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.