Our Rocket Summer is Coming. On Ray Bradbury and The Martian Chronicles

You know I meant to use this site all summer and just never did.  I wish I had.  I’ve got half a dozen half-written pieces I had ideas for that I never got around to finishing up and posting. Stupid.  When I started this in the spring I was adamant I wouldn’t just repost other peoples stuff over and over with nothing of my own—instead I find myself posting nothing period.  Meh.

You know who I miss?  Ray Bradbury.  Yes I know I’m a couple months late on this.  Everybody went around posting about him after he died in June and talking about how wonderful he was and how great Fahrenheit 451 and A Sound of Thunder and everything else were.  Great quote circulated tumblr of Bradbury being brilliant and snarky.

You thought they were over, didn’t you?

I have a few very solid memories of Bradbury’s works and a couple of Mr. Bradbury himself.  When I was a kid, I was always reading.  As I’ve stated before, my house was filled with books.  Let’s be honest, the day in first grade I found out you could spend lunchtime in the library was a magical moment for me—and most of elementary school saw me in the library or reading under a tree outside.  When I was past The Bailey School Kids and The Boxcar Children, I searched the house for something different, something new.  And then my dad introduced me to Bradbury.  He had always read to us as children, (Brighty of the Grand Canyon, Where the Red Fern Grows, and others), but this was the first time he had recommended a book he liked to me.  He said he had read There Will Come Soft Rains in a high school english class and had never found anything like it.  I devoured The Martian Chronicles.  Like him, I fell in love with Soft Rains and the rest of the stories.  I moved on to The Illustrated Man.  Fahrenheit 451.  Something Wicked This Way Comes.  Everything I could get my hands on.

I read most of them when I was entirely too young.  I remember being very confused by Something Wicked, and I barely remember what happened.  When I read 451, I remember comprehending the action, but I didn’t “get it”.  I talked to my cousin after reading it, and he told me all about all of the symbolism, how the mechanical hound represented totalitarian governments and all of that.  I kept telling him I didn’t see/understand that part, and thought that was stretching it a bit.  Flash forward to 2008 or 2009, I saw a stage production of 451 at a tiny theatre in South Pasadena, produced by Bradbury, who happened to be sitting in the front row that particular day.  This man talked to us for ten mintes before the show, rambling a bit, but making the point that the english teachers had gotten it wrong for the last fifty years—this was not a book about censorship, but, as he put it, “how much I love libraries.”  And it was clear to me.  They weren’t burning books because nobody could read them.  They were burning them them because nobody wanted to read them. Nobody cared.  And that apathy is truly the most terrifying part.

He signed books and programs after the show, and I purchased a copy of The Illustrated Man right then and there for his autograph.  A few months later I heard him speak at the library and he told us about his life, his self-education through libraries, why he cared about these books so much.  I kept my eyes out for productions, readings, anything else in the area, but never made it to anything again.  Last winter I was driving through South Pasadena and saw him in the car behind me, hunched over in the passenger seat, smiling as he carried on with his aid driving him.  I’ve always liked short stories, especially science fiction and horror, reading anthologies of Poe, Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, or HP Lovecraft.  The Martian Chronicles and of course There Will Come Soft Rains still ranks as my favorite of any of them.

I need to return to Bradbury’s Mars again, wander through the abandoned towns, that twisted House of Usher, the barren expanses of desert where you can FEEL time.

Last week we took an enormous leap in our journey to walk the Martian surface.  Our rocket summer is still years away.  There may not be expansive Martian citys to explore, we may not find replicas of small town America, but there are things to explore, another rock spinning in this universe just waiting.  Waiting for us.  The future is pretty damn exciting.

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Burgess Meredith reads “There Will Come Soft Rain” [YouTube]
X Minus One on Archive.org includes a few Bradbury stories including Soft Rains and The Veldt.

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