Joe Mantegna celebrates Ray Bradbury’s birthday and an enduring friendship

Birthdays are a time for celebration and remembrance and actor Joe Mantegna has done both in this video message noting Ray Bradbury’s 101st birthday. Mantegna needs little introduction; his appearances on stage and screen, his long association with David Mamet, and his role as FBI agent Rossi on Criminal Minds have made him instantly recognizable. But the origins of his relationship with Ray Bradbury might be less known. He grew up in Chicago reading Bradbury but his special connection to the author is rooted in his performances for the stage and movie adaptations of The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, a story that showcased so much of Bradbury’s joy in life and belief in the transformative power of friendship.

To Bradbury, this story of five men who pool their money to buy a hundred dollar white suit and share its magical properties was less foreign and fantastical than it might seem. Sharing clothes was something friends and family of modest means did in the hard times of the Depression that shaped Ray’s youth: Bradbury famously wore the suit his uncle had been shot in–a bullet hole in one side and out the other–to his high school graduation. The Waukegan of his boyhood had also been a destination for Mexican workers seeking jobs in local industry and when he moved to Los Angeles he found himself living in the midst of the strong ethnic culture that suffused the area around Figueroa Street.  He tapped that experience in works like the touching 1948 New Yorker short story “I See You Never,” the 1950 Collier’s “ The Window,” (renamed “Calling Mexico”)  and the exploration of Dia de los Muertos in the enduring favorite, The Halloween Tree. But nowhere does Bradbury’s personal vision of the resilience of the people he knew shine as it does in the magic realism  of “The Magic White Suit,” originally published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1957 and then adapted in 1958 as “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit” episode for Charles Drake’s TV series The Rendezvous, starring Peter Falk. Bradbury finally reworked it into a play for his Pandemonium Theatre Company.

In 1974 Stuart Gordon, artistic director of Chicago’s Organic Theater Company, mounted a production of The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit starring young actors now famous for many other roles: Joe Mantegna, Dennis Franz, and Mensach Taylor. Twenty-five years later, Mantegna and Gordon would reunite to translate the play into film with the help of Roy Disney—a fan of the story ever since he had seen it performed in Los Angeles. Ray Bradbury wrote the screenplay himself, relocating the story to the Boyle Heights area to reflect the blossoming of a vibrant  Hispanic community on the Eastside of LA by the time the film was made in 1999. He was present on the set every day: it was a labor of love and a way to ensure that his vision of the friends he first met in junior high would live forever. Mantegna’s birthday remembrance reminds us of who Bradbury was as a friend, and of the gifts he left behind for everyone to enjoy.

Along with Joe Mantegna, The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit stars Edward James Olmos, Esai Morales, Gregory Sierra and Clifton Gonzalez-Gonzalez and features inspired moments of broad comedy from Sid Caesar, Howard Morris, and Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez. Mantegna and Bradbury, two sons of Illinois, remained friends and it is clearly through such friendships, as well as his writing, that Ray Bradbury continues to live on at 101.


Stephen Graham Jones receives Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction

Stephen Graham Jones was awarded the 2021 LA Times Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction for his novel The Only Good Indians. This is the second year for the prize sponsored by the Ray Bradbury Foundation. This year’s LA Times Book Prizes were awarded in a live streamed ceremony kicking off the LA Times Festival of Books, whose exciting and edifying week of literary events remains available to watch online.

Jones, a prolific author who spent the last year working on 2 new novels, television & movie scripts, short stories, and a few essays, often draws on his Blackfeet Nation roots. But although The Only Good Indians tapped Jones’ experience as a hunter committed to respecting his prey, he denies that he writes social commentary. Instead, he insists perhaps disingenuously, he simply throws real people onto the page and lets them tell their own compelling stories–before they meet their fates.

The Only Good Indians, a beautifully written and taut psychological thriller as well as a horror story, follows four men of the Blackfeet Nation stalked by the spirit of a pregnant cow Elk slaughtered, along with a herd of bulls, a decade before. The need to fill their family freezers and the prospect of an impressive kill had convinced the young friends to venture into restricted lands of Nation elders. When they are caught in the act, they must abandon most of the meat–dishonoring the sacrifice of the animals’ lives. In the years that follow the ill-fated hunt, all four work to build good if different lives and families inside and outside the Nation but that atonement does not appease the spirit of the slaughtered Elk or eradicate their lingering guilt.

Jones’ great talent for creating a nuanced balance of complex, likable characters, engaging fantasy, and stark horror capable of upending reader expectations rightly made him this year’s winner of the LA Times Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction, an award named for a writer who prided himself on doing something similar in short stories that found horror in suburban basements and humanity in supernatural beings and creatures on Mars. The Only Good Indians was also a finalist for the 2021 Locus Award for horror novels and received this year’s Shirley Jackson Award for best novel.

Stephen Graham Jones, the Ivena Baldwin Professor of English at the University of Colorado Boulder, is the New York Times bestselling author of science, speculative, crime, and horror fiction. He has published 27 novels and novellas including The Only Good Indians, Mongrels, Mapping the Interior, All the Beautiful Sinners, and Demon Theory; 7 short story collections; and has works in numerous anthologies and online publications. Among his many awards are the Bram Stoker Award, four This is Horror Awards, the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction, and the 2020 Shirley Jackson Award for best novel (The Only Good Indians) and best novella (Night of the Mannequins). His newest novel, My Heart is a Chainsaw, will be available August 31.


Read more at the LA Times

Watch the Book Prize announcement 

Listen to an excerpt of The Only Good Indians

Purchase The Only Good Indians

Creator of The Good Place receives the Ray Bradbury Nebula Award

In a speech that mirrored the ironic style he is known for, Mike Schur accepted the Ray Bradbury Nebula Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation awarded to The Good Place. The popular series tracks the progress of souls working their way through the afterlife. The flawed and not always likable characters manage to change in a testament to the ever hopeful claim that no one, including the most wretched demon, is denied the possibility of spiritual progress and redemption.

Like Bradbury himself, Schur rejected being pigeonholed. The series was his first foray into fantasy and science fiction after a successful career producing the highly acclaimed workplace sitcoms The Office and Parks and Recreation.

Founded in 1992, the Ray Bradbury Nebula Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation is given each year by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). It was designated an official Nebula award in 2019 and is chosen by members of SFWA.

Read more