- February 21, 2013
A new deal with HarperCollins includes works currently out of print, but the science-fiction author was dismissive of ebooks
The ebooks of the late Ray Bradbury, who once memorably dismissed digital books as smelling “like burned fuel”, are finally coming to the UK.
Following lengthy negotiations, the author’s publisher HarperCollins has announced that three of Bradbury’s best-known works, Fahrenheit 451 – about a future society which burns books – The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man, have just been made available as ebooks. Bradbury died last June, aged 91, leaving behind him a wealth of work including more than 500 short stories.
An international bestseller – more than 10m copies of his cult classic Fahrenheit 451 have been sold – Bradbury had long held firm against the encroachments of the internet. He believed that “there is no future for e-books, because they are not books. Ebooks smell like burned fuel”, and also dismissed the internet in an interview with the New York Times in 2009, calling it a “big distraction … It’s meaningless; it’s not real. It’s in the air somewhere.”
“Yahoo called me eight weeks ago,” he told the paper. “They wanted to put a book of mine on Yahoo! You know what I told them? ‘To hell with you. To hell with you and to hell with the internet.’”
Bradbury was nonetheless convinced, in 2011, to sell digital rights in Fahrenheit 451 to his US publisher, but UK rights have remained elusive until now. Harper Voyager commissioning editor Amy McCulloch said she had been “working closely” with Bradbury’s representatives “to come up with a digital publication plan that will be best to bring these titles into the digital sphere, and to reach new audiences that have been hungry for more of Mr Bradbury’s work”.
Harper Voyager [HarperCollins' science-fiction and fantasy imprint] has also bought both print and ebook rights in 22 of Bradbury’s other titles, including his first ever published work, Dark Carnival, which has been out of print for years. Originally published in 1947, the collection of stories was initially to be called The Child’s Garden of Terrors and includes the story The Night, in which a child first discovers the unknown.
“You are only eight years old, you know little of death, fear, or dread,” wrote the author. “Death is the waxen effigy in the coffin when you were six and Grandfather passed away – looking like a great fallen vulture in his casket, silent, withdrawn … Death is your little sister one morning when you awaken at the age of seven, look into her crib and see her staring up at you with a blind blue, fixed and frozen stare until the men come with a small wicker basket to take her away.”
Ray BradburyScience fictionFictionPublishingEbooksDigital mediaAlison Floodguardian.co.uk