Nolan on Bradbury
William F. Nolan; edited by S.T. Joshi
Hippocampus Press, 2013
Nolan on Bradbury is a fascinating exploration into two stellar figures in speculative fiction, their relationship over sixty years, and the intellectual cross-fertilization that can occur when such minds meet and share.
More than a personal account and less than an academic study (in all of the right ways), the book allows readers a kind of continuous insight into a friendship and a working exchange. Following introductory materials by Jason V. Brock, S. T. Joshi, and Ray Bradbury himself (writing about Nolan), the book opens onto a series of chronologically arranged articles and essays—including introductions and afterwords to a number of books—in which Nolan speaks about Bradbury, beginning with their first encounters and Nolan’s responses to them (1952) and concluding with Nolan’s “My Personal Evaluation of Ray’s Finest Stories” (2013). Joshi comments in his introduction that there is a certain level of necessary redundancy in the accounts, and he is correct; key episodes in their friendship recur frequently, often using the same sentences and vocabulary. But that is as it should be. The repetitions remind readers that they are following a six-decade long series of conclusions on Nolan’s part; the details of Bradbury’s career and influence may—and must—shift as the essays progress, but at core, the essence of Bradbury remains the same. Each repetition is placed into a different context and thereby gains depth and resonance, linking the disparate essays into a unified whole.
The second major section, “Stories,” presents Nolan’s fictions that he defines as either about Bradbury or influenced by Bradbury’s style and approach. They range from serious stories, such as “And Miles to Go Before I Sleep” and “To Serve the Ship,” to exquisitely modulated parodies and satires, such as the perfectly titled “The Dandelion Chronicles”—a loving tribute to Bradbury that encompasses most of his recurring themes as well as his signature style. Each is distinctly Nolan; none could have been written without his having first met Ray Bradbury.
“Tributes to Ray Bradbury” and “Afterword: The Return of Ray B.” round off the volume by giving space to Nolan, Brock, John C. Tibbetts, Joshi, and Greg Bear to speak personally and, as it were, conclusively about Bradbury and his influence. Each offers more insight into a complex, multi-faceted, tremendously influential genius. Each is much appreciated.
The final part is a short but useful bibliography of major works, collections, stories, and other writings by both Nolan and Bradbury. It is an appropriate capstone to this involving study of writing, writers, friends, and friendships.