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.”
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.”