Ray Bradbury, How I Wrote My Book (Hill House, 2006)
Ray Bradbury, The Wish (Hill House, 2006)

Chapbooks are odd creatures with a very long history. These small printed volumes, according to Wikipedia, have been with us a very long time: 'There are records from Cambridgeshire as early as in 1553 of a man offering a scurrilous ballad 'maistres mass' at an alehouse, and a pedlar selling 'lytle books' to people, including a patcher of old clothes in 1578. These sales are probably characteristic of the market for chapbooks.' Now Wikipedia gets it wrong when it says that they were 'popular from the sixteenth through to the later part of the nineteenth century', as that suggests they are no longer popular, which is simply incorrect. Ray Bradbury's How I Wrote My Book and The Wish are excellent examples of the current crop of fantasy/horror/science fiction chapbooks being issued by such fine publishers as Small Beer Press, Tachyon Publications, Golden Gryphon, Tropism Press, Subterranean Press. and now from Hill House. Once you see these chapbooks, you'll appreciate them as much as I do!

Oh, did I mention that only members of member of Hill House’s Ray Bradbury ’s Author's Preferred Edition of The Martian Chronicles will get the goodies? Yes, Bradbury has finally did the definitive edition of his masterpiece. There's only a few hundred copies of this amazing work and I will review it separately in a few months, as it deserves a review all by itself.

Hill House editions are particularly popular here at Green Man. Reynard, our afternoon Barkeep in the Pub, tells the story of the eye-patched, massively built, white-bearded gent, sitting in the Pub late one evening sipping on a particularly fine drink he was enjoying and chuckling to himself while he read the Hill House edition of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, who said he was tired of winter and his ancient bones were looking forward to spring. He added that indeed his drink was fine for taking the chill from those bones, but the coming warm sun of spring was better at making one as old as he feel just a bit younger. Reynard, in sympathy, poured him 'nother hot spiced braggot on the house.

Each of these treasures came in the post in their own elegant black envelopes that indicated How I Wrote My Book was one of fifty published. Yes, fifty, with only two hundred and fifty of the other chapbook. (Not the rarest publication we've ever gotten, as there's a Gaiman item or two that I don't think really exists in any meaningful sense that's in the locked bookcase in my office here, but bloody rare none-the-less!) Carefully opening their enclosures, I admired the rich colors of the hardcover chapbooks -- royal purple for The Wish, forest green for How I Wrote My Book. How I Wrote My Book is the 'til now unpublished 1950 précis he wrote explaining why he wrote The Martian Chronicles. Now nearly sixty years later, you too, if you purchase the Hill House edition of The Martian Chronicles, read it! (Yes, I'm repeating myself. It's my review.) It isn't often that an author as well-respected as Ray Bradbury explains why he did a particular endeavour. I'll not spoil your reading by saying what is detailed, but instead will simply say that all fans of this talented writer will find this 'lost' ephemera worth reading!

On the other hand, The Wish is a true tale as only Bradbury seems capable of doing. This tale, as noted on the Hill House site, 'is a timeless story of a crystalline Christmas eve on which one man's wish is granted --the chance to transcend the bounds of mortality and share with his father those words they never spoke in life.' I know -- that premise is a shopworn cliche with even Kevin Costner doing it in his film, Field of Dreams. But you would certainly agree that Bradbury's a much better writer than Costner is an actor! How can you not like a tale that starts off with the line 'A whisper of snow touched the cold window. . . .'? If you've read Something Wicked This Way, and I'm sure you have, you know that Bradbury is even bit as good as Stephen King at writing dark fantasy, which this story, like much of The Martian Chronicles, is. (No, The Martian Chronicles is not science fiction.) Bradbury is, in my opinion, our greatest living fantasy writer. And The Wish, which was first published in Woman's Day magazine over thirty years ago, more than adequately proves this is so.

But these are mere appetizers for the main course of The Martian Chronicles, which will include material never before published before, including two Martian Chronicles film scripts written by Mr. Bradbury! For full details on this amazing edition, go here. I will have a full review early next year -- after I read every word of it, savoring it as I do so! It should make a fine treat in the bleak midwinter days which are coming all too soon.

[Cat Eldridge]