Thursday, November 19, 2020


In spite of the chaos of 2020, I managed to get three different projects published this year.

First, my in-depth study of the 1983 film Brainstorm was published in e-book format by Liverpool University Press as part of Auteur's Constellations series. Each book in the series profiles one important science fiction film and puts it into historical context. I researched the ten-year development process behind Brainstorm, analyzing over a dozen unpublished drafts of the screenplay and conducting interviews with all three credited screenwriters (Bruce Joel Rubin, Phil Messina, Robert Stitzel) as well as the film's director Doug Trumbull. I believe the book will change the way people view the film.

My friends at Resurrection Films have included five of my original horror short stories in their new anthology The Dark Side of Acting Up, Vol. II.  I worked with the Resurrection team on the 2019 documentary Millennium After the Millennium, and when I heard about this new project I couldn't resist throwing my hat in the ring. My stories are featured alongside plays by Jason Morris, Carly Street, and Mark Francisco, as well as artwork by Ian Stopforth. I recently pitched the book to some fellow horror geeks as follows: "Psychos, demons, aliens, and killer ducks... trading fours in the seventh circle of Hell."

Finally, Powys Media has re-published my 2018 novella Out the House. The first edition was a limited printing of only twenty-five copies, which were delivered to the cast and crew of the Internet web series The House Between. Author John Kenneth Muir wrote and directed three seasons of that series in 2006 - 2008. Ten years later, I couldn't get the show's characters and ideas out of my head so I wrote this meta-fictional spinoff. It's a very personal and very esoteric book. I have no idea what casual readers will think of it... but I'm curious to find out. The book is available through Lulu.

Now, on to 2021. I have a new book coming from McFarland & Company in the spring... and it's an big one: The first volume in a projected series about screen adaptations of Stephen King's work. Volume 1 covers all seven adaptations of the author's first three novels, focusing on produced and unproduced (and all unpublished) screenplays. It includes new, in-depth interviews with screenwriters Lawrence D. Cohen (the 1976 film CARRIE), Bryan Fuller (the 2002 TV movie CARRIE), Peter Filardi (the 2004 TV miniseries SALEM'S LOT), and Diane Johnson (the 1980 film THE SHINING). I think this will be be an important text in the academic field of Adaptation Studies, and I'm confident it will surprise even the most hardcore Stephen King fans. I'm already working on Volume 2...

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

New Projects

There is nothing simple about T.S. Eliot.  At least, that's the simple conclusion to be drawn from the existence of thousands of books, essays and dissertations about the Nobel Prize-winning poet.  Collectively, this body of critical work has created a popular conception of Eliot as an impossibly complex writer and a man of many contradictory masks.  Critics have presented him as an avant-garde poet and a conservative critic, a modernist and a traditionalist, a Romantic and a Classicist, a philosopher and a moralist, an American and a European, a proto-fascist and a pseudo-mystic, a bigot and a sage.  Each of these masks can be peeled away, but then what are we left with?  Who was T.S. Eliot and what did he really stand for?

“The next time I teach Eliot to undergrads I will assign this swift, witty, enjoyable invitation to T. S. Eliot’s work and thought. Maddrey knows everything about Eliot, but he grinds no axe which frees professors and students to grind their own. Scrupulously footnoted for professional use, not short but concise, it is stuffed with unfamiliar and apt quotations. Maddrey quotes a 1949 interview about The Cocktail Party, in which Eliot said, 'If there is nothing more in the play than what I was aware of meaning, then it must be a pretty thin piece of work.' There’s the New Criticism in 25 words, 21 of them monosyllables. Eliot asks us to quit asking what he thought and to do some thinking ourselves. This book will help.”
—George J. Leonard, Author of Into the Light of Things and The End of Innocence. Professor of Interdisciplinary Humanities, San Francisco State University

“Joseph Maddrey provides an illuminating spiritual biography of T.S. Eliot that treats his writings as markers of Eliot’s lifelong spiritual drama and development while avoiding reducing his poetry to biography because he treats the texts as products of creation that all can contemplate. Maddrey admiringly captures the creativity of both Eliot’s character and his poetry. The two are elusive not only because Eliot’s poetry employs a vast and encyclopedic storehouse of poetic images ('3,000 years of word made flesh'), but also because his poetry strives to move 'beyond poetry,' at the apophatic 'ever-present frontier of consciousness—where words fail, though meanings persist.' Maddrey introduces Eliot to a new generation of readers, and guides wanderers anew at the 'point of intersection with the timeless / With time.'”
—John von Heyking, Professor of Political Science at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada

