
-Sheckley (1928-2005) presents one of the more enjoyable tales in the anthology with this story that examines the differences in Bradbury’s Mars and Mars as we really know it to be. It tells of an astronaut who lands with a team on Mars and, while exploring away from the ship, crosses a threshold into the pastoral world of Bradbury’s Mars from The Martian Chronicles. Doubting what he sees, the astronaut keeps the experience a secret from the rest of the crew before being forced to make a choice between staying in Bradbury’s heavenly Martian world and returning to the world he knows. If you have been reading our series looking at Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine then you’ve already encountered Sheckley’s short fiction, as he was a fixture in the magazine during the early issues. Though he wrote several novels, Sheckley was at his most effective in the short story form and among his many collections are volumes such as Citizen in Space (1955), Shards of Space (1962), and The People Trap (1968). Sheckley’s long and impressive career was crowned with a special Nebula Award in 2001.

“Feed the Baby of Love” by Orson Scott Card
-By far the longest story in the anthology, this novella from Card (b. 1951) concerns a famous female musician who decides to ditch her real life to assume a fake existence in a Bradburyesque small town. What she finds there is a group of men who pass their lives away playing a strange game, the rules of which only they know. When she is let in the game she discovers that the people of this town live the life she thinks she’s always wanted to live. She is forced to rethink this position when her advances upon a married man are rebuffed. Card’s tale concerns fame, existence, contentment, and, most importantly, what becomes of our dreams once we realize we are unlikely to attain them. I thought it was a strange yet moving piece which possesses only a tenuous connection to Bradbury beyond the broad thematic crossroads it shares with Bradbury’s fiction. Card, of course, is the multiple Nebula Award-winning author of the expansive Ender’s Game series of novels and stories, as well as Alvin Maker saga and numerous short stories. Card won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1978 and his hugely successful career has certainly borne out that early bestowment. “Feed the Baby of Love” was included in Card’s 2008 collection Keeper of Dreams.

“The Dandelion Chronicles” by William F. Nolan
Illustration by Boris Dolgov
Weird Tales (July, 1946)
-This selection from the editor is a previously published story which was revised for inclusion in the anthology. “The Dandelion Chronicles” is a combination parody and love letter to the fiction of Ray Bradbury as it consists entirely of allusions to Bradbury’s stories, novels, characters, and settings, written in an exaggeration of Bradbury’s prose style. Nolan states in his introduction that he wrote the piece strictly from a love and abiding affection for the fiction of Ray Bradbury. A fun game to play with this one is to see if you can catch every Bradbury reference and match it to its corresponding work. The story first saw publication as a limited edition pamphlet in 1984 and subsequently appeared in the Summer, 1987 issue of Fantasy Tales magazine. If you are a regular reader of this blog then you know of our high opinion of William F. Nolan and his long career as a writer of some of the best horror, suspense, and science fiction of the last several decades. For those who are interested in learning more about Nolan, revisit our interview with him.

“Fifty Years, Fifty Friends” by Ray Bradbury
-The coda to the anthology is a nostalgia-tinged essay by Bradbury about his formative years as a writer and the many people who helped and encouraged him along the way. Though the essay is not an attempt at any sort of introspection, it does give a wonderful view of the early days of science fiction fandom in Los Angeles and the ways in which the line between fan and professional blurred in a way it is never likely to do again. Bradbury relates a number of fascinating anecdotes about growing up in the Los Angeles area and hobnobbing with the famous, the soon-to-be-famous, and the dreamers. Among the creative figures Bradbury speaks of in the essay are Jack Williamson, Forrest J. Ackerman, Leigh Brackett, George Burns, Hannes Bok, Laraine Day, Ross Rocklynne, Henry Kuttner, William F. Nolan, Sam Peckinpah, John Huston, Norman Corwin, Federico Fellini, and many others. One aspect I expected Bradbury to discuss was his mentoring of the Group, the Southern California writers who came to dominate sf and fantasy in print, film, and television. Alas, it is not a story told here but has been recounted elsewhere.

