Showing posts with label Bradbury. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bradbury. Show all posts

27 February 2014

Tales Around the Fireside


by Eve Fisher

I am a short story writer.  Yes, I've written two novels, one (The Best is Yet to Be) as part of the Guideposts mystery series, "Mystery and the Minister's Wife", the other a sci-fi/fantasy piece that is still sitting in my closet.  I've written plays.  I used to write songs for myself and, later, a Southern rock-and-roll band called "Fantasy's Hand." (Those were fun days...)  But what I really feel most comfortable with is short stories.

I think a lot of this comes from my childhood.  I was an only child, and my parents were 40 when they adopted me; everyone around me was (it seemed) at least 40 years older than me, and back then children were expected to keep their mouths shut and just be there while the adults talked, talked, talked.  Luckily for me, most of them were storytellers.  A story, told in the night, to make you sigh or smile or shiver...  still pretty much the ideal.
File:Johncollier80.jpg
John Collier

And I like reading short stories.  I don't understand why so few magazines carry short stories anymore.  Why there are so few short-story magazines.  (Especially considering that attention spans seem to be growing shorter and shorter all the time, but that's another rant.)  I love them.  And some of the finest writing anywhere has been done in that format.  Here are my picks for some of the greatest short story writers:

John Collier.  "Fancies and Goodnights" contains some of his best work.  (It won the Edgar Award in 1962.)  Read "Bottle Party" to find out what really happens with a genie in the bottle.  "The Chaser" - on how tastes change over time.  "If Youth Knew What Age Could"... One of my favorites, "The Lady on the Grey."  And on and on.  Many of his stories were adapted for Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Tales of the Unexpected.  He also wrote screenplays (including "Sylvia Scarlett", [uncredited] "The African Queen", and "I am A Camera"), and a couple of novels of which my favorite is the mordant, devilish, unforgettable "His Monkey Wife."

File:Ray Bradbury (1975) -cropped-.jpgRay Bradbury.  There are not enough words in the English language to praise his amazing output of short stories.  From "The Fruit in the Bottom of the Bowl" to "I Sing the Body Electric," "April Witch" to "The Veldt", "A Sound of Thunder" to the heartbreaking "There Will Come Soft Rains", "Dark They Were and Golden Eyed", the whole body of "The Martian Chronicles", and on and on, I gobbled each and every one of his stories I could get my hands on. His work inspired me, amazed me, touched me...  couldn't get enough of it. And he was primarily a short-story writer:  aside from "Fahrenheit 451", his other novels didn't really gel for me.  ("The Martian Chronicles" is a collection of short stories, with a narration in between.)  He showed what could be done in the medium of short fiction.  And, of course, he was a regular writer for "Twilight Zone" and other TV shows...

File:The Letter poster.jpg
Somerset Maugham.  One of the few who could write both great novels, and great short stories.  "The Letter" - made into film twice, most notably with Bette Davis as the cool and collected murderess.  "The Lotus Eater" - when Paradise runs out...  "Red" - what really happens when you look up your old childhood sweetheart...  "The Luncheon" - never ask questions you can't take the answer to...  The hilarious "Three Fat Women of Antibes", "The Vessel of Wrath", "The Verger"...  and, of course, the "Ashenden" series which practically began secret agent stories.  (Alfred Hitchcock combined "The Hairless Mexican" and "The Traitor" into the 1936 movie "Secret Agent" with John Gielgud and Peter Lorre.) Seriously, his short stories are like popcorn at the movies - once I start reading them (I have a four-volume set), I can't quit until I've worked my way through...  way too many.
File:Edgar Allan Poe daguerreotype crop.png
Poe

File:Lovecraft1934.jpg
Lovecraft
File:ShirleyJack.jpg
Jackson
H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and Shirley Jackson.  And how do you want to be scared today, my precious?  My sweets?  By many-tentacled horrors from beyond space, or by crumbling ruins of decay and death, or the quiet malevolence of a quiet house or neighborhood? By the breathing darkness or that strange emptiness?  By the sudden creak or that high whistle in the depths?  Any of these will leave you wondering what's really going on next door, when you'll be able to turn the lights off again, and what is that sound in the closet or over head or under the floor...

File:Conan doyle.jpgArthur Conan Doyle.  Let us never forget that 90% of the Memoirs of Dr. John H. Watson about his inimitable companion, Sherlock Holmes, are short stories. We all have our favorites.  (Sadly, the relentless reinterpretations of Holmes and Adler have reduced my pleasure in "A Scandal in Bohemia".)  Among mine are "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches", "The Speckled Band", "The Greek Interpreter", "The Devil's Foot", and "The Norwood Builder".  I have spent many a rainy afternoon curled up in a couch with a hot cup of tea and my father's one-volume "Complete Works", reading, reading, reading, time travelling to Victorian/Edwardian London, as Sherlock Holmes - the world's only private consulting detective - solves case after case after case...  Ah...  Excuse me, I have some reading to do...

