Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, May 20, 2016


Marionettes, Inc. by Ray Bradbury (2009)

Some of my favorite writers are favorite in small doses only.  Case in point:  Ray Bradbury, a brilliant writer who has left an indelible impression on his time but whose prose is often overwritten, maudlin, and simplistic.  But Bradbury was also a powerhouse writer whose emotionally charged work celebrated the glory and mystery of life, love and wonder.  Few people could read a Bradbury story and not be effected.  Whether writing about Mars, the Illustrated Man, Green Town ,the Elliott family, Ireland, Halloween, carnivals, the twin captains Ahab and Nemo, dinosaurs and veldts or any one of a thousand other subjects, Bradbury touched the basic core of humanity in his readers.  Childhood, for him, was something to be cherished and honored and never something to be abandoned.  That's what Ray Bradbury gave us -- hope, optimism, a delightful feeling of fear, and an appreciation for ewhat is around us.

Marionettes, Inc. was a limited release (2000 copies) hardcover from small press publisher Subterranean Press, collecting five stories (one previously unpublished) and an unpublished film treatment written over a period of twenty years or more.  The common theme is robotics and its effect on ordinary people, with the longest (and most well-known) story being "I Sing the Body Electric," also known from its televised title as 'The Electric Grandmother."

The contents:

  • "I Sing the Body Electric!" (from McCall's, August 1969; reprinted in Bradbury's collections I Sing Body Electric!, 1969; To Sing Strange Songs, 1979; and The Stories of Ray Bradbury, 1980)
  • "Marionettes, Inc." (from Startling Stories, March 1949; reprinted in Bradbury's collections The Illustrated Man, 1951; Ray Bradbury, 1975; and The Stories of Ray Bradbury, 1980)
  • "Changeling" (from Super Science Stories, July 1949; reprinted in Bradbury's collection Bradbury Stories:  100 of His Most Celebrated Tales. 2003)
  • "Punishment Without Crime" (from Other Worlds Science Stories, March 1950; reprinted in Bradbury's collections Long After Midnight, 1976; The Stories of Ray Bradbury, 1980; and I Sing the Body Electric! and Other Stories, 1998)
  • "Wind-Up World" (previously unpublished)
  • "Murder by Facsimile" (previously unpublished screen treatment)
As you can tell, this is a thin book (118 pages, some of them blank).  The previously published stories are readily available elsewhere and surely most Bradbury fans have read them.  Of the two unpublished stories, 'Wind-Up World" is a mere four pages and "Murder by Facsimile" is six.  The first is a throw-away shaggy dog story, the second merely a bare bones summary.

Ray Bradbury famously wrote every day and much of what he wrote never saw print.  Many of his later collections were padded with some of those previously unpublished stories and poems and some of these "trunk" items have been successfully mined by specialty small press publishers.  In most cases, this is not a bad thing, IMHO, and there certainly was a market for this limited book.  But for what is basically ten pages of unpublished minor prose, $35 seems a steep price.  This one's for collectors only.


  1. I'm pretty sure this post wasn't up on Friday morning, for some reason, but I can believe I managed to miss it. Will add to this week's and next Friday's array.

  2. I've tended to see Bradbury as not quite the controlled artist his models, Theodore Sturgeon and Leigh Brackett, were. And he tackled much the same territory as Sturgeon did...often being credited with a more artistic approach to his prose, but I'd tend to disagree, finding Sturgeon the more lean and yet more forceful prose stylist usually...a Hammett versus Chandler sort of situation. But I certainly have tended to enjoy Bradbury's work enormously over the years, even when it has seemed a bit schematic or oversimplified. I certainly remember reading R IS FOR ROCKET as I walked home from elementary school in Hazardville, CT...which might even qualify as a Bradburyesque sort of thing to have done, and the right sort of name for the town to do a Bradburyan thing in.

  3. finding in Sturgeon, that is...