-Overall, The Bradbury Chronicles was a satisfying anthology on its own and a fascinating view of Bradbury’s legacy through the lens of tribute from leading SF writers of the day. If you are a Bradbury fan this is a must-have for your collection and though it is clearly aimed at such fans I believe it can be enjoyed on its own merits.

-If you have read this far, thanks for spending some time with me looking over this somewhat neglected volume of Bradbury tribute stories. The book went through only three printings in the early 1990s (U.S. hardcover, UK hardcover, U.S. paperback) and has not been reprinted since. As of this writing, there is no e-book version available. Hardcover copies of the book are still relatively affordable online as are paperback copies. I plan to take a similar look at the Bram Stoker Award-winning 2012 Bradbury tribute anthology Shadow Show sometime in the future. See you then!

-JP

Monday, July 2, 2018

"Valley of the Shadow"

Philip Redfield (Ed Nelson) and his dog Rolly
during their trip through Peaceful Valley
“Valley of the Shadow”
Season Four, Episode 105
Original Air Date: January 17, 1963

Cast:
Dorn: David Opatoshu
Philip Redfield: Ed Nelson
Ellen Marshall: Natalie Trundy
Connolly: Jacques Aubuchon
Evans: Dabbs Greer
Father: James Doohan
Girl: Morgan Brittany (as Suzanne Cupito)
Attendant: Sandy Kenyon
Townspeople: Henry Beckman
                       Bart Burns
                       King Calder
                       Pat O’Hara

Crew:
Writer: Charles Beaumont (original teleplay)
Director: Perry Lafferty
Producer: Herbert Hirschman
Director of Photography: Robert Pittack
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Associate Producer: Murray Golden
Assistant to the Producer: John Conwell
Art Direction: George W. Davis, John J. Thompson
Film Editor: Everett Dodd, A.C.E.
Set Decoration: Henry Grace, Don Greenwood, Jr.
Assistant Director: Ray de Camp
Music: stock
Sound: Franklin Milton, Joe Edmondson
Mr. Serling’s Wardrobe: Eagle Clothes
Filmed at MGM Studios

And Now, Mr. Serling:

“Next on Twilight Zone, a marvelously exciting excursion into a very strange place called ‘Valley of the Shadow.’ It comes from the probing mind of Mr. Charles Beaumont, and whether you’re a science fiction buff, a fantasy lover, or just needful of some escape, this one should fill most of your requirements.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
“You’ve seen them, little towns tucked away from the main roads. You’ve seen them but have you thought about them? What do the people in these places do? Why do they stay? Philip Redfield never thought about them. If his dog hadn’t gone after that cat he would have driven through Peaceful Valley and put it out of his mind forever. But he can’t do that now because, whether he knows it or not, his friend’s shortcut has led him right into the capital of The Twilight Zone.”


