Friday, 13 July 2012

Ray Bradbury, August 22 1920 – June 6 2012

When Montag the Fireman goes into his bedroom, he hears a “little mosquito-delicate dancing hum in the air, the electrical murmur of a hidden wasp snug in its special pink-warm nest”. His wife Mildred is lying in bed with her earphones plugged firmly in, “music and talk and music and talk, coming in on the shore of her unsleeping mind”. Mildred has her earphones in most of the time, but has learned to lip-read her husband and so can still carry on a conversation of sorts. Thus, Ray Bradbury, near the beginning of his first novel Fahrenheit 451, illustrated the isolating effects of technology on his future protagonists. In this dystopian tale of book-burning firemen, he was not trying to predict the future. “When I wrote that book [in 1953]”, he told an interviewer for Locus magazine in August 1996, “I was trying to prevent a future, and by god it’s arrived, so we have to get our teachers on the ball, to change our present so that the future is better.”
            In that same interview he said that what he was most proud of was discovering that all the astronauts he had met (and his status ensured that he had met many of them) had read him in high school. “Boy, that is absolutely incredible! You’ll have to forgive my ego, but there is a crater on the moon named for my Dandelion Wine, and I’m very proud of that.” He credits science fiction writers ­– “we modern science fiction writers of the last 40 years” – with preparing the way, culturally and intellectually, for a future in space. Bradbury had been one of the best-known science fiction writers in the world ever since the 1950s, and he was always prepared to extol the virtues of the genre in public. He encouraged young writers, just as established people like Henry Kuttner, Robert Heinlein and Leigh Brackett “all took time to read my dreadful stuff when I was 20 years old.” And like those writers of the 1940s, throughout his life he continued to believe that science fiction was important: it was the only literature that helped prepare people, particularly young people, for the future, and to help them towards the right future.
            It is one of the paradoxes of his life that Bradbury, who was known as a great science-fiction writer, wrote so little science fiction. Fahrenheit 451 was the only novel he wrote which could be defined as science fiction, as he himself would say. In fact he wrote very few novels: only eleven, and most of those were actually collections of linked short stories cobbled together into a novel, in what the SF writer Van Vogt called a “fix-up”. Bradbury wrote around 500 stories, it is said, 200 of which were gathered together by HarperCollins back in 2008 in two large volumes called Ray Bradbury Stories, but many of those were not science fiction either. He wrote some of the classic science fiction stories, all of which have been reprinted many times, and which are well known to all serious readers in the genre. “A Sound of Thunder” (1952), in which a careless time-traveller changes the future, is a classic time-paradox story; “The Veldt” (1950) is a chilling story of what one might now call virtual reality; “There Will Come Soft Rains” (1950) is one of the most effective, and understated, stories of nuclear holocaust. Every Bradbury reader will have a favourite story; and it is likely that it will come from that first most prolific period of Bradbury’s career, from the late 1940s and early 1950s. But most of his stories were not science fiction even then: they were horror, or fantasy, or a blend of the two. In the terminology of the times, they were weird fiction: indeed, many of them had originally been published in Weird Tales, an American magazine that ran from 1923 to 1954.
            The strange relationship that Bradbury had with science fiction can best be discovered in the pages of what was his most critically respected of his books, The Martian Chronicles, a fix-up published in the USA in 1950 (and published in the UK in 1951 as The Silver Locusts). It enabled Bradbury to break out of the genre, or ghetto, of science fiction and fantasy publishing: most of the short stories he published after 1950 were not to be found in Weird Tales, Planet Stories or Thrilling Wonder, but in the Saturday Evening Post or Collier’s, publications with a wide readership and of a certain literary respectability. When Bradbury talked in 1996 about “we modern science fiction writers” he was paying his dues to a community which he had in some ways left many years before.
            The Martian Chronicles is a collection of stories about the colonisation of Mars, one of the classic SF themes. Yet it shocked the SF writers and readers at the tie of its first publication. It paid no attention at all to the latest astronomical discoveries about the fourth planet. It was not in the slightest bit worried about the mechanics of getting a rocket to Mars, or in speculating what it might really be like up there (for that you could go to contemporary novels such as Robert A Heinlein’s Red Planet, 1949, or Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sands of Mars, 1951). A review of The Martian Chronicles by the writer L. Sprague de Camp in the February 1951 issue of the leading science fiction magazine of the time, Astounding Science Fiction, probably sums up general feelings at the time about Bradbury among SF writers and readers, and it is worth quoting in full:
Mr. Bradbury’s Martian stories have made a stir in the field, and now comes a whole book of them, forming a connected account of the settlement of Mars by Earthmen, 1999-2026. The early settlers find a few surviving Martians—fragile humanoid creatures with a shape-changing power they sometimes use against Earthmen. The latter, mostly Americans, settle, but when atomic war engulfs Earth they nearly all rush back to Earth for its final destruction.
Bradbury is an able young writer who will be better yet when he escapes from the influence of Hemingway and Saroyan—or their imitators. From Hemingway he takes the habit of stringing together many short simple sentences and the Providential or impersonal viewpoint, all characters described purely in terms of external action. All right for Hemingway’s Neanderthaloid characters with no minds to explore, but of limited use in a fiction of ideas.
From Saroyan—or perhaps Steinbeck?—he takes a syrupy sentimentality. He writes “mood” stories, of the sort called “human,” populated by “little people” named Mom and Dad and Elma and Grandpa. The come from American small towns and build others just like them on Mars. They’re the kind we all know and call “nice—but dull.”
His Earthmen and his elusive Martians are alike given to strange irrational and destructive impulses. Sometimes the Martians satirize Earthy [sic] faults and foibles; at other times they are the pathetic victims of Earthly brutality. At the end they have all been killed or have died off to deepen the melancholy of the scene.
Bradbury belongs in the tradition of anti-science-fiction writers like Aldous Huxley who sees no good in the machine-age and can’t wait for it to destroy itself. With all these reservations, however, his stories have considerable emotional impact, and many will love them.
Many have, indeed, loved them; and more have probably read The Martian Chronicles – rarely if ever out of print – than can remember Red Planet or The Sands of Mars. Reviews like that of Sprague de Camp, together with Bradbury’s own particular antipathy to technology (living in Los Angeles for most of his life, he never learned to drive, or to like flying) perhaps helped to keep Bradbury very much on the fringes of the science fiction world. But, generous to a fault, Bradbury continued to declare proudly that he was a science fiction writer; and that, following his recent death, has been how most obituary-writers have remembered him.

