Speaking of Introductions

I’m making something of a side gig doing introductions to new editions of classic works of science fiction, because I’ve signed on to write an introduction for The Martian Chronicles: the Definitive Edition, a massively expanded new edition of the Ray Bradbury magnum opus from Subterranean Press and PS Publishing. In addition to the original book (to which I will be writing the introduction), this edition collects up an additional 22 previously uncollected or unpublished Martian stories from Bradbury (this section will have an intro from Joe Hill), as well as two previously unpublished screenplays of the work (one from 1964 and one from 1997), an essay from Bradbury himself on the work, and newly commissioned art from Edward Miller. Good stuff.

This is a signed, limited edition, and as you might expect it’s not cheap — we’re talking $300 here, and $900 for the lettered, traycased edition — but if you’re a Bradbury fan, it’s going to be worth it. Also, at this very moment, there’s a limited-time special price discount of $225 going on. So you have that going for you. The printing is already halfway sold through, however, so if you want it, get on it. I’m looking forward to a copy of my very own, I’ll tell you that much.

46 Comments on “Speaking of Introductions”

  1. There aren’t many books I’d consider as cheap at $900. But this sounds like it would be. Too much good stuff to miss. Thanks for posting this, man.

  2. That’s wonderful news, I’ve been wanting to read the stories in the original language for years and this edition sounds like a perfect treat. Thanks for the info.

  3. “Also, at this very moment, there’s a limited-time special price discount of $225 going on.”

    Maybe it’s just be, but that’s not terribly clear – I followed the link to the book expecting to see it for sale at $75. That is, I started at $300 and took off a discount of $225.

    I’d like to say I was disappointed when I discovered this, but, well, I had thought that a $225 price cut did sound a bit too good to be true.

  4. Even if he wanted to, I wouldn’t expect an 89-year-old Bradbury to integrate all the uncollected stories into the previously established early-1950s Martian Chronicles (with its careful assignment of dates to each story). But if the other stories listed at Subterranean’s page are thrown in as a separate sub-volume with its own introduction, then this is just The Complete Mars Stories of Ray Bradbury and ought to have been called such. By using the Martian Chronicles title, the publisher is implying that Bradbury himself is calling this the “Definitive Edition,” but if this were true, the publisher’s site would undoubtedly say so. I therefore have to assume that the title is being used for marketing purposes only, which is kind of crass.

  5. Nick H. @4: I think Scalzi used an unfortunate choice of word order; he said “special price discount of $225”, which could be taken to mean $300 minus $225 (or $75), whereas he should have said “special discount price of $225”, which would mean $225 after the discount.

  6. Aww… Out of my price range, but definitely cool. Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles was one of my earliest introduction to sci-fi, and I can still remember the sense of freshness and wonder I felt while reading it.

  7. How much plasma do I have to sell to get to $225? Maybe the IRS won’t mind if I’m $900 light as long I can prove I spent it on consumption I don’t need. How much is a soul going for nowadays?

  8. if there is such a thing as book lust …. the limited editions from Sub Press are the objects of my desire. Unfortunately, although worth every penny, $225 is just too dear right now.

    While on the subject – hey Whateverites! OMW universe limiteds are available from Sub Press – good reads and lovely to behold – buy while you can

    and John- I’m still waiting for someway to get a hardcover copy of Agent – I know, I know – Sub Press was a one time deal, Tor sells the paperback and SFBC doesn’t pay— I’ll be content (for now) w/ my electronic version until something changes (I don’t have a rational need to have hardcover vs. paperback – but softcovers just don’t feel right when reading)

  9. Brett@7: Mr. Bradbury selected the contents himself for the additional stories section, and there are a very few Mars stories he did not include in the book. The title is also his, with no publisher input.

    I’ll leave it to others to decide if following the wishes of one of SF’s legends is crass.

    Subterranean Press

  10. Crap – I’ll never be able to afford it. I loved it when I read it back in high school. And, of course, none of my other geek freinds even READ it.


  11. My mom met Ray at the UCLA bookstore, where she was working to put herself through college. (My grandparents did not approve of women attending college. In fairness, they didn’t approve of anyone attending college, deeming it a lazy person’s way of dodging real work.) Anyway, mom and Ray became friends, and their friendship continued as Ray became a famous author and my mom became a school teacher (LAUSD, 40+ years of service). Each year, mom would invite Ray to visit her school, sometimes to speak to the entire student body and sometimes just for one or two of her classes. He always showed up, and he was unfailingly polite and gracious to the students.

