Archive for the ‘Ray Bradbury’ Category


The Outer Reaches edited by August Derleth

December 22, 2012

The Book: The Outer Reaches: Favorite Science-Fiction Tales Chosen by their Authors  edited by August Derleth.  Originally published in 1951. The paperback edition contains 10 of the 17 stories from the hardback edition. Published  by Berkley Books, G-116.

The Outer Reaches

The Stories:

“Co-Operate—or Else!” –  A. E. van Vogt, 1942 – A man and his mortal enemy, a super-intelligent, telepathic, space panther, must survive on an extremely hostile planet.

“Good Night, Mr. James” – Clifford D. Simak, 1951 – A clever little story about a scientist who made a mistake and now must remedy it. Much fun.

“The Critters” – Frank Belknap Long, 1945 – An old man lives high up in the hills, away from an alien invasion. Didn’t care for this one.

“Death Sentence” – Isaac Asimov, 1943 – The government takes over the operations of a rogue archaeologist who has discovered an ancient civilization of robots-who-don’t-know-they’re-robots.

“This Is the Land” – Nelson S. Bond, 1951 – The children of the last survivor of a nuclear holocaust bury him on the surface.

“Ylla” –  Ray Bradbury, 1950 – From The Martian Chronicles. I skipped it here.

“The Green Cat” – Cleve Cartmill, 1951 – No one questions that there’s anything weird about a green cat with leaf-shaped ears.

“Pardon My Mistake” –  Fletcher Pratt, 1946 – A man, mad with jealousy, makes a mistake.

“The Plutonian Drug” –  Clark Ashton Smith, 1934 – Space travel leads to new medicines and drugs, including one that might just let you see into the future…

“Farewell to Eden” – Theodore Sturgeon, 1949 – A man and a woman, awakened from a long cryo-sleep, leave a bomb ravaged earth for a better home.

The Evaluation: These stories are all pretty good. And, if not, they’re pretty short. The idea of authors choosing a favorite tale is quite nice. “Good Night, Mr. James” is my favorite of the group as it hits a nice balance of clever, pacing, and length.

The Cover: No credit for the cover art. Sadly, the scene on the cover isn’t from any of the stories, but it is a fine science fiction scene. Though, I have to say, is seems a bit dangerous to have pick axes in a low atmosphere environment.

Next Up: The Weapon Shops of Isher by A.E. Van Vogt.


NSF: “The Pumpernickel” by Ray Bradbury

February 20, 2012

The Book: “The Pumpernickel” by Ray Bradbury.   Originally published in Collier’s in May, 1951, the story was read in Long after Midnight published by Bantam in 1978.

The Setting: Small town Earth.

The Story: Bread reminds an old man of a happy time in his life.

The Science: Old people get a bit carried away by memory. This is not science fiction.

The Reaction: Another Bradbury vignette. Ho hum.

The Cover: Still not thrilled by it.

Next Up: Sands of Mars by Arthur C. Clarke.


“Here There be Tygers” by Ray Bradbury

February 15, 2012

The Book: “Here There be Tygers” by Ray Bradbury. The story was first published in the anthology New Tales of Space and Time  in 1951. The edition read is in R is for Rocket, published by Bantam Books in 1978.

The Setting: A planet far far away.

The Story: Prospecting space men find a planet which provides them with all their wants and desires, unless it’s threatened…

The Science: Sentient planets? Or at least reactionary eco-systems? Eh, why not?

The Reaction: Like so much of Bradbury, it’s vivid and fun to read. And, in this case, classic. So many others have ripped this idea off – paradise with a bite.

The Cover:Still not impressed. 

Next Up: “The Pumpernickel” by Ray Bradbury


“The Screaming Woman” by Ray Bradbury.

October 9, 2011

The Book:  The Screaming Woman” by Ray Bradbury.  Originally published in the magazine Today in 1951.  The edition read was published in S is for Space by Bantum in 1970.

The Setting:  Middle America.

The Story:  A girl hears a screaming woman and tries to save her, despite skepticism on all sides.

The Science:  Not really a science based story – more what they might call “a blood chilling tale of crime.”

The Reaction:  It’s a fine story. Not exceptional.

The Cover: Still unremarkable.

Etc: I once saw the Ray Bradbury Theatre version of this story, starring Drew Barrymore. It was also unremarkable.

Next Up: “The Years Draw Nigh” by Lester Del Ray


“The Fog Horn” by Ray Bradbury.

September 16, 2011

The Book:  “The Fog Horn” by Ray Bradbury. Originally published in 1951 in The Saturday Evening Post.  Read in the anthologyGolden Apples of the Sun, edition read was published by Bantum Books in 1961.

The Setting:  A lighthouse.

The Story:  A sea monster falls in love with the fog horn of a light house.

The Science:  The story suggests that a marine dinosaur, the last of its kind, hibernates/suspends its animation at the bottom of the ocean. While this is very unlikely, some birds (birds being a relative of the dinosaur) can initiate torpor, a sort of “hibernation lite,” with one species actually hibernating. To the extent that a single creature can survive for millions of years is, however, not likely.

The Reaction: This is a nice story, romantic almost. There’s a strong sense of place, and of loss. One of Bradbury’s better pieces.

