August 22, 1920 – Birthday of Ray Bradbury

Was anyone else’s life changed by reading The Martian Chronicles? I don’t remember what year I first read this book, but Bradbury’s vision opened up a new world of possibilities for me. I think his website gets it exactly right:

“Ray Bradbury is one of those rare individuals whose writing has changed the way people think. His more than five hundred published works — short stories, novels, plays, screenplays, television scripts, and verse — exemplify the American imagination at its most creative. 

Once read, his words are never forgotten. His best-known and most beloved books, THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, THE ILLUSTRATED MAN, FAHRENHEIT 451 and SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, are masterworks that readers carry with them over a lifetime. His timeless, constant appeal to audiences young and old has proven him to be one of the truly classic authors of the 20th Century — and the 21st. 

In recognition of his stature in the world of literature and the impact he has had on so many for so many years, Bradbury was awarded the National Book Foundation’s 2000 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, an the National Medal of Arts in 2004.”

Ray Bradbury in 1975

The Martian Chronicles is a 1950 collection of linked short stories about the colonization of Mars by humans fleeing from a doomed and eventually atomically devastated Earth, and the conflict between aboriginal Martians and the new colonists. Although the stories were written during the height of McCarthy Era hysteria over Communism and the Cold War, Bradbury gamely took on chauvinism, racism, environmental contamination, censorship, and the nuclear arms race. In addition, he created landscapes of startling originality and beauty. This excerpt is from my favorite of the stories, “Ylla”:

“They had a house of crystal pillars on the planet Mars by the edge of an empty sea, and every morning you could see Mrs. K eating the golden fruits that grew from the crystal walls, or cleaning the house with handfuls of magnetic dust which, taking all dirt with it, blew away on the hot wind. Afternoons, when the fossil sea was warm and motionless, and the wine trees stood stiff in the yard, and the little distant Martian bone town was all enclosed, and no one drifted out their doors, you could see Mr. K himself in his room, reading from a metal book with raised hieroglyphs over which he brushed his hand, as one might play a harp. And from the book, as his fingers stroked, a voice sang, a soft ancient voice, which told tales of when the sea was red steam on the shore and ancient men had carried clouds of metal insects and electric spiders into battle.

Mr. and Mrs. K had lived by the dead sea for twenty years, and their ancestors had lived in the same house, which turned and followed the sun, flower-like, for ten centuries.

Mr. and Mrs. K were not old. They had the fair, brownish skin of the true Martian, the yellow coin eyes, the soft musical voices. Once they had liked painting pictures with chemical fire, swimming in the canals in the seasons when the wine trees filled them with green liquors, and talking into the dawn together by the blue phosphorous portraits in the speaking room.”

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17 Responses to August 22, 1920 – Birthday of Ray Bradbury

  1. Melissa says:

    Wow, I haven’t thought of this book for ages! I seem to remember reading it in middle school … maybe 7th grade? Or perhaps 9th? Can’t quite remember ….

  2. bermudaonion says:

    I don’t think I’ve read a single book by Ray Bradbury, but I’m sure my son has.

  3. Julie P. says:

    I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’ve never read one of his books!

  4. Trisha says:

    Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes were both wonderful, but I must admit that I have not yet read The Martian Chronicles – how horrible is that?

  5. Steph says:

    I read Fahrenheit 451 a few years ago, and while I really enjoyed the premise (well, enjoy might be the wrong word, but let’s say I found it a powerful and intriguing premise), I was really put off by the writing itself. I found the prose overly folksy or something, and it detracted from my overall enjoyment of the book. I sometimes think of reading more Bradbury, but then I remember that maybe I don’t actually care for his writing and reconsider…

  6. Sandy says:

    Fahrenheit 451 was actually one decent book I was forced to read in high school, but I haven’t read anything else by this author. I’ve always thought he looked like my Grandpa (exchanging the thick round glasses for thick square ones), which has always made me look at him with fondness.

  7. Jenny says:

    My sister loves Ray Bradbury, and I have read shamefully few of his books. I read Fahrenheit 451 in middle school, and The Illustrated Man in the past year or so, but that’s it.

  8. Lisa says:

    It’s really sad to say that I was first exposed to Bradbury in high school and while it didn’t change my life, it did give me any appreciation for sci-fi which for some reason didn’t carry over into adulthood. Maybe I need to pick up some Bradbury again and expand my horizons.

  9. Jenners says:

    I love that you posted this today. “The Martian Chronicles” was a big thing for me and my dad. I was just now thinking of the part with the blue orbs and how my dad and I talked about how after we died, we’d like to become one of the blue orbs. I guess he is now. Thanks for bringing this memory to me today.

  10. zibilee says:

    Oh my gosh! I loved The Martian Chronicles and read it several times in high school! I think I still have a copy of it somewhere, and in honor of Bradbury’s birthday, I should read it again. That book changed me so much, and it was such a joy to read. Thanks so much for reminding me of this great read!

  11. Nymeth says:

    I love that description. I love his writing, period!

  12. stacybuckeye says:

    The only book of his I’ve read, well listened to, is Fahrenheit 451. He read the book himself and it also contained a ‘biography’ at the end which I thought was very interesting.

  13. Ti says:

    I’ve read, and enjoyed his other works but The Martian Chronicles escaped me, somehow.

    He was ranting the other day about ebooks and technology. He will not allow any of his books to be converted to ebooks. i can certainly see why he feels so strongly but his books were so far ahead of their time, that I’m sure he saw this coming ages ago.

  14. i remember reading a short story by RB when i was in middle school and then a novel in high school. haven’t been back to visit him since then but maybe i should! 🙂

  15. EL Fay says:

    The only Bradbury book I’ve read was Something Wicked This Way Comes, which I couldn’t even finish. The prose was so purple and overly descriptive I couldn’t tell what he was actually describing!

  16. Staci says:

    I’ve never read Bradbury…but I should try at least one!

  17. Bookjourney says:

    I read Bradbury in High School and remember being fascinated by the way his mind worked. It was interesting to read about him here and be reminded of this incredible writer. I have not read the Martian Chronicles.

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