    As for me, I got lots and lots of Ray’s paperbacks, all autographed. (Many of which survived my teens.) I would love to add this book to my collection, but I can’t just can’t justify the expenditure to my wife, who already thinks I have way too many books–including two copies of OMW.

  12. The price for this is at the top end of my range, even a bit beyond, but it’s the definitive edition of one of Ray Bradbury’s masterpieces. Plus, it’s being put together by two of the best independent publishers – Subterranean Press and PS Publishing, so you know it’s going to be an awesome piece of book-making. And, it’s going to have a bunch of new Edward Miller artwork. Finally, our host is contributing an intro. My wife’s gonna kill me, but I went ahead and ordered it as soon as it was listed for preorder, even before the announcement.

  13. William @13: My apologies – I did assume incorrectly that the title wasn’t Bradbury’s. Since it is his title, couldn’t your site say explicitly that he also selected the stories? (I presume this is all clearly stated in the book itself.)

  14. Sigh. That price is insanely out of my range (as in, it pretty much exceeds our entire book-buying budget for 2009 and 2010 combined). I do hope those stories make it into a cheaper edition someday (I’d be just content with a $25 TPB without fancy artwork, signatures, and the like). Still, it’ll be something lovely to drool over at dealer tables at Readercon or Boskone. Bill, I don’t suppose there are plans for a nice $9.99 Kindle version, by any chance?

  15. I did assume incorrectly…

    That gets to be a bad habit after a while, if you’re not careful.

    Bradbury is one of my all time favorites, and he wrote one of the all time great golden age short stories, The City which scared the every living crap out of me as a teenager. Bradbury’s work is imbued with a sense of vast alien strangeness – and nowhere is that better than in The Martian Chronicles. I’m going to have to sell a couple of art pieces, or a kidney, but I just ordered my copy.

  16. I’m making something of a side gig doing introductions to new editions of classic works of science fiction…

    Any chance there’s eventually going to be enough of them to justify a collection of non-fiction? At the risk of sounding like a total kiss-arse, I’m sure they’d be more interesting than the usual run — though you’d have to stop sleeping to catch up with John Updike, who managed to fill four very stout volumes with book reviews, essay, short New Yorker pieces, speeches, introductions to editions of his own books and others, and every damn questionnaire or request for comment he ever answered…

  17. Anyone who EVER has a chance to see Ray Bradbury speak anywhere — local library, San Diego Comic-Con, train show or museum or whatever event — drop everything, and go see and hear him. It will warm parts of your heart that you forgot you had.

  18. I didn’t even realise that Ray Bradbury was still alive. I was wondering “how can they be signed editions? Do they chop his signatures off of old cheques and birthday cards?”.

    But then until recently I also thought that David Bowie was dead, and Jimmy Carter. Turns out humans have a longer expiry date on them than I think.

  19. @27: Ray Bradbury is the last of his kind, the last giant left standing from that bygone era. The man is a living, breathing legend and myth.

  20. Christopher @29
    Ray Bradbury is surely among the last of his kind but-

    Frederick Pohl – still kicking (and BLOGGING!) at 89(?)
    he’ll be at Capricon in Chicago this Saturday

    Jack Vance – still writing a 90+ yrs old (and blind) – his autobiography is available for preorder from Sub Press

    several other Grand Masters are still extant: Silverberg, LeGuin, Farmer, Harrison, Ellison, Aldiss and others.

    as noted above humans can live a long time

  21. I don’t consider Silververg, LeGuin, etc in that same grouping as Bradbury but I totally forgot about Pohl. And Vance…ya, him too.

  22. jasonmitchell @ 30

    I think there was a time, or perhaps several times, when Harlan Ellison would have resented the hell out of being called a Grand Master of SF and lumped-in with some of the other names in your post. Not that I know him in the slightest, but I’ve read his stuff. I’m thinking of the “New Wave” days of Dangerous Visions, and his infamous SFWA resignation speech (for two examples of what I’m talking about).

    I guess my point is that it wouldn’t have occurred to me to put that list together the way you did. It wouldn’t have felt right. But maybe that’s just me…

  23. Bill (or anyone in the know),

    Can you clarify if/when there might be an ‘unlimited edition’ of this book that will be priced within reach of poor/cheap/non-bailout-receiving Bradbury fans?

