to visit Shoals
April 27, 2000
By Franklin Harris
Science fiction is filled with classic moments, and the author of one of them is coming to North Alabama.
We are a visually oriented species, so we tend to remember most the ones from films, like when the camera pulls back to reveal the shattered Statue of Liberty in "Planet of the Apes" or Dave Bowman's confrontation with the mad HAL 9000 in "2001: A Space Odyssey." But literary SF has its share of key moments, too.
One of the most memorable is in "Usher II," one of the stories of Ray Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles."
The story's protagonist, William Stendahl, invites several people to his new house on Mars. They are not his friends; they are, in fact, his enemies. They're the sort of people who burn books not because they hate some ideas or some dreams, but because they hate ideas and dreams as such.
They all die, killed by murderous apes and the Red Death and the like. Then the house itself collapses on their worthless corpses. It's a great moment in SF because they all would have known that the house was a deathtrap if only they had read their Poe.
The house was modeled on Poe's House of Usher.
Of course, Bradbury is now almost as big a name as Edgar Allan Poe. And just as Poe's works are required reading in schools, so too are some of Bradbury's, most notably "Fahrenheit 451," his timeless anti-censorship story.
He prepared himself for a career as a writer by immersing himself in the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. But he says he doesn't write "science fiction," but rather "speculative fiction."
"I write about what's possible," Bradbury told the audience at last year's Space Frontier Foundation conference. "The only science fiction I've written is 'Fahrenheit 451.' "
In his long career he has had his own television series, "The Ray Bradbury Theater," 65 episodes of which ran on HBO and USA Network from 1985 to 1992, and survived a traumatizing experience as the screenwriter on director John Huston's "Moby Dick."
Still suffering the aftereffects of a November 1999 stroke, which left him partially paralyzed on the right side, the 79-year-old writer is as busy as ever. His current projects include plays, a mystery novel and screen adaptations of his own works, including a new version of "Fahrenheit 451," which is, after numerous fits and starts, still languishing in what film insiders call Development Hell.
He resumed his lecturing tour in January and will be in the Shoals in May.
From May 19-21, Sheffield's Ritz Theater will play host to a performance of the "The World of Ray Bradbury," a stage production combining selections from Bradbury's canon, including "The Book People" from "Fahrenheit 451" and "The Third Landing" from "The Martian Chronicles."
Bradbury is scheduled to attend the May 21 performance. He will also give a lecture, "Yestermorrow and Beyond: An Evening with Ray Bradbury," on May 22 at Norton Auditorium on the University of North Alabama campus in Florence.
The lecture will be at 7 p.m. Meanwhile, performances for "The World of Ray Bradbury" will be at 8 p.m. May 19-20, and at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. May 21. Tickets for the play and lecture each are $10 for adults and $5 for students.
Tickets for both are available at Ryan Piano Co., Anderson's Bookland, Wizard's Comics, Flashbacks, Super Wonder Comics and Pegasus Records, Tapes & CDs, all in Florence, and the Tennessee Valley Art Center in Tuscumbia.
Additionally, tickets for the lecture only are available at the UNA Ticket Office and the UNA Office of Student Auxiliary Services. You can order them by calling (256) 765-4658.