I'm trying to remember the name of this book that's really a collection of short stories but is told with a narrator character who's telling the stories he sees as they take place on a man covered in tattoos. There's a pretty big number of stories in the book even though it isn't overly long. The stories range from soft to hard sci-fi but more so on the hard side in general. There were many common themes but the main one seemed to be around technology and how it's not always a good thing. Each story corresponds to one section of his body. The tattooed guy was older and think he used to be in the circus. I think it's really old too.

  • Can you remember any details about the specific stories that could help track this down?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 11:46

1 Answer 1


This sounds like Ray Bradbury's "The Illustrated Man". As described by the Wikipedia entry:

The Illustrated Man is a 1951 collection of eighteen science fiction short stories by American writer Ray Bradbury. A recurring theme throughout the eighteen stories is the conflict of the cold mechanics of technology and the psychology of people. It was nominated for the International Fantasy Award in 1952.1

The unrelated stories are tied together by the frame device of "The Illustrated Man", a vagrant former member of a carnival freak show with an extensively tattooed body whom the unnamed narrator meets. The man's tattoos, allegedly created by a time-traveling woman, are individually animated and each tells a different tale. All but one of the stories had been published previously elsewhere, although Bradbury revised some of the texts for the book's publication.

That description covers not only the frame device, but the fact that the tattooed man was a former carnival member, and the theme of technology being dominant in the stories.

  • yup that's it. My dad gave me a copy when I was in middle school when I first fell in love with sci-fi and wanted to reread it. I saw an episode of Futurama the other day that I thought might be apart of it and it's been bugging me that I couldn't remember the name Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 11:56
  • There were several paperback editions, with some pretty interesting cover art; the red covered one where the man is sitting on a wooden structure is probably the most well known. There was even a movie starring Rod Steiger as the tattooed man. Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 18:14
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    I've read a short story in which a man receives a series of prophetic tattoos, to be uncovered one by one on a schedule. They are increasingly disturbing and he wants them removed, but they're too deep. The last one shows his own death. Is that (part of) The Illustrated Man or something else? Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 19:11
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    @AntonSherwood I think you may be better off asking this as a separate question, rather than as a comment that not many people will read.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 8:17

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