Ray Bradbury Letters to Josh Kirby

 

Moving the Space Age into the Galleries

 

Correspondence discovered from Ray Bradbury to Josh Kirby

Researching the archives of Josh Kirby has uncovered personal letters between these two powerhouses of science fiction. The Kirby Estate, in conjunction with BARD Games, is sharing them to celebrate the impact of Josh Kirby on the art of science fiction and fantasy. 

Ronald “Josh” Kirby (27 November 1928 – 23 October 2001) was an award winning sci-fi artist with well over 400 sci-fi and fantasy magazines, book covers and movie posters created over his 50 years of art. He is most famous for 26 covers painted for the Discworld series authored by Sir Terry Pratchett. 

Ray Douglas Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012) was an American author and screenwriter. He worked in a variety of genres, including fantasy, science fiction, horror, and mystery fiction. Predominantly known for writing the iconic dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 (1953), and his science-fiction and horror-story collections, The Martian Chronicles (1950), The Illustrated Man (1951), and I Sing the Body Electric (1969), Bradbury was one of the most celebrated 20th-century American writers. Recipient of numerous awards, including a 2007 Pulitzer Citation, The New York Times called Bradbury "the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream".

Amy Anderson, executor of the Kirby archives and Josh's niece discovered three letter's from Bradbury to Josh Kirby, "Discovering the letters between my uncle and Ray was like uncovering a time portal looking in on a profound moment in art history. Two artistic giants, sharing the struggles and adventures of this still relatively new art form was both humbling and inspiring. I had to read them at-least three times before believing my own eyes!"

Kirby created illustrations for Bradbury's most iconic book covers, including Fahrenheit 451The Silver Locusts and The Illustrated Man. Kirby’s story-driven paintings, achieved through his well-known ability to visualize an author's story, inspired the famed author to solicit the painting for The Illustrated Man

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This request sparked a correspondence between the two creatives. The most poignant letter was in response to Kirby's attempts to feature Bradbury at a ground breaking art show in traditional, UK galleries. Unable to attend, Bradbury makes the case for science fiction as art. 

 

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With the flair of an author, Bradbury bares witness to the transition of science-fiction into art at the height of the Cold War, the Space Race and the Moon landing that occurs 4 years later. His letter demands that science in fiction must be a serious topic for art and literature. “Very little of the Space Age has filtered over into the galleries, and this is shameful.”

He further goes on to beautifully state the case for science as the central theme for contemporary art and fiction. 

“These are the central ideas of our Time, and to not cross-pollinate the sciences, which are giving us new insights into religion, philosophy, seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, knowing on every level, is to miss the cosmic boat completely.” 

Reflecting his own literary themes of ignorance, Bradbury’s letter bristles with an condemnation of the creative industries in which they toiled. His humorous depiction of contemporary resistance to science in art as "Lilliputian" is a delightful double accusation of both small mindedness and an out dated civilization unable to evolve in to the Space Age that both artists celebrated in their works.   

After some delay, it is clear Bradbury proudly hung Kirby’s painting in his office.

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These letters were recovered from the archives of the Josh Kirby Estate by his niece, Amy Anderson while working with BARD Games to gather and digitize Kirby's fantastic collection of science-fantasy for use in the Lost Worlds of Josh Kirby, a board game and activity book featuring Kirby inspired Space Opera themes. The game will feature over 40 unique Kirby illustrations recovered from Kirby's legacy of art, including a commanding box cover to signal the high point of science-fantasy art.

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Prototype of The Lost Worlds of Josh Kirby. Photo by Eric Yurko

To honor the intersection of Ray Bradbury, Josh Kirby, and their impact on sci-fi as an art form, the team at BARD Games have chosen the spaceships on the 1958 cover of The Silver Locusts to inspire new offerings for The Lost Worlds of Josh Kirby supporters. Using 3D modeling techniques, they are bringing the book cover to life for public enjoyment.  

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The 3D print files will be made available to fans with the goal of promoting the iconic imagery and awareness of these innovators in science-fantasy. Supporters will be able to create and paint their own Bradbury-Kirby inspired spaceship, embracing new technology and creative mediums worthy of their shared belief that science and art can, and should, be celebrated together. 

The physical letters are held by the Kirby Estate for display at future showings of Kirby’s legendary paintings.

For further information, contact info@bardgames.fun. 

February 7, 2020