NOTE:  These are, of course, only a few of the many tremendous short-story writers I've read.  Flannery O'Connor, Guy de Maupassant, Rudyard Kipling, Roald Dahl, Daphne du Maurier ("The Birds", yes - but never forget "The Little Photographer"), Nikolai Gogol  and Anton Chekhov, Ursula LeGuin and Isaac Asimov, and so many of my esteemed colleagues...  I really do have some reading to do!

25 June 2012

AKA


by Fran Rizer
Mary Anne Evans
AKA George Eliot
What do Silas Marner, Jane Eyre, and Heathcliff, have in common?  They each had his/her story told by a female writer whose books were first published under a male pen name because it was not thought appropriate for women to be writers during the Victorian period..

Silas Marner was written by George Eliot whose real name was Mary Anne Evans.  High school and college students still study her works including Adam Bede.

Emily Brone
AKA Eric Bell




Heathcliff and Jane Eyre live on in Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. Novelist sisters Charlotte, Emily, and AnneBronte all wrote under pseudonyms when they were first published.  They chose to present themselves as brothers.  Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre as Currer Bell; Emily Bronte  wrote Wuthering Heights as Ellis Bell; and Anne Bronte's first works were published under the name Anton Bell. The sisters' first effort was a book of poetry with works by Ellis, Currer, and Anton.  It was self-published and sold only two copies!

Surely times have changed enough that women freely publish their works as females, but the prejudice hasn't been fully erased. Jeanne Rowling's chronicles of Harry Potter were published under the name J.K. Rowling because her publisher believed the stories would be better accepted by young male readers if they didn't know Harry's world was created by a woman.

Joanne Rowling
AKA J. K. Rowling
Charles Lutwidge Dodson chose his pen name by translating his first two names into Latin (Carolus Lodovicus) and then anglicizing them to Lewis Carroll.

Eric Blair proposed four pen names to his editor.  Three of them were rejected, including Kenneth Miles and P. S. Burton.  The editor chose George Orwell. which Eric had selected because of the River Orwell in Suffolk, England.

Some readers assume that the Richard Bachman novels were written by Stephen King before he became successful and switched to his own name.  Actually, King was already recognized and was churning out more than one book a year.  His editor advised that the public wouldn't accept more than one book a year from him.  King decided to publish Rage under his maternal grandfather's name--Gus Pillsbury.  The pseudonym was leaked, and King changed the pen name to Richard Bachman.  The name came from King looking around and seeing a Richard Stark book on his desk while listening to "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" by Bachman Turner Overdrive on his stereo.

Gore Vidal
AKA Edgar Box, Cameron Kay
and Katherine Everard
Gore Vidal's early books outraged critics and led to his facing a blacklist.  Vidal turned to murder mysteries under the name Edgar Box.  These books were Death in the Fifth Position, Death Before Bedtime, and Death Likes It Hot.  Vidal also wrote an international intrigue entitled Thieves Fall Out under the name Cameron Kay and a Hollywood melodrama called A Star's Progress using the byline Katherine Everard.  The "Everard" came from a gay bathhouse in New York City. 
Ray Bradbury AKA Ron Reynolds, Anthony
Corvais, Guy Amory, Doug Rogers,
William Elliott and probably others.

The late Ray Bradbury was prolific in both his work and his use of pen names.  At age nineteen, he and some friends started a fanzine.  In the first issue, Bradbury  published his work under his own name and as Ron Reynolds.  In the seccond issue, he used three pseudonyms: Anthony Corvais, Guy Amory, and Doug Rogers.  His first breakthrough was in 1945 when he had three stories accepted almost simultaneously by Mademoiselle, Charm and Collier's.  He'd submitted them under the name William Elliott and had to call editors to have checks cut in his real name.


Probably the best known pseudonym is Samuel Langhorne Clemens's use of Mark Twain.  Closer to
many of us is Jolie McLarren Swann.  The Black Orchid Novella Award published in the August. 2012, issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine is "Inner Fire" by Jolie McLarren Swann. 
Rearrange the letters in Swann's name to discover the author's true name.

Join me in two weeks for continuation of this blog about pen names. I'll share with you some I use and introduce you to my friend/mentor who was a successful mystery/thriller writer who changed her pen name and has made it to the New York Times Bestseller List.

Until we meet again, take care of ...YOU!

13 June 2012

ABC


by Neil Schofield

It's been a funny old few weeks. 'Funny' in the Emo Phillips sense of strange or bizarre. We've been pulling down the house, was the first thing, or at least a false wall that the previous owner had built to encase the monumental fireplace and chimney that graces our living room. We expected to find human remains, but all there was was a spider evidently dead of boredom. During this demolition, surrounded by stepladders and tools of all persuasions, I had a clever idea which finally turned out as usual to be a suicidal manoevre. At the end of this clever idea I fell flat on my cervical vertebrae. I suppose I was lucky: two people I know of who did the same sort of thing are now quadriplegic. But the results are still with me. For one thing, I can now only walk with the aid of a stiff drink.

