Hailed for its bracing portrait of a future media-addled society victimized by the systematic burning of all books, Ray Bradbury's classic science fiction novel Fahrenheit 451 is the perfect work to highlight issues of censorship and the freedom to read. And in August, Farrar, Straus & Giroux's Hill and Wang imprint will republish the book to do just that. The house will publish a comics adaptation of the novel—“a graphic translation”—created by artist Tim Hamilton, overseen by Ray Bradbury himself and supported by an elaborate marketing campaign that will peg the book to the American Library Association's Banned Books Week in September as well as a host of educational, book trade and comics industry events and promotions.
FSG will release a combined 75,000-copy first printing of the novel in hardcover and paperback. The house has also sold first serial rights to Playboy magazine, which ran a first serial of the original prose novel in 1954, to be published in the magazine's July/August issue. In-house enthusiasm for the new graphic work has generated a broadly synergistic marketing effort at Macmillan, according to Jeff Seroy, FSG senior v-p, publicity and marketing. “It's very unusual for all these departments to come together in this way,” said Seroy. “This kind of active and imaginative level of involvement, cohering into a team over one project, is outside of our natural course of business.”
The project was acquired by Hill and Wang's publisher, Thomas LeBien, who launched a line of nonfiction comics at Hill and Wang in 2006 with a bestselling comics adaptation of the 911 Commission Report. Fahrenheit 451 is LeBien's first adaptation of fiction, and he plans to publish graphic versions of Bradbury's 1950 collection The Martian Chronicles and the 1962 novel Something Wicked This Way Comes, which are now in production. LeBien said Bradbury has always been “a huge comics fan and collector,” and that Bradbury had always conceived of his books as prose novels, films and comics.
Bradbury worked with the late publisher Byron Priess (and editor Howard Zimmerman) to create comics versions of his short stories in the 1990s, including beginning to adapt Fahrenheit 451 with Hamilton. LeBien said he saw an opportunity to create a “nuanced” graphic adaptation that offered “the subtle notes and tones of Bradbury's prose in images that would breathe the book's adjectives and verbs—capture all the atmospherics of the book. Ray looked over it all and gave it his stamp of approval.”
Marketing plans are coming from all parts of Macmillan, ranging from its science fiction imprint, Tor Books, to FSG's academic/library marketing department and the company's digital marketing group. Among the slated initiatives: academic marketing director Talia Scherer plans to offer complementary copies through the ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom for Banned Books Week. More comps will be offered through the Young Adult Library Services Association for Teen Read Week as well as contributions to the NEA's Big Read program, which includes the original Fahrenheit 451. Posters created by artist Tim Hamilton for the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression will be distributed in print and by download. Advertising will be focused online and include social media sites. And look for a e-book version of the graphic edition designed for the iPhone. Giveaways will be available at the San Diego Comic-Con International in July, and there are hoped-for plans for the 88-year-old Bradbury to make an appearance at the Con. Prominent sci-fi site Tor.com will post a newly produced video interview with Bradbury (also available to e-tailers and on YouTube) and offer promotions. FSG is creating e-newsletters to promote the book to high schools, and a teachers guide is in production. The book will be featured at the National Council of Teachers of English meeting in November and the International Reading Association meeting next year.