Summary:
            Philip Redfield, a reporter, is traveling by car with his dog through New Mexico. He attempts a shortcut and becomes lost. Soon, he spots a sign for a small town named Peaceful Valley. When he arrives he is immediately put off by the local gas station attendant who not only struggles to find the gas tank on Redfield’s car but also states that Redfield will have to travel eighty miles to get back to a main highway. Redfield is further annoyed when the attendant informs him that the only restaurant in town is closed.
            Redfield’s dog leaps from the car to chase a cat from the arms of a little girl. Redfield quickly follows and arrives in time to see the little girl use a small device to make Redfield’s dog disappear. Redfield demands to know what happened to his dog. The girl’s father attempts to mollify Redfield by suggesting that the dog ran around the back of the house. After the men split up to search for the dog, the girl’s father uses a device to bring the dog back. Redfield is happy to get his dog back but realizes there is something very strange about this town.
            Meanwhile, the few townspeople Redfield encounters seem desperate to be rid of him. Ellen Marshall, who works at the local hotel, claims there are no rooms available despite the rather obvious fact that there are no guests in the hotel. Perturbed but nonetheless ready to be out of Peaceful Valley, Redfield climbs into his car and drives away. At the edge of town his car suddenly crashes into an invisible barrier, stunning Redfield and throwing his dog from the car.
            Four men appear and insist on escorting Redfield back into town to see a doctor. Redfield checks on his dog and finds the animal dead. Redfield initially puts up a fight but eventually allows himself to be taken back to town. One of the men stays behind and uses a small device to bring Redfield’s dog back to life.
            Instead of being brought to a doctor, Redfield is led to the mayor’s office. The mayor, Dorn, arrives along with two associates named Connolly and Evans. They question Redfield about what he has seen in the town. After consulting one another, they inform Redfield that he will not be allowed to leave Peaceful Valley. Dorn proceeds to relate an incredible story. Many years ago a man arrived in Peaceful Valley. He may not have been from Earth. He introduced Peaceful Valley to scientific wonders far beyond the ability of mankind. They have used these wonders to build lives of peace and comfort for themselves. Their greatest fear is that their secrets will become known to the world-at-large, which will use the technology to bring devastation upon the planet. For this reason, Redfield cannot leave town.
            Dorn displays many amazing instruments for Redfield, including a machine which can heal grievous injury and another which can produce objects (from ham sandwiches to handguns) using coded cards. Redfield is given two options: death or assimilation. Redfield chooses assimilation. Though he is given a comfortable house and finds himself strongly attracted to Ellen Marshall, Redfield plans his escape from town. The idea that this technology, which could be used to cure disease and alleviate hunger, is being kept a secret in this small town drives him mad. When Ellen appears to reciprocate his feelings, Redfield springs into action.
            He returns to Dorn’s office and uses a machine to produce a handgun. He steals the book of secret formulas from a wall safe, setting off an alarm system. When Dorn and his men arrive and try to stop him, Redfield shoots them. On the edge of town Ellen suggests that Redfield look inside the book of secret formulas. The pages are blank. The entire escape was a setup to gauge Redfield’s adjustment to his permanent life in Peaceful Valley. The only option left is execution. Or is it?
            Using their technology, Dorn turns back time to the moment Redfield was preparing to leave the gas station. Although Redfield is mildly bewildered, especially when he sees Ellen, he leaves town ignorant of his extraordinary adventure.            

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“You’ve seen them, little towns tucked away far from the main roads. You’ve seen them but have you thought about them? Have you wondered what the people do in such places, why they stay? Philip Redfield thinks about them now and he wonders, but only very late at night, when he’s between wakefulness and sleep, in The Twilight Zone.”

Commentary:

