Ray Bradbury: Master of October

Books Events Geek Culture Hacking the Holidays
Illustration by Joe Mugnaini, from Ballantine Books’ 1974 edition of Ray Bradbury’s “The October Country.”

Nobody celebrated October like Ray Bradbury.

Twenty years ago this month, Bradbury described the deepest experience of his favorite holiday – Halloween, of course – as “tasting darkness, but thrilled by the encounter because we are alive to savor it. It is somewhat similar to leaving the dentist’s after a tooth pull and being unable to keep our tongue out of the deep pit from which the tooth vanished. We taste blood, and a small bit of our mortality.” (That same autumn saw the debut of the Bradbury-scripted animated TV movie The Halloween Tree, which starred Leonard Nimoy. Well worth checking out.)

Bradbury’s knack for knowing just how to tap that vein of chilled water that makes your neck hair prickle went well beyond Halloween itself.

As October comes to a close, here are ten Bradbury works – two books and eight short stories, all of which are anthologized and easy to find – that perfectly fit the season’s lengthening nights.

The Halloween Tree – Written in 1972 and born of an idea shared with cartooning legend Chuck Jones, this novella explores the roots of Halloween in a time-and-globe-spanning adventure that’s both fun and still tattooed with Bradbury’s signature shadow.

Something Wicked This Way Comes – “…one strange wild dark long year, Halloween came early.” Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show comes to Green Town, Illinois.

The Small Assassin – From Bradbury’s first book, Dark Carnival. Opening sentence: “Just when the idea occurred to her that she was being murdered she could not tell.”

Marionettes, Inc. – One of several Bradbury stories centered on the construction of lifelike robots … and its unintended consequences.

Come Into My Cellar – A pulp-comic-style tale mixing suspense and science fiction and silent menace.

Banshee – Inspired by Bradbury’s time in Ireland writing the screenplay for Moby Dick, and perfect for chilly, windy night reading.

The Veldt – Bradbury’s peek at virtual reality, offered in September 1950.

Fever Dream – Flu season.That’s all I’m saying.

The Thing at the Top of the Stairs – You know that place that scared you as a kid? Ever go back?

The October Game – Possibly the darkest Bradbury story ever, and definitely best read alone in an empty house.

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