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BookThink: In the mid-1970's, Steve Allen produced a remarkable television series called "Meeting of Minds" ...

Bradbury: A very good show.

BookThink: ... in which historical figures were brought together and interviewed by Allen in a typical chat show format. Given that format, if you could pick some people from history for an evening of conversation, who would they be?

Bradbury: I've done a long poem which is in one of my last books - I believe it's One More for the Road - where I go on a train ride with Aldous Huxley, Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe, and George Bernard Shaw. That would be a perfect train ride, to just stay up all night and talk with these wonderful people.

BookThink: There was a time when a fan could reasonably expect to read everything published in the genre for a given year - in the pulps and the slicks, and in books and anthologies. In recent years the sheer volume of new SF and Fantasy makes that impossible.

Bradbury: You can't keep up with it. Every single year there are two or three hundred books published [in the genre]. It's a wonderful situation for a new author to get published, if he's any good. There are lots of publishers out there, and lots of books being published every year.

BookThink: But has the genre become a victim of its own success?

Bradbury: You can't use that term, no. When I had my first book signing forty-five years ago, only eight people showed up. When I went to a book signing last year, there were two hundred people. I wasn't a victim of success. It was very nice.

BookThink: In previous interviews, you've described yourself as a very visual person. Do you have a favorite illustration for one of your books or one you didn't like?

Bradbury: Any one of my books is visual. I knew Sam Peckinpah, the film director, twenty years ago, and he wanted to do Something Wicked This Way Comes. And I said "Sam, how will you do it?" He said "Rip the pages out of the book and stuff them in the camera." All of my books and stories are visual. You can pick up any one, read any paragraph, and you can shoot it.

I've designed a lot of the dust jackets myself. The Cat's Pajamas that came out last year [2005] has a cover that I illustrated myself. I designed many of the other covers, gave the design to the art department at the publisher, and they used my concept.

BookThink: You've talked before about an illustration done for one of your stories by Charles Addam, and how decades went by before you could use it as a cover for one of your books.

Bradbury: Oh, yes. I knew Charles Addams fifty years ago, and he illustrated a story of mine called "Homecoming" for Mademoiselle [Mademoiselle, October, 1946]. I bought the painting from him for $200, which I didn't have. I had to pay for it over a period of months because my income was small. But thank God I put that painting away for forty years, and when I published From the Dust Returned five years ago [2001] I used Charles Addams' painting on the cover. It was wonderful.

BookThink: And so appropriate to the text.

Bradbury: Just terrific.

BookThink: Later this year [2006] Gauntlet Press will release Match to Flame: The Fictional Paths to Fahrenheit 451. The book traces the evolution of your classic dystopian novel from several short stories and novellas, many of which were originally published in SF magazines such as Galaxy, beginning in 1944. Similarly, The Martian Chronicles is an amalgamation of previously published short stories with some bridging material added. It's true that in the 1940s and 1950s the market for SF and fantasy fiction demanded short stories, but with close to 600 stories it seems that this is your preferred format. What is it about the short story form that appeals to you?

Bradbury: That's me, I'm built that way. I'm a sprinter. I've never been a novelist, I've published very few real novels. Dandelion Wine started as an article called "Dandelion Wine" in Gourmet magazine [June, 1953], which was all about how to make dandelion wine. Something Wicked ... began as a short story in Weird Tales ["The Black Ferris", Weird Tales, May, 1948], and it became a screenplay I wrote for Gene Kelly. He couldn't find the money to make the film, so I sat down and turned the screenplay into the novel called Something Wicked This Way Comes. All of my novels have started small, and became large.

BookThink: Is that because you start with a single image, and the story builds around that image?

Bradbury: You might say that I get out of bed in the middle of the night ... I get an idea, a metaphor. And the next day I write the metaphor. Sometimes it's a poem that turns into a play, which turns into a screenplay, which turns into a novel. So you see, I fit all these different fields because I'm really a writer of metaphors.

BookThink: A well-turned metaphor of a dozen words can communicate an idea better than a page of straight prose.

Bradbury: That's right, that's right.

BookThink: Symbolism, imagery and metaphor are the language of poetry - and your writing has often been described as "poetic". Would you say that is a fair characterization?

Bradbury: Oh, yes. I once wrote a short story called "The Foghorn" [Saturday Evening Post, June 23, 1951], and there's a prose poem, a paragraph, in the middle of the story about the invention of the foghorn, and the sound of the foghorn - the loneliness, the sound of death, the melancholy and separation. John Huston read that story and read that metaphorical paragraph and gave me the job of writing Moby Dick. So you see, my poetry paid off.

BookThink: One last question: What does dandelion wine taste like, and when was the last time you drank any?

Bradbury: It's not all that good! I've got eight or nine bottles sent to me by various people and one bottle that was made off dandelions from my front yard in Waukegan. That's kind of wonderful, that someone went there and gathered dandelions out in front of my house and my grandparents' house and made dandelion wine of it and sent it to me. I still have that.

BookThink: Thank you very much for taking the time from your schedule to answer some questions.

Bradbury: They've been damn good questions. {SF EDITOR: He probably says that to all the interviewers!]

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Thanks go out to Mike Hayward for pre-interview research and suggestions.]

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Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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