âThey came because they were afraid or unafraid, happy or unhappy. There was a reason for each man. They were coming to find something or get something, or to dig something or bury something.â
âThey were coming with small dreams or big dreams or none at all.â
The preamble to Ray Bradburyâs The Martian Chronicles is a succinct summation of his books, at least the way that I experienced them as a middle school student trying to find a piece worth reading. The Martian Chronicles, ironically, was the first book which I had thought of as the most down to earth, and not nearly as outlandish and science fiction-like in its content.
Bradbury first wrote the stories in The Martian Chronicles during the late 1940s for various science fiction magazines, and each story is its own self-contained plot. But there was more to these stories. They were a commentary on human experience, as the preamble suggested.
It was intriguing that âEarth Men came to Mars, and martians shared the same reservations about these foreign beings that we might have. In middle school, I had to draw a poster board depicting the different scenes, interactions between martians and humans: the astonishment of Captain Williams in âAugust 1999: The Earth Men,â leader of the first expedition, as he sees a âmartianâ for the first time, for example.
Or how the prescient minds of the martians begin to have dreams, detailing the culture and emotions and characteristics of the human beings who will soon arrive. They even became fearful at the sudden appearance of American songs in their minds.
History then progresses into the future as The Martian Chronicles reads on. The names of the first Earth men are memorialized in names on the martian landscape. Even the inanimate objects have a breath in Bradburyâs mind.
In âAugust 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains,â a family-less house stood against the onslaught of a fire. The robotic appliances all do their jobs, oblivious to the destruction around them. The house, imbued with life enough to feel its demise, but not enough to stop it, becomes a metaphor for the future which has been realized as humans and martians clash.
There is an epic quality to Bradburyâs work, and although the characters may have been on distant planets, their emotions and viewpoints were not. They were familiar. His science fiction was not about developing the most remote and fantastical world from earth, but to pull a far distant place in time and space back down to our own eye sight. Perhaps that is why Bradbury is required reading for students. The humanistic side is too strong to ignore.
Ray Bradbury passed away on June 5, 2012 at the age of 91 in Los Angeles, California. Although I have not read much of Bradbury since The Martian Chronicles, the world in which he so adeptly created still remains in my memory; that of our own.