            With “Valley of the Shadow,” writer Charles Beaumont is far more interested in the ideas presented by the narrative than in the narrative itself. His principal interest is to challenge the viewer on the ethical implications which accompany great advancements in technology. This goes some way in excusing the logical missteps in the narrative, which include the fact that a town which wishes to remain unnoticed by outsiders would place a directional sign at a crossroads. Also the fact that such a town would be caught completely unaware and unprepared when an outsider found their way to town. In this regard, Redfield is immediately presented with a surly gas station attendant who cannot find the gas tank on a car as well as a hotel manager who doggedly repeats an easily contested lie. It is also difficult to believe that the townspeople would be so progressive as to allow a child to possess a device which can destroy and recreate matter.
The viewer also wonders how a generation of townspeople, even those who live a technologically enhanced life of comfort, could all be content to remain isolated their entire lives. Surely someone would desire to leave town if only out of curiosity. Lastly, the solution to the problem of Redfield, to use advanced technology to turn back time, is one which should have been arrived at nearer the beginning of the ordeal. For Beaumont it is an uncharacteristically, though necessarily, convenient solution akin to the “it’s only a dream” ending. As noted in Marc Scott Zicree’s The Twilight Zone Companion, at least one contemporary reviewer did not fully understand that time had been reversed, instead believing that Redfield daydreamed the events.
            Upon repeat viewings it becomes clear that these inconsistencies are merely the straw ladder which Beaumont climbs to get where he really wants to go, that being an (ultimately unresolved) exploration of the dilemma presented by Redfield’s presence in Peaceful Valley. Similar to Beaumont’s previous episode, “In His Image,” another tale of technology, violence, and the ethics of progress, the narrative arc serves as an examination of what it means to wield enormous technological power and whether that power should be used if it can conversely cause great harm.  
Further evidence that Beaumont is unconcerned with narrative logic is the expedient, fable-like story of how Peaceful Valley came into possession of such advanced technology. To quickly recap: a strange man, possibly extraterrestrial, arrived suddenly in Peaceful Valley, bringing great technological wonders with him. He gifted the technology to the town with the admonition that the townspeople must never share the technology with the world at large. Why? Because it would certainly get into the hands of people who would use it to make weapons of mass destruction. Albert Einstein and the Manhattan Project are alluded to at this point.
Another interesting observation is that Peaceful Valley, despite the presence of advanced technology, is frozen in time. Redfield spots a decade old newspaper in the hotel lobby and the overall feel of the town is one of rural isolation. One hardly expects Peaceful Valley to resemble the 1960s version of the City of the Future but one also does not expect it to be a New Mexico Mayberry. Although, according to the directional sign, nearly a thousand people live in Peaceful Valley, we are only shown a scant dozen or so townspeople, giving the impression of a ghost town, or one in which progress has long since passed by. It is not until Redfield is shown behind the curtain, so to speak, that the production is given over to some semblance of futuristic display with a minimalistic design typical of the series.
It can be difficult for the viewer to determine the significance of these divergent qualities. The obvious answer appears to be that the rural nature of the town is a façade to fool unwanted outsiders. If this is the case, however, why is the town so unprepared for Redfield’s appearance? Is it rather that Beaumont suggests that technological innovation is not the path to societal progress, or that technology brings such comforts as to create a community of a slothful citizens? Both of these thematic angles are old pathways in the SF genre. Whatever the case, the insular lifestyle adopted by Peaceful Valley seems also to have intellectually and emotionally affected the townspeople. They appear to be ignorant of basic human interactive behavior and their impulsive responses to Redfield’s natural curiosity is largely the catalyst for the chaos which follows. Only the mayor, Dorn, is able to remain reasonable amid the events which unfold after Redfield’s intrusion.
The final sequence of the episode only adds to the confusion. Redfield commits a calculated act of violence which likely alienates the viewer but also serves to reinforce the townspeople’s suspicion of Redfield’s ultimate goal, to abscond with the town’s technological secrets. We can be reassured by the idea that Redfield knew the townspeople could be healed with their technology but it still illustrates that the desire for advanced technology can drive people to violence. This is a similar structure to that previously used by Beaumont in “In His Image,” although that episode used a final sequence of violence as an act of purgation. Here it serves only to bring us back to where we began. The experiment is over and it has failed.
































Typical of the series, the special effects in “Valley of the Shadow” were achieved through a combination of economy and ingenuity. The effect of people, animals, or objects appearing and disappearing was achieved through editing and film reversal, as was the effect of Evans (Dabbs Greer) miraculously healing after being stabbed by Dorn in a bizarre and unsettling display of the town’s abilities in medical science. The most impressive effect in the episode occurs when Philip Redfield’s car crashes into the invisible barrier which surrounds the town. Author Marc Scott Zicree, in The Twilight Zone Companion, learned the secret of this effect from director Perry Lafferty. Two 1959 Chevrolet Impala convertibles were used for the scene. One of the cars was front-end wrecked and the other was not. Ed Nelson was filmed driving the un-wrecked car toward the mark. Then, with a stunt performer inside, the chassis of the un-wrecked car was tethered by chain, with a bit of slack, and then slowly driven to the mark where the car was to crash into the invisible wall. There, the chain pulled taut and abruptly jerked the car to a stop*. This was filmed from a close side angle to obscure the tethering. Ed Nelson was then filmed behind the wheel of the front-end wrecked car. A framing shot of the wrecked car completed the scene and the sequence was edited in a way to give the appearance of the car crashing against an invisible barrier.
The Twilight Zone is often casually summarized as a series in which ordinary people are placed into extraordinary circumstances. Perhaps no story type better epitomizes this quality than the tale of someone arriving upon a strange town. Among the variations of this theme explored on the series are Rod Serling’s first season episodes “Where Is Everybody?” and “Walking Distance,” Beaumont’s own first season episode “Elegy,” and Earl Hamner, Jr.’s fifth season episode “Stopover in a Quiet Town.” Other writers on the series found this story type useful as well. Stories such as Richard Matheson’s short story “The Children of Noah” and Ray Bradbury’s “Mars Is Heaven!” and “The Town Where No One Got Off” come immediately to mind. Unlike these related episodes and stories, there seems to be no satisfactory revelation in “Valley of the Shadow,” no shocking twist ending or profound change in character. Whatever lesson is to be learned from the proceedings, if there is a lesson to be learned at all, must come from the viewer.
Beaumont in this rare mode of social commentary reminds the viewer of the moral fables of series creator Rod Serling, who approached similar material in episodes such as “The Shelter,” “The Gift,” and “The Old Man in the Cave,” the latter an adaptation of a Henry Slesar story. An observation upon the series as a whole is that technology is rarely presented as something which brings about prosperity and happiness. This is obvious in such dystopian episodes as “Eye of the Beholder” or “Number Twelve Looks Just Like You” but is more effectively presented in episodes in which an adverse psychological change occurs in one or more characters, such as in “Where Is Everybody?”, “The Lonely,” or “The Trade-Ins,” all written by Serling. Richard Matheson’s “A World of His Own” may be the only episode in which technology brings about preferable change, though Gregory West’s magical Dictaphone can better be classified as magic.

