Wednesday, June 6, 2012
“Something wicked this way comes.” Could it be... the Unexpected Visitor?
Ray Bradbury, SF writer extraordinaire, passed away June 5.
Years ago - my age was still in the single digits - I read a novel about humans traveling to Mars.
It was a peculiar book, not so much a proper novel as a collection of episodic stories, each complete in itself, that combined to create a narrative structure of sorts. Later I found out that that was indeed the case: it had been constructed of short stories that had been published over the span of several years and subsequently woven together with interstitial segments. Its author would later describe it as “a book of stories pretending to be a novel.”
It was poetic, packed with imagery. It was nostalgic. It was elegiac. It was marvelous.
It was The Martian Chronicles, and it was my first introduction to the magic pen of Ray Bradbury.
Bradbury, alas, has passed on. He died yesterday evening at the age of 91, having lived well into the future that he had so eloquently written about. Of course, it was nothing like he had imagined... at least as set forth in The Martian Chronicles.
Never content to be classified as merely a science fiction writer, Bradbury’s cultural footprint covered books (Fahrenheit 451, The Illustrated Man, Something Wicked This Way Comes, etc., etc.), comics (Al Feldstein adapted many of his stories for EC Comics in their pre-Mad Magazine days), movies (The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms was one of my favorites back in my Snot-Nose Days... and I later found that Bradbury wrote the screenplay for the 1956 version of Moby-Dick), and television (including Twilight Zone, for which he adapted his short story “I Sing the Body Electric”).
Men like Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein, and Asimov were the giants of SF, and now they belong to the ages. Others have come and taken their place on the shelves, in the anthologies, in the list of screen credits, and that is as it should be. But I will never forget the piercing sadness - the utter loneliness - of the final chapters of The Martian Chronicles... and neither will I forget Bradbury, who showed me how a book could elicit such powerful emotions, instilling in me a love of imaginative fiction that continues unto this day.
Ave atque vale, Ray! Perhaps now that you are Way in the Middle of the Air, you can see what Mars is really like.