All Our Yesterdays 4
by Harry Warner Jr.


Most of us know that Ray Bradbury was once a pure and simple fan, before he discovered the way to sell stories. But how many fans in the field today realise that he was also a fanzine publisher? Bradbury put out a little fanzine named Futuria Fantasia during his Los Angeles days. I find four issues of it in my Los Angeles file, which appeared during late 1939 and early 1940. There may have been a copy or two after these four — it would take a person with a better memory than mine to be sure.

Futuria Fantasia had little to distinguish it from a hundred other fanzines of about the same period. Its standard of material may have been just a trifle higher than the average. The general appearance is quite neat, but that was a characteristic of Los Angeles magazines of those days, and there were many fanzines coming out of LA during those years. Futuria Fantasia contains the green ink which nourished the LA mimeographs in those days and each issue contained up to 20 standard letter sized pages, with a variety of stories, poems and articles. Each of the four issues contains a book cover, three of them mimeoed, the other reproduced by a halftone.

One sure thing, you’d never guess that it was Bradbury writing the editorial for the first issue: “The best laid plans of me, it seems, are destined for detours or permanent and disappointing annihilation upon the road to accomplishment.” It goes on in this murky, forced, style for a full page, explaining why the fanzine appeared a year later than originally scheduled. It also reveals that even though Bradbury lived at 1841 South Manhattan Place, he couldn’t spell Manhattan without the use of an e.

If Bradbury ever should become a really important writer, these publications of his youngest youth are going to be studied by the research men and the biographers. So it’s really a shame that it’s almost impossible to determine whether Bradbury wrote certain items which are credited to other people. Guy Amory, listed as the writer of a biography of Kuttner, may have existed. However, Ron Reynolds appears to be Bradbury in disguise, and as a result, a couple of the stories in Futuria Fantasia become important.

Best of them is probably “The Piper”, which may be the very first of the Bradbury stories about Mars to see print. If it is really Bradbury’s fiction, it is surprisingly good, in comparison with the majority of the sophomoric stuff he was writing in those days. It isn’t too far from the atmosphere of the published stories about Mars, either, although it doesn’t quite fit into the future history pattern of The Martian Chronicles, “The Piper” brings in a man from Venus: “He’s crazy, that’s what. Stands up there piping on his music from sunset until dawn.” The Piper plays on a world — Mars — which has been conquered and brutified by earth men. A little boy who is the “last pure Martian alive” learns that millions of these degraded Martians have their residence “out there, beyond the mountains, in the caves, far back in the subterrance.” The man from Venus has also been ill-treated by the earthmen. The concluding paragraph’s meaning probably was more clear to Bradbury than to the reader of the story, but it appears that the Piper’s music one night causes these brutalised Martians to revolt against the earthmen. It’s an interesting combination of Bradbury’s present style and the work of a boy obsessed by adjectives, these final paragraphs:

“Swirling, jumping, running, leaping, gambolling, crying ­— the new humanity surged to man’s cities, his rocket, his mines. The Piper’s song! Stars shuddered. Winds stilled. Nightbirds sang no songs. Echoes murmured only the voices of the ones who advanced, bringing new understanding. The old man, caught in the whirlpool of ebon, was swept down, screaming. Then up the road, by the awful thousands, vomiting out of hills, sprawling from caves, curling, huge fingers of beasts, around and about and down to the Man Cities. Sighing, leaping up, voices and destruction!

“Rockets across the sky!

“Guns. Death.

“And finally, in the placid advancement of dawn, the memory, the echoing of the old man’s song. And the little boy arose to start afresh a new world with a new mate.

“Echoing, the old man’s voice:

“Piper, pipe that song again! So he piped, I wept to hear!”

A new day dawned. Compare this with “The Pendulum” in another issue, probably by Bradbury since it isn’t credited to anyone. This is the somewhat gruelling account of a man who invents time travel, accidentally kills a lot of famous scientists while trying to demonstrate it, in revenge he is imprisoned in a transparent pendulum connected to his time machine, lives through the centuries in this imprisonment until robots take over and earth and humans vanish, and finally is found dead by visitors to earth from another planet. To get this series of events into fewer than 2,000 words is quite a feat, but that’s about all that can be said in favour of the story. One paragraph will be enough:

“He hadn’t minded it so much at first, that first night. He couldn’t sleep, but it was not uncomfortable. The lights of the city were comets with tails that pelted from right to left like foaming fireworks. But as the night wore on he felt a gnawing in his stomach, that grew worse. He got very sick and vomited. The next day he couldn’t eat anything.”

Bradbury didn’t make any claims to be a great writer in those days, In the third issue’s editorial, for instance, he wrote: “Un1ike Finlay, who draws pictures from poems, we procure pictures from Bok and write poems about them. In fact, I blushingly admit, I even wrote a ten thousand word novelette around that little creature on the cover of the first Futuria Fantasia...which, no doubt, will have its share of rejections very soon, in which case I will foist on my poor unsuspecting public, both of them, this story now titled “Lorelei”.”

In this same issue appeared “The Syphomic Abduction”, and apparently another Bradbury yarn. This one shows him completely under the spell of the dictionary. It’s a story about the effect that music had on a fellow who liked to turn it up loud and stick his ear against the loudspeaker. I think that this single paragraph will suffice:

“Beneath me was a limitless tract of grey slime which rose and fell torpidly as with the breathing of a somnolent subterranean thing. The moonlight burned brightly on it, and crawling across it from some remote place came – trees snaky-rooted things whose prehensile branches bore, instead of leaves, flexible lenses...They left behind them red trails on the slime, and excrementory ribbons of thin blue vapour streamed from their topmost appendages. Occasionally they paused to feed, focusing their lenses upon the gelatinous ground, which became luminously white under the concentrated light. The sucking mouths of the serpentine roots absorbed this matter, and red viscosity seeped into the eaten places, greying rapidly under the moon’s effulgence, chemically affected by it.”

Taken as a whole Futuria Fantasia could hardly be a clue to the fact that Bradbury would go out and sell stories at a great rate in the next couple of years. It was slightly higher than average fanzine, but part of its quality could be laid to the fact that it was produced in Los Angeles, where any fanzine had the advantage of expert help and assistance from more experienced fellows. Bradbury did manage to get quite a bit of stuff by professional writers and the semi-pros. His friendship with Bok was responsible for the covers and interior illustrations, of course. But there was also material by Kuttner, Emil Petaja, Robert A. Heinlein, J. Harvey Haggard, and some lesser lights. The moral would seem to be that even the most inconspicuous fan writer today may be living off his typewriter in the next decade. But it’s also well to remember that there have been hundreds of other guys who started off exactly the same way as Bradbury — and didn’t end up the same way.

Incidentally, as far as I know, these issues of Futuria Fantasia have not yet acquired any real market value. But if you happen to have the publication in your collection, I’d recommend hanging onto it. About thirty years from now, there’s going to be a Bradbury surge, like the ones that hit Lovecraft and Keller, and the collectors will be greedy for these items, or any of the many fanzines published around the same time containing contributions by Bradbury.

Last revised: 3 March, 2006

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