The Cover:  Still the same.

Next Up:  Outpost Mars by Cyril Judd


“The Pedestrian,” by Ray Bradbury

September 12, 2011

The Book:  “The Pedestrian,” by Ray Bradbury. Originally published in “The Reporter” in 1951. Story was read in The Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury published by Bantum Books in 1961.

The Setting:  2053, Earth

The Story: A lone man walks the streets of a city after dark, instead of watching tv.

The Science:  Bradbury sees a future where people watch tv and no one reads. People still read, though, obviously, even if we watch a lot of tv, and even if the reading we do is on the internet, or the kindle, or the nook. One can see where Bradbury could imagine such a future, but I’m glad it isn’t here yet.

The Reaction:  Another quick bite of fiction, but not his best.

The Cover:  Same as last time. 

Next Up:  “The Fog Horn” by Ray Bradbury.


The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

September 2, 2011

The Book: The Illustrated Man  by Ray BradburyOriginally published in 1951, the edition read was published by Bantam in or around 1972.

The Setting:  Rural Wisconsin, a near present.

The Story: Two guys meet on the road and have dinner. One of them has a lot of tattoos. Tattoos that each have their own special story to tell. Convenient, that.

The Science: Well, the idea is that these tattoos move and bring watchers into a story. And going into any single story is a bit silly, so let’s talk about tattoos. Tattoos have been a part of civilization since at least the Neolithic. Ever heard of Otzi, the Iceman found under a receding glacier in the Alps? He died about 6000 years ago and he had tattoos. Their purpose is unknown, but that doesn’t stop scientist from guessing (because we like to guess. It’s fun.). Imagine if 6000 years in the future archaeologists uncover a few bodies with tattoos – what will those people be? Priests? An elite caste? Healers? Or just another dude with a tribal armband?

The Reaction: The connective tissue of the illustrated man is fair, and the stories run the gamut from classics to forgettable. The book itself is a classic, and probably the Bradbury short story collection to read if you only want to do it once.

The Cover:  An illustrated man sits naked upon a poorly constructed platform in a place which is distinctly NOT rural Wisconsin. The cover bores me. I don’t want to talk about it.

Next Up: City at World’s End by Edmond Hamilton.


The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

April 4, 2011

The Book: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. Originally published by Doubleday in 1950, the edition read was published by Bantam Books in 1966.

The Setting: Mostly Mars, the future. Also, a little, Earth.

The Story: A series of short stories and vignettes chronicles the fall of Martian culture, then the rise and fall of human society on Mars.

The Science: Science is not really the strong point of this book. It’s much more social. That said, the Martians fend off/murder several expeditions of human explorers with/because of their mind powers. However, the humans ultimately win because of disease. Chickenpox wipes out nearly the entire Martian race – near enough so that it doesn’t matter if any are left. The people can come and take over. Interestingly enough, no disease travels in the opposite direction.  Decimation (understatement: decimate technically means only 10% reduction) by disease is common on earth, and would probably be a very serious issue if mankind ever encountered biologically similar alien life forms.

The Reaction: A good set of stories with an interesting variety of focuses. Classically Bradbury with an interest in the social and lack of interest in exactly how and why things work the way they do. 

The Cover: Elegant, simple, evocative of Mars and Earth. Two thumbs up.

Next Up: Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov


“Forever and the Earth” by Ray Bradbury

February 6, 2011

The Book: “Forever and the Earth” by Ray Bradbury. Originally published in Planet Stories in Spring, 1950, the story was read in Long after Midnight published by Bantam in 1978.

The Setting: Earth, 2257

The Story: A failed author/independently wealthy eccentric gets some scientists to make time travel work so he can bring Thomas Wolfe forward in time to write stories about space and space travel, since no contemporary writers seem to manage it.

The Science: Time travel is always sketchy at best in these books, and more so in this one, where, at one point, Tom Wolfe manages to stay in the future through sheer force of will.  Science, however, is not really the main point of this story.

The Reaction: An interesting conceit, bringing an author from the past into the future to commission him to write stories. Despite that, I didn’t really care one way or the other. Maybe I would care more if I’d ever have read any Wolfe.

The Cover: Still the same.

Next Up: The Synthetic Man by Theodore Sturgeon.


“Punishment without Crime” by Ray Bradbury

February 5, 2011
The Book: “Punishment without Crime” by Ray Bradbury. Originally published by Other Worlds Science Stories in March 1950, the story was read in Long after Midnight published by Bantam in 1978.The Setting: Earth, a near future.

The Story: A man murders a shockingly realistic marionette of his estranged wife and is in turn put to death for it.

The Science: One of the things which shocked the main character in this story was how realistic the blood was of the murdered marionette. We have, since the 1950s, made astounding strides in visual effects. I mean, I just saw 127 Hours and the blood and tissue effects were pretty freaking impressive, so to have a robot with realistic flesh and blood is totally conceivable.

The Reaction: I wasn’t feeling this story either. The ending was all too… 1984 thought police-y. The premise of intentionally misplaced murder is nice, but I didn’t feel that the follow through lived up.

The Cover: Same as before.

Next Up: “Forever and the Earth” by Ray Bradbury