The Martian Chronicles

The first time I read Ray Brad­bury’s The Mar­t­ian Chron­i­cles, I was 16 or 17, in high school. All the dates were in the future, then.

The sec­ond time I read The Mar­t­ian Chron­i­cles, I was 40, Ray Brad­bury had recent­ly died, and only the last three chap­ters were in the “future”.

I’ve grown a lot in those twen­ty+ years. I’ve matured as a read­er and as a writer. I’ve actu­al­ly had one of my short sto­ries com­pared to Brad­bury’s writ­ing, which I thought was an immense honour.

When I was a teenag­er — heck, into my thir­ties — I was a sci­ence fic­tion snob. I sniffed in dis­dain at fan­ta­sy (except­ing, of course, Ter­ry Pratch­et­t’s oeu­vre and the then-ongo­ing Dark Tow­er saga from Stephen King — yes, I was a hyp­ocrite.) The Mar­t­ian Chron­i­cles was the first thing I read that meld­ed sci­ence fic­tion and fan­ta­sy — not the swords-and-sor­cery type that I was so dead-set against back then (and still am not a huge fan of), but the sub­tler fan­ta­sy that allows a rock­et launch to turn win­ter into flow­ers-bloom­ing sum­mer for a day. The fan­ta­sy that has a trav­el­er on a lone­ly road meet­ing up with a Mar­t­ian mil­len­nia dead, a Mar­t­ian that views him as the ghost instead. A John­ny-Apple­seed fig­ure that plants oaks that grow large enough to pro­vide shade in a sin­gle night.

There’s a poet­ry to Brad­bury’s writ­ing, the same sort of poet­ry that I find in William Gib­son’s writ­ing, though in a very dif­fer­ent way. They both have a tal­ent for find­ing le mot juste, that elu­sive turn of phrase that makes every­thing clear in the read­er’s mind.

If you haven’t read The Mar­t­ian Chron­i­cles, go, do so.