  24. Nick @ 32
    Jack Vance also dislikes the term “science fiction” applied to his work – I think who is among Bradbury’s peers (genre) is subjective – my point wasn’t to lump Bradbury (or Ellison) in any particular literary group – but to point out that many great authors are still active in their 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and that just becuase Ray Bradbury is older doesn’t mean that didn’t participate in this project. Also an excuse to mention Pohl’s blog and talk about my favorite author (Vance)

  25. Keith@33: I don’t know that there will ever be an unlimited, less expensive version of this book. Remember, 350 pages will be screenplays, which are traditionally not strong sellers.

    Also, sometimes, when we’re offered these titles, part of the negotiations are that the book meet a certain price point, and not exceed a certain limitation.

    These are just a few of the parameters we specialty presses sometimes have to work within to bring books into the world that the general public never sees.


    Subterranean Press

  26. I tried to sleep on this news, hoping I would feel calmer by morning, but I don’t. I really tried. Please bear with me while I get this rant off my chest.

    First of all, I hate when brilliant editions of brilliant books are foreworded by whoever’s-hot-right-now. It’s wrong when Hollywood does it to classic film remakes, and it’s wrong when publishers do it to classic book reissues. I’ve got nothing against you or Joe Hill, I’ve read both your writing and liked it fine, but let’s be frank: He’s only been published a handful of times, and you’re better known as an internet celebrity than a sci-fi author. In the hallowed expanse of sci-fi history, you’re a couple of up-n-comers at best.

    So obviously it came down to this: Subterranean Press has published some beautiful Limited Edition Scalzi/Hill books and since bedfellows ask/do favours for each other all the time in the mutual-back-scratch culture of modern publishing, somebody made an offer too good to refuse. It’s enough to make Kate Capshaw blush! But to believe that either of you are not only qualified, but worthy, to pen your names in a work of literature of this calibre reveals either terrible foolishness or incredible conceit.

    Please understand, I’m not trolling here. The Martian Chronicles is one of my all-time favorite books ever, by one of my all-time favorite authors ever, and I literally feel HURT to see it compromised in this way. Hurt in my heart! One day it’ll happen to you.

    Think about it: What could either of you possibly have to say that would contribute to the value of the stories in this book? Talk about gilding a lily. The book needs no introductions, and if it did, they would come from the author himself. I don’t care where you were while Ylla was dreaming; it doesn’t matter your age when you looked into a river of wine and saw a Martian staring back. Your opinions are irrelevant to my interests and the interests of any true fan of these stories; they were good enough for a blog post AT MOST.

    Do you understand why this is bothering me? I need you to get why this was more wrong than right. They were wrong for offering, and you were wrong for accepting. You were being self-serving and now the project is f#@%ed. I’ve waited all my life for an edition just like this, ready to pay the asking price, and when it finally drops I find out it’s broke out the box. And for what? So you could get your egos stroked seeing your name in a Bradbury book? Now is the time for a head-check, all of you. It was WRONG.

    DEFINITIVE edition? Hardly. Way to suck, Sub Press. :(

    Thanks for reading and please don’t ban/spamtrap me, I’m not in the habit of venting like this usually. I only hope you understand how I feel, and that the same thing doesn’t happen to your favorite books someday. I’m still a fan of youse guys, just not right now. I am very sad and I wish I’d never heard of this project. :( :( :(

  27. Xian B:

    “Do you understand why this is bothering me?”

    No, not really.

    Dude, you’re thinking too way hard about this. The simple solution is not to buy this edition. The standard version isn’t going away.

  28. I’ve got nothing against you or Joe Hill…

    Could have fooled me, B. Then again, there might be a language where “you’re a pair of over-rated hacks attaching yourself like intestinal parasites to the work of someone whose arse you are not fit to wipe” is a compliment.

    Neil Gaiman has said the only reason he does introductions or afterwords — and he’s asked to do many more than he agrees to — is to share a little of his enthusiasm for books and writers he admires. He certainly doesn’t do it for the money (minimal or non-existent), and I’m pretty sure his ego gets stroked quite enough by the sales and critical reception of his own work.

    If a few people like me only picked up Hope Mirrlees’ wonderful ‘Lud-In-The-Mist’, ‘The King of Elfland’s Daughter’, or ‘The Stars My Destination’ because of his name, (or Scalzi motivates someone to pick up ‘The Forever War’) bloody good job. If you don’t like introductions, then let me introduce you to a wonderful design feature of of the printed book — turnable pages.