“T. S. Eliot considered that 'a worthwhile biography should show the development of an artist and give readers a proper sense of how each work of art fits within the whole.' In Simply Eliot Joseph Maddrey has fulfilled the directive, brilliantly compressing a gargantuan amount of previous Eliot studies and providing a fresh dynamic manual for understanding this storied literary icon.”
—Quinton Hallett, Poet, and Author of Mrs. Schrödinger’s Breast 

Simply Eliot is an accessible, artfully-written book that positions a well-known literary figure in a seemingly new landscape. One of the book’s greatest strengths is its extensive engagement with archival sources. Maddrey draws on those sources to give weight and depth to his narrative, which weaves interpretations—close-readings, even—of Eliot’s poetry into the broad strokes of his biography and intellectual genealogy. The approach is neither reductive nor esoteric, and Maddrey’s way with language draws the reader—one suddenly realizes one is reading and enjoying literary criticism. For this reason, the book will appeal not just to an audience of academics or students, but to intelligent, cultured people of all kinds.”
—Dr. Siân White, Associate Professor of English, James Madison University

“Joseph Maddrey's Simply Eliot is an elegant addition to the Great Lives series, providing an authoritative introduction to T.S. Eliot's work and influences. Accessible and yet well researched, Maddrey's biography gives readers a deeper understanding and appreciation for Eliot's life and his development as an artist by tracing the personal and critical influences of the individual poems and plays written throughout the writer's long career. Maddrey focusses on the individual works themselves to demonstrate how each fits into the whole and represents Eliot's journey as a spiritual seeker and artist. Maddrey's book will make a great introduction to all who are interested in Eliot as well as to everyone and anyone who wants to learn more. Simply Eliot is simply what all biographies should be.”
—Carol Scarvalone Kushner, Professor of English & Humanities at Dutchess Community College

“Joseph Maddrey’s brief vita of Eliot is a tale of a search for identities both human and divine. Maddrey is right to say that 'Eliot’s total commitment to the church transformed his poetry.' Was that church, though, the Church of England, with its distinctive patrimony of the King James Bible, and Lancelot Andrewes, and George Herbert, and their like, or the Anglican faith as a world religion which Eliot experienced first in the USA during his flight from Unitarianism? Maddrey’s analysis of Eliot as an American High-Church Anglican living in Britain insightfully explores the relationship between religious and cultural identities, and helpfully places Eliot, nationally and religiously respectively, as 'stranger and pilgrim.'”
—The Reverend Graeme Napier MA MPhil (Oxon), Rector, St. John’s in the Village, Greenwich Village, New York

“This relatively brief account of the life of T.S. Eliot admirably enlarges one’s appreciation of his poetry and other writings by situating them within their historical, cultural, and religious backgrounds. Not of least value is the final section entitled ‘Suggested Reading’, which is actually a summary of the responses of critical scholarship to Eliot’s work rather a mere list of books.”
—The Reverend Dr. Paul Bradshaw, Professor Emeritus of Liturgical Studies, University of Notre Dame

“I had to stop my daily life, almost, to read Simply Eliot;  for me, it is compelling, refreshing, and genuinely exciting to read a biography that speaks to Virginia Woolf’s “common reader.” Cats saved Eliot for millions of people, but it did not make people want to read Eliot’s challenging poetry. I think Maddrey’s book will.”
—Charles W. Spurgeon, Professor Emeritus at Marymount University and Author of The Poetry of Westminster Abbey and J. Henry Shorthouse, The Author of John Inglesant (with Reference to T.S. Eliot and C.G. Jung)


The makers of Brainstorm (1983) spent more than a decade transferring the revolutionary concept of an “empathy machine” from page to screen, only for the famously troubled production to be met with critical and commercial indifference on release. But since 1984 the film has continued to inspire viewers to imagine possibilities for the future. As a result, Brainstorm now seems less like a fixed piece of film history than an idea in evolution. The screen story embodies the ambitions of sci-fi cinema going back to the 1950s, as well as the turbulent culture of the western world in the 1960s and 1970s. It also foreshadows technological breakthroughs around the turn of the twenty-first century, making the film startlingly relevant to our digitally-enhanced information age. To fully appreciate the film’s “ultimate experience,” it helps to understand exactly how the film evolved. This book aims to provide context for such an understanding, beginning with a brief history of science fiction cinema and setting up a careful consideration of multiple drafts of the Brainstorm screenplay by three different screenwriters: Bruce Joel Rubin, Philip F. Messina, and Robert Stitzel. It will also briefly examine the production history of the film (including the tragic death of star Natalie Wood), the career of the director and special effects wizard Douglas Trumbull, the particulars of the completed film, and the film’s influence on future storytellers like James Cameron.