David Opatoshu (1918-1996) is the surprising top-billed actor in the episode,
David Opatoshu
playing Dorn, the mayor of Pleasant Valley. Opatoshu’s credits date back to 1939 but he came into his own in the early years of dramatic television. Though he appeared in a handful of prestige films (The Brothers Karamazov (1958), Torn Curtain (1966)) Opatoshu is likely better known to television viewers, particularly genre television viewers. Opatoshu’s earliest genre credits include an episode of Inner Sanctum (“Nobody Laughs at Lou” (1954)) and the infamous dystopian episode of Playhouse 90, “A Sound of Different Drummers” (1957), which achieved infamy as an unauthorized adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451. Opatoshu also appeared in episodes of Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond (“Earthquake”), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (“On the Nose,” “Strange Miracle”), The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (in a memorable adaptation of H.G. Wells’s “The Magic Shop,” adapted by writer John Collier and director Robert Stevens), The Outer Limits (“A Feasibility Study”), Star Trek (“A Taste of Armageddon”), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and The Time Tunnel. Opatoshu also appeared in an episode of Rod Serling’s The Loner (“Westward, the Shoemaker”) and Earl Hamner’s Falcon Crest (“Acid Tests”). His last credit was for the short-lived 1991 comedic medical series Stat.
Ed Nelson (1928-2014), playing reporter Philip Redfield, learned his craft in the
Ed Nelson
local theater and television venues of New Orleans, even serving as director of local station WDSU-TV, now a MeTV affiliate, before relocating to Los Angeles in the mid-1950s. There he began to appear in B-grade science fiction and horror films such as Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957), and The Brain Eaters (1958) before landing numerous roles in television westerns and police dramas. Nelson still found time to appear in a number of memorable genre series, including a whopping four episodes of Boris Karloff’s Thriller (“The Fatal Impulse,” “Dialogues with Death,” “The Cheaters” and “A Good Imagination”), The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (“Captive Audience,” “I’ll Be Judge – I’ll Be Jury”), The Outer Limits (“Nightmare”), Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (“Little Girl Lost,” no relation to the Twilight Zone episode of the same title), The Sixth Sense, and the Logan’s Run television series. His last credit was for the 2003 film Runaway Jury.
The striking actress Natalie Trundy (b. 1940), playing the naïve yet alluring
Natalie Trundy
Ellen Marshall, was born in Boston and raised in New York City where she worked her way on the Broadway stage by age 12. Television work arrived in 1953 and Trundy smoothly transitioned from child actor to young adult on such series as The Alcoa Hour, The Goodyear Playhouse, and Studio One. Genre credits include episodes of Climax! (“Along Came a Spider”) and, memorably, Boris Karloff’s Thriller, starring opposite Leslie Nielsen in the premier episode, “The Twisted Image.” Trundy also appeared in an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, “The Long Silence,” which was adapted by writers Charles Beaumont and William D. Gordon from the Hilda Lawrence’s story “Composition for Four Hands.” Trundy suffered a career-halting back injury in a 1963 car accident but returned to acting in 1967. She married producer Arthur P. Jacobs in 1960 and appeared in four of Jacobs’s Apes films, including Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973). Trundy retired from acting in 1978, her last credit being for an episode of Quincy, M.E.
Other familiar faces in the cast include James Doohan (1920-2005) as the father
James Doohan
of the little girl who causes Redfield’s dog to vanish. Doohan, of course, is well-known as Montgomery “Scotty” Scott on the original series of Star Trek and its accompanying films. Doohan also appeared in episodes of Suspense (“Go Home Dead Man”), Tales of Tomorrow (“Plague from Space”), The Outer Limits (“Expanding Human”), and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea before securing the role of Scotty.
Morgan Brittany (b. 1951), here billed under her birth name Suzanne Cupito,
Morgan Brittany (Suzanne Cupito)
plays the little girl who makes Redfield’s dog vanish. Best known for her role as the villainess Katherine Wentworth on Dallas, Brittany appeared in two additional episodes of The Twilight Zone, the first season episode “Nightmare as a Child” and, memorably, as the scheming little girl Susan in the fifth season episode “Caesar and Me.” Brittany also appeared as a child in episodes of Boris Karloff’s Thriller (“The Fingers of Fear”) and The Outer Limits (“The Inheritors: Part II”). Although she continues to occasionally appear in films and television series, Brittany is better known today as a conservative political commentator who is an occasional guest on news programs and talk shows.
Regular Twilight Zone viewers are sure to recognize the gas station attendant as
Sandy Kenyon
actor Sandy Kenyon (1922-2010), who appeared in two additional episodes of the series, “The Odyssey of Flight 33” and “The Shelter,” portraying the villainous Frank Henderson in the latter, a racist who incites violence among neighbors during a panic over a possible nuclear attack. Kenyon also appeared in episodes of Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond (“Front Runner”), Thriller (“The Hollow Watcher”), and The Outer Limits (“Counterweight”).
Although “Valley of the Shadow” is an episode filled with ideas of varying interest and complexity, Beaumont hardly has the space to fully explore any of it and we are left with one of the few missteps from Beaumont on the series. The cast is a treat for genre fans and the pacing is not nearly as brutal as the worst of the fourth season but ultimately “Valley of the Shadow” is unable to satisfactorily drag itself out of the quagmire of its ambitions.

