UH Hilo writing center hosts Ray Bradbury Book-a-Thon

The second session of the Ray Bradbury Book-a-Thon takes place Wednesday, Oct. 15, from 3:30 to 4:30 pm in the Kilohana Writing Center on the first floor of Mookini Library.

By Susan Enright.

Karla Hayashi
Karla Hayashi, director of UH Hilo’s writing center and a huge Ray Bradbury fan.

What happens when the director of the Kilohana Writing Center at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and one of the Kilohana writing tutors have a few casual conversations over the summer about book clubs, science fiction, Ray Bradbury, and promoting literacy? Plans for a Ray Bradbury Book-a-Thon, of course.

“The Bradbury Book-a-Thon came to fruition following some casual conversations about book clubs this past summer,” says Karla Hayashi, director of Kilohana Writing Center. “I wanted to do something to promote science fiction for a couple of years but was not able to identify anything specific.”

Enter Wilfred Tyler Gee, a writing tutor at Kilohana and senior majoring in astronomy.

Wilfred Tyler Gee looking through telescope.
Wilfred Tyler Gee is a senior majoring in astronomy and also belongs to the UH Hilo Astrophysics Club. Here he is doing some lunar impact monitoring. Bradbury would approve. Photo credit.

“During the summer we kept coming back to thoughts about promoting literacy, science fiction, and eventually Ray Bradbury since I was re-reading some of Bradbury’s mystery novels at the time,” explains Hayashi. “We discovered a shared appreciation for Bradbury and began talking about how we could combine the elements into an activity which promoted literacy and Ray Bradbury. Although many people think of Ray Bradbury as a science fiction author, he actually wrote in multiple genres and defies categorization so we decided we were not going to promote this as purely a science fiction related activity.”

Hayashi explains that because Bradbury also authored pieces which fit into the dark and macabre genre, she and Gee decided to plan this event for October. They began by identifying which of Bradbury’s works they would promote.

“We narrowed it down to the four works described in the flyer,” she says (see below for info from flyer). “We organized the timing to coincide with two events, Banned Books Week and Halloween, with the two well-known short story collections sandwiched in between the two calendar events.”

Book cover, reds, black, yellows: Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, Bantam Books. Graphics: Rockets and lunar landscape.

Hayashi says staff of Mookini Library at UH Hilo enthusiastically supported this activity and requested two additional copies of each of the four works as a way to provide patrons with access to these stories so they can read along and hopefully come to the Ray Bradbury Book-a-Thon sessions to talk about their reaction and responses to the works.

In the first session, Fahrenheit 451 was examined, coinciding with the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week.

“While it is still safe to say, at least I think it is, that outright bans of books in the U.S. are highly unlikely, requests to remove books from library shelves continue to be recorded around the country,” says Hayashi.

She explains the ALA has kept records about these requests, and sometimes successful removal of “objectionable” books from K-12 school library shelves in particular, since 1999. The staff of Mookini Library also annually identifies a collection of books deemed “objectionable” by someone or groups and prepares an informative display for library patrons to bring attention to Banned Books Week.

“So we worked with the library staff to bring their display down to Kilohana for the duration of our first session devoted to Fahrenheit 451 and the topic of book burning,” says Hayashi.

Michael Bitter, associate professor of history at UH Hilo, got the discussion going by describing the orchestrated book burning of “un-German” ideas on May 10, 1933, in various cities throughout Germany as a way to get the group started talking about dystopian futures, censorship, and the resistance to censorship.

Book cover with solitary man seated, Ray Bradbury, The Illustrated Man

This Wednesday, Oct. 15, the group will discuss the two better known short story collections of The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man. They have narrowed each collection down to a number of stories they hope to work through, but Hayashi says there are really too many excellent stories in both collections. “So the discussion will follow its own course,” she says.  “We look forward to a lively conversation. We did, however, select a couple of stories from each work “Usher II” and “The Exiles” which we hope will be the bridge to the final Bradbury work we will discuss during the week of Halloween.”

On October 30, the group will discuss the last work, Something Wicked This Way Comes. This is a dark fantasy novel, explains Hayashi, actually turned into a film by of all studios, Disney, back in 1983.  It is a story of being careful about what you yearn for because you might just get what you desire, with disastrous outcomes. It is also a story about children on the cusp of leaving childhood and parents looking back at lost years. It is a very dark tale and while often categorized as a children’s story, it can resonate with anyone who reads it regardless of age.

Hayashi starts off each session and Gee facilitates the discussion. Gee has been a book club participant for many years so the discussion is modeled on the book club approach.

All UH community members from UH Hilo and Hawai’i Community College are welcome to stop in and share some thoughts about any of the works discussed.

“My desire is to make this an annual activity for Kilohana, in an effort to broaden the scope of activities Kilohana is involved in,” Hayashi says.

Kilohana’s Ray Bradbury Book-a-Thon

WHAT: The second session of Kilohana’s Ray Bradbury Book-a-Thon

WHEN: Wednesday, October 15 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.

WHERE: Kilohana Writing Center on the first floor of the Mookini Library.

The focus of this session are two well known collections of short stories* by Bradbury:

The Martian Chronicles
The Illustrated Man

*Note: There may be some differences in the collection of each of the two works depending on what edition you are reading. But that’s the fun with Bradbury!

While we could spend hours discussing all the stories in each book, we decided to narrow down choices to the following in each collection:

The Martian Chronicles –

  • “And the Moon Be Still as Bright”
  • “The Settlers”
  • “Night Meeting”
  • “The Musicians”
  • “Way in the Middle of the Air” (Try to read “The Other Foot” from The Illustrated Man after this story)
  • “Usher II” (Try to read “The Exiles” from The Illustrated Man as well)
  • “The Long Years”
  • “There Will Come Soft Rains”
  • “The Million-Year Picnic”

The Illustrated Man –

  • “The Veldt”
  • “Kaleidoscope”
  • “The Other Foot” (Try to read “Way in the Middle of the Air” from The Martian Chronicles first)
  • “The Rocket Man”
  • “The Exiles” (Try to read “Usher II” from The Martian Chronicles in no particular order)
  • “Marionettes, Inc.”

Hope to see you there!

Photo credits: Wilfred Tyler Gee (at his blogspot), The Martian ChroniclesThe Illustrated Man 


About the writer of this story: Susan Enright is a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.