  29. Allow me to clarify: I’m not against introductions in principle. If these were in a standard edition on bookstore shelves this wouldn’t matter. I’d buy it, no problemo! But you put together a beautiful, practically perfect-in-every-way edition, expanded with never-before-published stories (makes me salivate just thinking about it), artwork, signature, etc, and charge $300/$900 for it, well, I expect something more… “pure,” for lack of a better word. Something self-contained, perfect from start to finish. That’s what “definitive” means. It means “authoritative and complete.”

    You do not then stick in a couple of introductions from your connected clients/friends for whatever favours they’ve done you or you’ve done them or whatever reasons there were. If Scalzi or Hill were scholars on Bradburian literature, that would be one thing. If they’d written biographies on Bradbury, or apprenticed under him, that would be one thing. If they were accredited authorities on the subject, you understand. But they’re not, and they didn’t. They are fans like me, and while I appreciate their love and enthusiasm for the work, giving them intro space would be like giving me intro space. Who the hell am I, and why should you care? I’m nobody, and you don’t.

    In editing, the golden rule is “kill whatever doesn’t belong.” These introductions do not belong. They won’t sell more units and they won’t tell me anything I, as a reader and a fan (just like them, just like you), don’t already know and feel. They are vanity pieces that serve no purpose, and compromise what would otherwise be truly “definitive.”

  30. Actually, I think Joe Hill is probably one of, if not the best new voice(s) in horror today. It doesn’t matter how many times he’s been published. It takes a special sort of numbskulledness to dismiss Hill, who went the “on his own merits” route for not getting published a lot. He certainly could have if he’d played up his father’s name. He got where he is on skill.

    As for Scalzi, he certainly is known outside of F/SF circles. he got a NY Times write up. Hardly any SF writer gets that these days.

  31. Xian B:

    Re: “Definitive”: Please note Bill Schafer’s comment above, pointing out that it was Mr. Bradbury who titled this version of the TMC. Perhaps you ascribe yourself a better judge of the work’s definitiveness and purity than Mr. Bradbury, but you might entertain the notion that others might see it differently, including, perhaps, Mr. Bradbury.

    Likewise, as to you being given intro space being the same as me being given intro space: Really? So you’re saying you’re also a New York Times bestselling author who’s won a Campbell and a Hugo and have been nominated for two Best Novel Hugos in three years, in addition to having written a non-fiction book on the science fiction field, in addition to writing a weekly column about science fiction, and who consults about science fiction for a major television series? How interesting. I didn’t know that about you.

    Now, clearly you don’t think any of that is relevant to writing an introduction to Bradbury, but it’s entirely possible that what you think is a relevant criterion and what others consider relevant are entirely separate things. Which may be why I’ve also been asked to write introductions for books by Joe Haldeman and Robert Heinlein, by publishers who are not Subterranean Press (and in at least one case above, by a publisher I otherwise did no work for).

    Again: If you dislike that I’m writing the introduction, the simple solution is to not buy the book. However, please spare me the assertion that I am somehow unqualified to write an introduction in this case. I’m more than qualified, whether my qualifications meet with your approval or not.

  32. I’m with Craig @ 24 in wishing I could read the Scalzi introductions to books I can’t afford to buy otherwise.

  33. Just a quick congrats to John on this. It must be quite an honor to be picked to write a tribute to one of the genre’s biggest authors.

  34. I still don’t understand why there’s a picture of Dustin Hoffman in a white wig…

    {shuffles back to sickbed}

  35. If Scalzi or Hill were scholars on Bradburian literature, that would be one thing. If they’d written biographies on Bradbury, or apprenticed under him, that would be one thing. If they were accredited authorities on the subject, you understand.

    Meh… my favourite author is Jane Austen, and my current reading copies are second-hand Penguin Classics, with lengthy introductions written by “accredited authorities” — academics who’ve been thinking and writing about Austen for decades — and I never look at them. Too much like required reading for a seminar.

    Compare and contrast the wonderful “complete” edition of Anthony Trollope the Trollope Society and Folio Society produced a few years back — each volume had new introductions from people who wouldn’t fit your definition of “accredited authorities”, but all had interesting insights into the works under discussion.

    By the way, I’m not the biggest Bradbury fan but isn’t there a pretty decent biography that’s currently in print and easily available? Why the hell would I want to read the Cliffs Notes version of I book I could easily obtain if I really gave a frak?

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