Grade: C

Grateful acknowledgement is made to Marc Scott Zicree for information found in The Twilight Zone Companion (2nd edition, Silman-James, 1992), and to the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com).

*Lafferty also relates to Zicree the fact that the stunt performer who drove the wrecked car, despite only driving the car at 12 mph, needed to be hospitalized after the stunt.

Notes:

--Perry Lafferty also directed the fourth season episodes “In His Image” and “The Thirty Fathom Grave.”
--Ed Nelson also appeared in the second season Night Gallery segment “Little Girl Lost.”
--Dabbs Greer also appeared in the third season episode “Hocus-Pocus and Frisby.”
--Morgan Brittany also appeared (as Suzanne Cupito) in the first season episode “Nightmare as a Child” and the fifth season episode “Caesar and Me.” Brittany also performed in the Twilight Zone Radio Dramas “The Passersby” and “Mirror Image.”  
--Sandy Kenyon also appeared in the second season episode “The Odyssey of Flight 33” and the third season episode “The Shelter.”
--Henry Beckman also appeared in the second season episode “A Thing About Machines,” as well as the first season Night Gallery segment “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar.”
--King Calder also appeared in the second season episode “The Trouble with Templeton.”
--Pat O’Hara also appeared in the second season Night Gallery segment “A Feast of Blood.”
--“Valley of the Shadow” was adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Chelcie Ross.
--The title of the episode is taken from the fourth line of the 23rd psalm from the Book of Psalms: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.”

-JP