Back Ray Bradbury, “The Emissary”

Ray Bradbury (1920–2012)
From Ray Bradbury: The Illustrated Man, The October Country, Other Stories

A plate from Studies in Two Crayons. After Sir Edwin Landseer, a collection of 23 lithographs published by George Rowney and Co., 1879. This drawing is of Landseer’s oil painting The Poor Dog (1829). Courtesy Wellcome Collection (London).

In August 1953, the film director John Huston asked Ray Bradbury to write the screenplay for Moby Dick, and Bradbury and his family went by train and ocean liner to Europe, where he worked on the film for eight grueling months before returning to the States in June 1954. This posed a problem for one of his other deadlines: Ballantine Books had anticipated having a new and revised edition of Dark Carnival, Bradbury’s first book, in time for Halloween that year. The book had to be postponed.

Dark Carnival had been published in 1947 by Arkham House, a small niche press specializing in weird fiction. As Bradbury was becoming a better-known author published by trade houses, he bought back the rights to the book. Already under contract with Ballantine for Fahrenheit 451, he reached an agreement to publish a revised collection with some of the original 27 Dark Carnival stories along with newer stories dropped from the provisional contents of Fahrenheit 451 when the novel doubled in size.

Once he returned to Los Angeles, Bradbury began revising and, in some cases, rewriting the Dark Carnival stories. The final contents included fifteen stories from the original collection and four newer tales from the group removed from Fahrenheit 451. While Bradbury worked on finalizing the contents, staff members at Ballantine began to realize that this would basically be a new collection. His editor, Stanley Kauffmann, suggested he retitle the book, and Bradbury wrote an imagined childhood conversation with his grandfather, describing the “October Country” and the autumn people of his imagination. A snippet of that conversation became the epigraph of the new collection, and Ballantine published The October Country in hardcover on Halloween of 1955.

One of the earlier tales that Bradbury significantly revised for The October Country is “The Emissary,” about a sick boy confined to bed and dependent on his dog for news from the outside world.

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