Friday, September 24, 2010

Five Questions with Ray Bradbury

On Oct. 1, the Aurora Fox's will kick off its regional premiere of "Something Wicked This Way Comes," a drama based on Ray Bradbury's novel about a creepy carnival that visits a small town. The Sentinel recently caught up with Bradbury to get some background about his seminal work, as well as some input about the advent of e-reader technology.

Aurora Sentinel (Adam Goldstein): Can you give a bit of background about the inspiration for the original 1962 novel “Something Wicked This Way Comes”? Was there one incident or anecdote that guided the development of the plot elements, characters or setting?

Ray Bradbury: “Something Wicked This Way Comes” was born from a story that I wrote when I was 24 or 25 years old called “The Black Ferris,” which I sold to Weird Tales. One day I pulled the story out, after having seen Gene Kelly in “Invitation to the Dance.”  I knew after seeing this that I had to write something for Mr. Kelly so I took this short story, turned it into an outline/treatment called “Dark Carnival,” in hopes that Mr. Kelly might be able to do something with it. As it turns out Gene loved the idea and took it to Paris to try and get financing, but it didn’t work out. With the outline/treatment dead, the novel “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” came to life because the idea simply refused to die.

AS: Of all the narratives in your vast body of work, what do you think it is about “SWTWC” that makes it well suited for a stage adaptation?

RB: I’m not really sure about this.  I suppose it’s well-suited for stage because of all the fantastic characters and the stage, I believe, likes to have fantastic characters.

AS: Tattoos play a central role in the backstory of Mr. Dark, the SWTWC villain who bears an inked body image for each of his victims. It was a narrative element device first used in 1951’s “The Illustrated Man.” What are the roots of this use of tattoos as a literary symbol, as a way to develop characters and frame separate stories?

RB: When I was twelve years old I visited a carnival and met a man, Mr. Electrico, who took me backstage and introduced me to a man with tattoos covering his entire body. I was amazed and instinctively knew that there had to be stories tied in with each and every tattoo. When I grew up I wrote about this man, “The Illustrated Man.” I thought that it was fascinating that a man could have dozens of stories tattooed all over his body. And when I wrote “Something Wicked” I drew from these memories, as well.

AS: Considering the small-twon setting of the story, do you think it’s especially fitting that the regional premiere of the play is taking place at the Aurora Fox, a community theater that serves a city of about 300,000 people?

RB: I think that it’s wonderful that this is happening at the Aurora Fox; community theater has so much to offer.

AS: A recent article in the L.A. Times cited your unwillingness to give the rights for your short stories, plays and novels to be published in an e-reader format. What is it about the technology that gives you pause as a writer?

RB: What e-books lack is that tactile feeling you get from a new or old book. And there is also the way a book smells. The smell of a new book is wonderful and an old book smells even better.

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