The Earliest Bradbury

In honor of the upcoming centenary of Ray Bradbury’s birth (August 22, 2020), we’re digging through our archive of 1930s fan material to find the earliest appearances of Ray’s writings — in any form. We hope to publish a compendium of these in the next several weeks.

We’re not talking about the well-known and oft-reproduced works such as Futuria Fantasia, or even the somewhat-known and occasionally-reproduced “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma.” We’re seeking anything that appeared prior to 1940 that has rarely surfaced, especially as it was originally printed.

A primary source for Ray’s earliest articles is the Los Angeles Science Fiction League’s organ, Imagination! This zine’s first issue was published in October 1937 — the same month that Ray joined the LASFL. It ran for thirteen issues through October 1938. Through years of ardent questing, we’re fortunate to have assembled a complete run.

There are several items in Imagination! that are explicitly ascribed to Bradbury. We’ll be reproducing all of these. Some are satirical essays, the first of which was printed in v1n7, April 1938.
[Click any of the images to see a more readable full-page rendering.]

All well and good for the work he signed. However, we’re in a quandary over four pieces that we believe could be Bradbury’s, but were published under a variety of pseudonyms or are confusingly attributed.

For example, this page from v1n2, November 1937:

This is the first time Bradbury’s name appears in Imagination! However, we weren’t confident that the signature applied to the entire piece. Based on information from Donn Albright — kindly passed on by Jonathan R. Eller at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (which is perhaps the coolest thing in the world) — it appears that Bradbury is the author of the article.

This is especially important to sort out because a similar attempt-at-humor appears in v1n1, October 1937.

Scan from the University of California Riverside Special Collections

And in v1n3, December 1937, we find this little unpolished gem.

(Our copy of this issue was originally mailed to Litterio B. (‘Larry’) Farsaci, so the comment in pencil is likely his.)

If one of these spoofy bits was penned by Bradbury, it’s likely that they all were. The seems at least somewhat consistent with other contributions. In considering this, don’t be too distracted by the clipping of words as Ackerman made famous — Bradbury is known to have emulated this elsewhere; e.g. in the verse below from v1n9, June 1938.

One further candidate for Bradbury attribution is this charming ditty from v1n11, August 1938.

The bottom of the page is signed by Bradbury, but “Dead Reckoning” and the associated art at the top are not attributed.

We’d be most appreciative if any Bradbury or LASFL scholars could offer additional insight on these mysteries.