By Jim Denney
As Charles Dickens is to Christmas, so Ray Bradbury is to the month of October.
Since this month began, I’ve been rereading Ray’s October-themed books. I started with my well-worn paperback copy of The October Country, first published in 1955. I’m reading the 1962 paperback edition, which I’ve owned since boyhood, and the fifty-five-year-old binding still holds the yellowed pages in place for an umpteenth reading. I even dared to lay it flat on my scanner to show you the beautiful illustration by Joseph Mugnaini for Ray’s classic tale “The Crowd.”
The October Country embodies the best from Ray Bradbury’s first short story collection, Dark Carnival (Arkham House, 1947). The stories are mostly from Weird Tales, and consist of the best work of Ray’s early pulp magazine career.
I’m also rereading the classic EC comics adaptations of Ray Bradbury’s horror stories, The Autumn People, published in 1965. These adaptations, originally appearing in such comic book titles as Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, The Haunt of Fear, and Shock SuspenStories, are illustrated by EC’s best artists — Jack Davis, Johnny Craig, Graham Ingles, Joe Orlando, and more (cover by Frank Frazetta). Stories include “The Screaming Woman,” “The Lake,” “The Small Assassin,” and “The Coffin.”
Other Bradbury books set in the month of October include Something Wicked This Way Comes, Farewell Summer (set in October 1929, published in October 2006, a sequel to Dandelion Wine), and, in an oblique way, Fahrenheit 451 (expanded from his 1951 novella “The Fireman,” set in October 2052)
As I get closer to All Hallows Eve, of course, I’ll be reading The Halloween Tree, Ray’s 1972 short fantasy novel about a group of neighborhood boys who go trick-or-treating and stumble into an adventure through time and space. Along the way, they discover the origins of Halloween traditions, including our common fascination with ghosts and our fear of death. If you’ve never read The Halloween Tree, now would be a good time — and if you’re in Southern California, visit The Halloween Tree in Disneyland’s Frontierland. Ray was present when The Halloween Tree was dedicated in his honor on October 31, 2007.
Ray Bradbury was a great fan of, and frequent visitor to, Disneyland. As he once said, “Disneyland liberates men to be their better selves.”
In 1965, Bradbury wrote an appreciation of Walt Disney and his creations for Holiday magazine. Ray recalled that at age twelve, he owned the first Mickey Mouse buttons in town. At nineteen, he worried that he might not live to see the premiere of Fantasia. By age forty-five, he had seen Fantasia fifteen times in the theater, Snow White a dozen times, and Pinocchio eight times. After Walt Disney’s death in 1966, the Disney Company hired Ray Bradbury to contribute ideas and a narration for the iconic Spaceship Earth attraction at Epcot in Florida’s Walt Disney World.
October is the month of Ray Bradbury, wherever his stories continue to be read. And here’s an idea: Why not take your favorite Bradbury book with you to Disneyland and read a few pages by the eerie orange glow of the Disneyland’s Halloween Tree? Ray would be very pleased.
NOTE: To learn more about the friendship between Walt Disney and Ray Bradbury, read my piece at the Disney Family Museum website, “‘Nothing Has to Die’—The Walt Disney-Ray Bradbury Friendship.”
ABOUT JIM DENNEY AND WALT’S DISNEYLAND: Jim Denney has more than 120 books to his credit, and has co-written books with sports stars and Hollywood celebrities. His previous book on Walt Disney, How To Be Like Walt (co-written with Orlando Magic founder Pat Williams) has remained in print for a dozen years, and has garnered 4.8 out of 5 stars in 185 customer reviews on Amazon.com. Walt’s Disneyland: It’s Still There If You Know Where to Look by Jim Denney (Anaheim, CA: Writing in Overdrive Books, May 2017) is available at Amazon.com; Paperback $15.99; Ebook $5.99.
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