But that was long ago. Last week turned out to be the most bizarre of all.
First there was the Queen Spree in London which I watched from afar, while wiping away  a fugitive tear and a fugitive spill of scotch.
The rest of the week is a sort of ABC. That's all I can think of to characterise it - sorry I put an 's' there instead of a 'z'. I'll try to do better.

A  is for Auden (W.H. of that ilk).

Tomorrow, Mimi is off to London to visit her son. Rather now than in a month, since he lives within the epicentre of the Olympic Games. She is going by Eurostar, and therefore is going under the Channel. This has her white-lipped and trembling. I have tried to reassure her that the tunnel is in a part of the planet,: "They didn't tunnel though the water, dear, but through the rock."  That does no good. For Mimi the Channel Tunnel is a wobbly sort of tube resting on the seabed.
But anyway, I shall be waving her off at the Gare du Nord which pleases me no end. I love railway stations. I love them to death. I would prefer a lot of vapour and a steam-whistle, but those days are gone, Marjorie. I'll make do with what there is. I love just looking at it all - the crossroads. And what does all this have to do with anything? Well, for a month or so, I've been reading a lot of poetry. I read poetry when the writing isn't going too well or just isn't going, when it seems to have a cleansing effect, rather like that stuff you use to unblock drains. Auden has been one of my favourite poets since I was a teenager. I don't know why. Perhaps it's the imagination coupled with a talent for the common touch.
In 1938 Auden spent some time in Brussels where he wrote some of his best shorter poems. 'The Musée des Beaux Arts' is one that I'll bang on about some other time. My all-star favourite is 'The Gare du Midi' which has always fascinated me, because it is a short mystery story, or at the very least the start of one. Everyone probably knows it by heart, but I like writing it out.
Gare du Midi


A nondescript express in from the south.
Crowds around the barrier, a face
To welcome which the mayor has not contrived
Bugles or braid: something about the mouth
Distracts the stray look with alarm and pity.
Snow is falling. Clutching a little case
He walks out briskly to infect a city
Whose terrible future may have just arrived.

You just know that on a certain day in 1938, Auden sat in a station cafe and saw something - a person - that disturbed him and stayed with him. Since I first read it, I've been trying - and we're talking decades here - to write the story that Auden began . And there must be other poems like this somewhere. Does anyone have another?

B is for Bradbury.

By a sad coincidence, on the morning of the 5th, I pulled out a copy of Fantasy and Science Fiction - October 2000. I often pull out this particular magazine to read a Ray Bradbury story called 'Quid Pro Quo'. It's a story that involves time travel but it's not about time travel, if you get me. But  I don't read it just for the story, but for the author notes, which accompany it.
In the notes, Gordon Van Gelder, ( for I take it to be he) writes this:
"One of the things Ray Bradbury takes seriously is the matter of using one's talents. When asked years ago what the Eleventh Commandment mmight be, Mr Bradbury repeated Polonius's advice to Laertes: " This above all: to thine own self be true." 
"To neglect God's gifts to you," says the great Mr B., " is one of the greater sins."


Furthermore, the manuscript bore this gentle warning from its author: "Reader, beware. If I ever meet you and ask you what you have done with your genetic talent and you give the wrong answer, I may throw you down the stairs." 

This little passage has always made me very very uneasy. And never more so than when the writing gets too difficult and I seek other easier tasks. I have been negligent in the past. Less so now. But whenever I am tempted to persuade myself that rolling and smoking a cigarette to smoke under the Big Parasol and listen to the sparrows holding a rowdy class reunion in the forsythia is a worthwhile  activity, comparable to sitting down and doing the writing, I feel the cold breath of these words on the back of my neck. The words of one of the greatest teachers of  Writing and Reading we have ever had.

C is for Christie.

Last week, I decided to try again. Agatha is not my favourite. We do not get along. We rub each other up the wrong way. So last week, I had another try to see whether, with advancing age, I could see my way to finding some good in there. And I can already feel the shudders of revulsion and loathing. ("Someone doesn't like Agatha Christie!  What sort of a world are we living in? Isn't there some sort of therapy for these people?")
I didn't read 'The ABC Murders'; that would have been way too neat. I read 'Mrs McGinty's Dead'. And I have to say, it didn't take. I simply don't like her. That's all.
But I didn't come out empty-handed. Because I realised that I had a quiz question. I know it is more Rob Lopresti's  or John  Floyd's flower-bed than mine. But I have no shame.

Neil Schofield's Big Quiz Question:

Can you find the connection between Agatha Christie and Ray Bradbury?
Clue: Think North of the Border.

Either pathetically easy or fiendishly difficult. You pays your money…
No prizes for a correct answer. Except the knowledge of a job well done.