Edward James
Emeritus Professor, University College Dublin
Chair, Science Fiction Foundation

Monday, 4 June 2012

The editors of Book 2.0 would like to  invite articles on the rapidly growing application of digital tools to research and publishing strategies in the humanities and social sciences for a special issue scheduled for 2013.  Contributions may relate to curating online collections and archives, the design and implementation of new applications that support or enrich research, and emerging forms of cross-disciplinary scholarship that are supported by technology. In particular, we welcome submissions on innovative publishing and dissemination models that increase access to digitised and born-digital materials. Abstracts of no more than 200 words should be submitted to Dr Mark Turin ( and Dr Mick Gowar ( by 4 August 2012.

To read Issue 1, Volume 1 of Book 2.0 for free, please visit

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Call for Papers

Children's Reading: Literature or Literacy?

The editors of Book 2.0 would like to invite articles on any aspect of publishing for children. These may include articles on any aspects of writing, illustration and design, as well as book production and distribution.  Articles on the application of digital technology to the creation and uses of children’s books – for example, the digitization of existing books, or the creation of new e-books - and contributions from freelance creative professionals, and designers, editors, technicians and managers working in the publishing industries,  are particularly welcome.  Please submit  abstracts of no more than 200 words to Mick Gowar by July 2nd.
If you wish to read Issue 1, Volume 1 of Book 2.0 for free, please go to‐ Journal,id=198/ There is also a Book 2.0 blog at:

Friday, 11 May 2012

Dreaming Dreams

When new technologies emerge, they tend to be used to perform old tasks but in slightly new ways. After a while it becomes apparent that one can extend this and do entirely new things.  The digital revolution is so recent that it is only now becoming obvious that it is making new kinds of communication possible. I have become aware of this as an academic who spent the first thirty years of his career publishing hard-back books through conventional publishing presses, but now in his retirement can think about creating entities which are very different from what I could have imagined even five years ago. Let me illustrate with my own current work.

I have inherited many boxes of family papers on the history of my family since the seventeenth century. I have also not thrown away much since I was about sixteen. Consequently, as I sit down to write a biography of the British Empire, and an autobiography of myself, I am faced with a dilemma which previously would have been insurmountable.  There is so much material that it could be turned into dozens of books. But these are books which no commercial publisher could venture to publish. And the readership of these books is scattered around the world, so that most people who are potentially interested would never find them in an English or American bookshop.

The advent of the digital world resolves these problems quite simply. One looks at the book as one part of the publication. Behind the shorter analytic work, one can put up a website with the scanned documents, indexed full transcripts, photographs, films and other materials. So those who want to go into depth can do so. The original papers, meanwhile, cane be made available from archives. Thus it is possible to think of layers of communication, with the book as just one layer in a multi-media project.

Secondly, the publication itself can now be made flexible and the up-front costs of conventional publishing are diminished so much that an author can write and publish the book they want to make available, at the length and with the number of illustrations they like, without facing the impossibility of commercial publishing, or the cost of ‘vanity’ publishing.

