Ray Bradbury’s Elliott Family: A Gentle Horror
In the decades following the Second World War, the American family assumed an unprecedented cultural and political importance in the life of the nation. Happy families were everywhere: beaming enthusiastically from magazine advertisements and indulging in wholesome hijinks on ubiquitous post-war sitcoms. However, while the typical post-war family may conjure up images of white picket fences, exuberant children playing on green lawns, and pies cooling on windowsills, a sinister reimagining of American domesticity emerged in the pages of pulp novels and popular magazines. In a series of spooky tales written between 1946 and 1988, Ray Bradbury moved the archetypal American family out of the sunny suburbs and into the cobweb-strewn shadows of a decrepit Victorian mansion. He extended his commitment to this fictional family by weaving their stories together in the 2001 novel From the Dust Returned. As such, the Elliotts hold a unique position in Bradbury’s fiction as an ongoing gothic project that spanned his entire career.
Detailing the adventures of a supernatural clan of vampires, witches, and assorted monstrosities, Bradbury’s Elliott family stories are a unique component of his extensive literary output. Not only do the stories focus on a single familial unit, engaging with overlapping twentieth-century themes of family, identity and belonging, they were also unique in their time, interrogating post-war American ideologies of domestic unity while reinventing gothic horror for the Baby Boomer generation. Often compared to the iconic Addams Family, the Elliotts are in many ways a rural, Midwestern counterpart to Charles Addams’s more cosmopolitan New Yorker cartoon creations. Despite these parallels, Bradbury’s monstrous family distinguishes itself through its earnest search for belonging and complex relationships.
Centred around diverse academic analyses of the Elliott Family stories, this collection seeks to explore an often-neglected facet of Bradbury’s work by exploring the manner in which these tales unite to form a collective gothic mythos while also ranging across distinct themes within the individual tales. Over the course of more than five decades, the Elliott Family story, with its recurring characters and intersecting narratives, has examined the role of horror in American society while deconstructing the archetype of the idyllic nuclear family. The essays in this collection will explore the diverse ways in which the Elliott stories pose questions about difference and Otherness in America; engage with issues of gender, sexuality, and adolescence; and interrogate complex discourses surrounding history, identity, and community.
This collection seeks original contributions of between 5,000 and 6,000 words on topics including, but not limited to:
- The position of the Elliott stories within the canon of Bradbury’s work
- The relationship between the stand-alone Elliott stories and From the Dust Returned
- The Elliott stories and the horror genre
- The Elliott stories and the gothic tradition
- Gender and sexuality in the Elliott stories
- Space, location and geography in the Elliott stories
- The Elliotts and American history/national identity
- The Elliotts and the ideology of the American family
- The Elliott stories as post-war/Cold War literature
- The Elliotts and popular culture