“This book is essential for any serious fan of Ray Bradbury. It casts light on the primordial stirrings of a career, giving a rare glimpse of Bradbury’s earliest writing and art as an erstwhile teenager. A true gift to Bradbury scholarship and fandom.”
— Sam Weller, author of The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury and Dark Black
“This is a wonderful paean to a wonderful person, an educational, informative, exciting, visually stimulating and page-turning adventure that will bring you far closer to its subject than most have ever been.“
— Steve Davidson, Publisher, Amazing Stories
“The Earliest Bradbury is a wonderful volume. Beautiful reproduction and complete coverage of Ray’s early years! An almost impossible feat. Congratulations.”
— Donn Albright, principal Ray Bradbury bibliographer and special edition editor
Ray Bradbury may be the most revered of the science fiction “Grand Masters” of the 20th century.
Like iconic predecessors Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, his work has stood the test of time. A virtuoso composer with language, he sang the bodies electric and human. His stories reached beyond the mainstream of science fiction, earning him recognition with the National Medal of Arts (2004) and a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation (2007).
But you know all this. What you may know less well is that Bradbury began his life in science fiction as a fan, actively immersed in the nascent community of fans in the late 1930s who would shape the genre for the next several decades.
Bradbury fell in with Forrest J Ackerman and the Los Angeles Science Fiction League (LASFL) in October 1937 at the age of 17. Just four months later, his first published science fiction story appeared in the January 1938 issue of the club’s organ, Imagination!
The rest is history, as they say. In The Earliest Bradbury, we’ll fill in some gaps in that history. Here readers will have a unique opportunity to experience some of Bradbury’s earliest steps on his road to mastery.
“The Earliest Bradbury represents the first comprehensive effort to bring together the full visual spectrum of Ray Bradbury’s interactions with the many fanzine editors who constituted the First Fandom universe across America in the late 1930s and early 1940s. These archival images from original publications breathe life into the elusive record of the young Ray Bradbury satirizing, imitating, and experimenting with the craft of writing on the eve of beginning his seven-decade professional career.”
— Jonathan Eller, Chancellor’s Professor and director of The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University
“As the story goes, Bradbury became friendly with Forrest J Ackerman and the Los Angeles Science Fiction League (LASFL) in October 1937 when he was just seventeen years old. Just a few months later, Bradbury’s first published science fiction story appeared in the January 1938 issue of Imagination! The Earliest Bradbury lovingly charts that part of the journey, as a young fan becomes an impressive author… presented in a rich and compelling visual style.“
— Ed Catto, Pop Culture Squad
“I thought [The Earliest Bradbury] was going to be simply a collection of his fanzine writings… But now the book is here and I see that what you have really done is create an important historical document portraying an entire era in Los Angeles fandom, with the young Bradbury as the focal point. It’s a beautiful job.”
— Robert Silverberg
“The oversized hardcover includes meticulous scans of his fanzine work, including his art, and captivating supporting illustrations (and a cover) by Songs of Giants artist Mark Wheatley. Writers and editors David Ritter and Daniel Ritter, and their team at First Fandom Experience, are to be congratulated on this magnificent effort that adds significantly to our understanding of one of our greatest authors.“
— J.C. Vaughn, Scoop
“Ray Bradbury was a time traveler, his fantastic imagination replenished by memories of a childhood immersed in wonder. THE EARLIEST BRADBURY is itself a time machine, transporting us to the fulcrum point of Bradbury’s life when the ardent fan became a published writer. Through an excavation of rare publications, evocative photos and revealing illustrations, the book recreates a genuinely magical period of Bradbury’s life that continued to inform his later career. This is an essential work to understand his artistic development, and that of American fantasy in general.”
— Michael Saler, Professor of History, University of California, Davis, author of As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality
Here’s a sample from the 162-page volume. Use the crossed-arrow icon to view in full-screen.
The evolution of descriptive power and nuance in Bradbury’s writing can be seen month-to-month and year-to-year in these early layers of his fossil record. These fragments, earliest to latest, point to the full evidence presented in full in this compendium:
From “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma” (January 1938):
“His head felt fearfully large, his body Brobdingnagian.”
From “Formula for Successfool STF Story” (April 1938):
“Have Earth fall to the moon – have dinosaurs crawl over the hero’s tummy – let him rassle a lion as the earth cracks in two pieces…!”
From “Hollerbochen Comes Back” (November 1938):
“Hurtling thru the stratosfere somewhere, a tiny piece of matter bobbed up & down just this side of the heaviside layer where the rockets turn to the right & take the airlane to jupiter past the array of billboards hanging by skyhooks from the clouds.”
From “Gold” (August 1939):
“Then, with a final despairing laugh, something that was once a man, dragged himself to the railing and fell down into the turgid blackness of the ocean. All was silent.”
From “Tale of the Tortletwitch” (April 1940):
“Mrs. Smirch’s eyes looked like slots in the Automat.”
From “Luana the Living” (June 1940):
“There was some grim thing that fettered this tree-bound terrain in soundless monotony.”
From “Around Fandom” (August 1940):
“Slith wriggled out of a jagged hole in a copy of last seasons Futuria Fantasia and coiled himself down upon my manuscripts, making himself into a neat and scaly paperweight.”
From “Tale of the Mangledomvritch” (February 1941)
“…all of them were blurted out of sight by the ravenous creature inside the door, the sardonic, silk-clad, tentacled, ravenous, awful monster of fat legs, thin legs, breasts, lips and torsos, of armpits and crotches and other nausea, of bargains and basements and pants half off…”
All of these Bradbury articles and stories — and many more — are reproduced in The Earliest Bradbury in full facsimile form, as they were originally published in amateur fanzines. Most of these artifacts have never been available outside the musty archives of fanatical collectors of early fan history. This 160+ page, lavishly illustrated hardcover has been initially issued in a limit printing of 100 copies.
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The Earliest Bradbury
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Note: This volume is focused on Bradbury’s early work and activities that have previously been unavailable to most readers, including 120+ articles, stories, drawings and references from a variety of early fan publications. Bradbury’s fanzine Futuria Fantasia is discussed in this volume, but not reproduced. For a definitive facsimile of Futuria Fantasia, we refer readers to Bradbury’s own volume by that name, published in 2007 by Graham Publishing — from which we would not want to detract.
You can read about the research and production process behind The Earliest Bradbury in “The Making of…”