Ronald Kidd - January 8, 2021

Escaping to Mars

At some point I may have coherent thoughts about Wednesday’s storming of the Capitol, but not yet. In the meantime, I will escape to Mars with Ray Bradbury on a rocket ship called The Martian Chronicles.

A friend and I, for a pandemic activity, reread and then discussed Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and Robot series. We had such a good time that I suggested rereading The Martian Chronicles as a quick followup.

Both Asimov’s and Bradbury’s stories are brilliant, but what a contrast! Asimov created vast narrative architectures and worlds using a strictly functional style; whereas Bradbury’s early style was spare and elegant, and his subjects were altogether different from what I had remembered.

Bradbury’s stories are usually labeled science fiction, but they have little to do with science. Their subject is imagination. Reading them is like taking a journey with a fantastically gifted thirteen-year-old kid whose head is stuffed with pulp fiction from the 1940s and 50s, who also just happens to be a great writer.

We meet the original Martians, who travel down water-filled canals. We walk with astronauts as they enter Martian villages that, amazingly, are just like the places where they grew up. We pad silently through a Martian house that is deserted but has a life of its own. We witness the interplanetary migration of entire Midwestern towns. And on and on, exploring the inside of Ray Bradbury’s head. 

It’s a great place to be.

Recently I was delighted to see a magazine article featuring a conversation between two of Bradbury’s friends at the end of 2020, which would have been the year of his 100th birthday. To read the article, click here

I found it helpful to separate, as the two friends did, Bradbury’s first decade of work from his later pieces. That early period included The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, and Fehrenheit 451.  

And it was good to be reminded how Ray Bradbury, like the mountains and smog, was omnipresent in the L.A. where I grew up and how, through his work there, Bradbury elevated the fiction of early pulp magazines to the status of literature.

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