Hear Ray Bradbury’s Beloved Sci-Fi Stories as Classic Radio Dramas


Image by Alan Light released under Cre­ative Com­mons license.

When he passed away in 2012, sci­ence fic­tion mas­ter Ray Brad­bury left us with a num­ber of instant­ly quotable lines. There are apho­risms like “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a cul­ture. Just get peo­ple to stop read­ing them.” There are more humor­ous, but no less mem­o­rable lines he deliv­ers in his advice to writ­ers, such as, “writ­ing is not a seri­ous busi­ness… I want you to envy me my joy.” A seem­ing­ly end­less source of wis­dom and enthu­si­asm, Bradbury’s cre­ative forces seemed in no dan­ger of wan­ing in his lat­er years as he gave impas­sioned talks and inter­views well into his 70s and 80 and his work received renewed appre­ci­a­tion. As one writer declared in 2001, “Ray Brad­bury is on fire!”

Of course Bradbury’s been hot since the fifties. That head­line alludes to his clas­sic 1953 nov­el of futur­is­tic book-burn­ing, Fahren­heit 451, which you’ve like­ly read if you’ve read any Brad­bury at all. Or per­haps you’re famil­iar with Bradbury’s non-sci-fi nov­el of child­hood lost, Dan­de­lion Wine? Both are excel­lent books well-deserv­ing of the awards and praise heaped upon them. But if they’re all you know of Ray Brad­bury, you’re seri­ous­ly miss­ing out.

Brad­bury began his career as a writer of short sci-fi and hor­ror sto­ries that excel in their rich­ness of lan­guage and care­ful plot­ting. So imag­i­na­tive is his work that it war­rant­ed adap­ta­tion into a star-stud­ded tele­vi­sion series, The Ray Brad­bury The­ater. And before that vehi­cle brought Bradbury’s bril­liance into people’s homes, many of those same sto­ries appeared in radio plays pro­duced by shows like NBC’s Dimen­sion X and X Minus One.

From the lat­ter pro­gram, at the top, we bring you Mars is Heav­en!, a dis­turb­ing 1948 tale of inter­stel­lar decep­tion. “When the first space rock­et lands on Mars,” begins the announc­er, “what will we find? Only the ruins of a dead, desert­ed plan­et, or will there be life?” Per­ti­nent ques­tions indeed. Brad­bury spec­u­lat­ed for decades about the mean­ing of Mars. “The Mar­t­ian Chron­i­cles,” adapt­ed above by Dimen­sion X, used a sto­ry about col­o­niza­tion of the plan­et as an alle­go­ry for humanity’s avarice and fol­ly. Hear many more Dimen­sion X radio plays from The Mar­t­ian Chron­i­cles col­lec­tion here, and also the sto­ry, “There Will Come Soft Rains.”

The year after 1950’s The Mar­t­ian Chron­i­cles came 1951’s The Illus­trat­ed Man, a col­lec­tion of shorts that includ­ed the trag­ic, lost-in-space tale “Kalei­do­scope,” dra­ma­tized above by Mind Webs, a series from Madi­son, Wis­con­sin that ran from the 70s through the mid-90s. Though pro­duced well after the gold­en age of radio dra­ma, the series nonethe­less man­aged to per­fect­ly cap­ture the engross­ing sound of that spe­cial­ized form—with omi­nous music, and a bari­tone-voiced nar­ra­tor with some seri­ous voice-act­ing chops.

While region­al pro­duc­tions like Mind Webs have kept the radio dra­ma fires burn­ing in the U.S., the BBC has con­tin­ued to pro­duce high-qual­i­ty radio adap­ta­tions on a larg­er scale. In 1991, they took on eight sto­ries from anoth­er fifties Brad­bury col­lec­tion, The Gold­en Apples of the Sun. The two hour pro­duc­tion dra­ma­tized the title sto­ry and the tales “Hail and Farewell,” “The Fly­ing Machine,” “The Fruit at the Bot­tom of the Bowl,” “A Sound of Thun­der,” “The Mur­der­er,” “The April Witch,” and “The Foghorn.” You can hear them just above. Or stream and down­load the com­plete audio at the Inter­net Archive.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free

X Minus One: More Clas­sic 1950s Sci-Fi Radio from Asi­mov, Hein­lein, Brad­bury & Dick

Dimen­sion X: The 1950s Sci­Fi Radio Show That Dra­ma­tized Sto­ries by Asi­mov, Brad­bury, Von­negut & More

Ray Brad­bury Gives 12 Pieces of Writ­ing Advice to Young Authors (2001)

Hear Radio Dra­mas of Isaac Asimov’s Foun­da­tion Tril­o­gy & 7 Clas­sic Asi­mov Sto­ries

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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