I have started on this process and it may be worth illustrating part of what I mean by drawing attention to the publication of the first part of this new venture (available on various publisher’s websites). The Dragon Triptych, consists of three books, totalling over 1100 pages with over 150 pages of illustrations, concerning the life of two boys, myself and Jamie Bruce Lockhart, at a preparatory boarding school 1950-5, and at home with their families. The books are based on over 400 letters we wrote at the time, but only parts of these letters and other documents can be used. The original materials will be deposited in the Dragon School and University of Cambridge archives. The full letters and scans will be made available as a database.
Forerunners of our project can be seen in the digital databases and projects described on

The important thing is to dream dreams, to imagine what is not yet possible, and then have the delight of finding the technology catching up with the dreams.

Alan Macfarlane.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

John Miles Foley

John Miles Foley, who died on May 3rd at the age of 65, was for much
of his working life an outstanding contradiction to the often widely-
voiced view that cross-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary research
inevitably leads to a dilution in quality.  John Foley's work was widely-
respected across the many fields into which his underlying passion - the
ways in which oral knowledge is transmitted - led him.  His fascination
for all forms of oral communication embraced the apparent extremes of
the ancient epic poem - he was an expert on Beowulf and the Homeric
epics - and the internet, in his work as Director of the Centre for
eResearch.  Among his many achievements were his oral formulaic theory,
first published in 1985 and How To Read An Oral Poem (2002).  But his
profound underlying commitment to oral literature and the principle of
free and open access to scholarly work was perhaps best demonstrated by
his journal Oral Tradition  which has been an inspiration and example to
both scholars and publishers.

His life, as more than one commentator has observed, was dedicated to
bringing people together - across centuries and languages, as well as
across continents.  It's poignant that the most recent issue of Oral
Tradition  was a festschrift, consisting of articles written by John
Foley's past students.  It now stands as a fitting tribute to an
inspiring and generous teacher and a courageous and exemplary scholar.

We cannot say that we knew John well, but we had the pleasure of getting
to know him when he was invited to give the keynote at the World Oral
Literature Project 2010 Workshop, on the theme of Archiving Orality and
Connecting with Communities <>.
John gave a compelling presentation entitled 'Oral Tradition and the
Internet', arguing that humankind's oldest and newest technologies of
communication are fundamentally homologous. We were fortunate enough to
record his presentation on video so those who could not make it to
Cambridge could still benefit from his insights <
media/1092059> and we have also archived the material to the
institutional repository at the University of Cambridge <http://>. They have already been 
viewed and downloaded almost 500 times, proving his point: an oral lecture
delivered through the Internet.

John's intellectual vision combined with his gentleness and generosity 
to younger researchers were noted by all at the workshop. He has 
continued to inspire and educate through Oral Tradition,  <http://>, and through the Center for eResearch which fosters
interdisciplinary collaboration and exchange via digital and internet-
based media <>. A longer appreciation of
John's scholarly contributions  can be found on the Missourian online

Mark Turin 
Mick Gowar

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Welcome to the Book 2.0 Blog

The book is an extraordinarily successful piece of technology. For centuries it has been the most widely used and powerful medium for conveying information, ideas and imaginings. In academies, schools, universities, and workplaces of all kinds, books have stimulated discussion and debate, informed new ideas, and inspired innovations and inventions of all kinds; books expressing political and social ideas have been instrumental in bringing down governments and raising new ones; and, most importantly, books have given untold pleasure to countless readers.
The modern revolution in communications technologies – in the sense of the speed and extent of travel and the capacity for sharing ideas – threatens and, at the same time, confirms and extends the place of books and book-making in our lives. It makes possible new types of books, new methods of production and distribution, and new types of authorship that could barely be imagined just a decade ago.

Specific concerns of Book 2.0 will include the changing roles and functions of the book, as perceived from both the makers' and the users' points of view; new developments in the technology of the production and distribution of books, and on the future of 'traditional' book-making crafts. Book 2.0  also aims to bring its readers reviews and examples of the most innovative and exciting writing and book making. Book 2.0 will seek to balance theoretical articles and papers with practice-based research by leading book artists, illustrators and authors (including examples of their work). We therefore intend to include samples from new and especially innovative artists' books, web pages and texts.
Book 2.0 will also seek to provide a forum for promoting and sharing the most innovative and progressive practice in the teaching of writing, illustration, book design, production and publishing in the secondary, FE and HE sectors.
In this blog, we intend to publish occasional short peer-reviewed articles, reviews, and selected correspondence connected with Book 2.0,  in addition to the print and online issues of the journal.  We hope you enjoy the blog.
If you wish to read Issue 1, Volume 1 of Book 2.0  for free, please go to,id=198/
If you would like to submit an article, review or letter to be considered for inclusion in this blog, please send it by email to: and