This is how I spent last night and also part of my Independence Day (who calls it that? I seriously thought the name of the holiday was “Fourth of July”; I mean… Well. I digress.): eating sticky red grapes and reading The Martian Chronicles. And this is what my family experienced as I read:
Me: “Dude. This should be made into a movie.”
Dad: “It was a movie.”
Me: “No! It probably sucked! They probably ruined the Martians!!! I mean, if the movie doesn’t get the vibe, it has no vibe.”
Me: “Shh! I’m reading.”
Family: *eye roll*
Dodge: “What? Pen?”
Mom: “She can’t hear you, she’s reading.”
Me: “Wha–? I don’t get the ending.”
Mom: “She doesn’t get the ending.”
Me: “Oh! I get it!”
Mom: “She gets the ending.”
And it was a really good ending. In fact, I liked the book a LOT. Except for a few chapters that I thought were kind of unnecessary even if they were a cool idea, like the automated house, and even the House of Usher bit– they sort of introduced the idea of “robots”– which were really androids, obviously– but then the idea never really gets carried through much. Except for the bit with Hathaway and his robot–android!–family. I’m just saying, there could have been a lot more done with that. Although maybe it wasn’t supposed to be its own theme, maybe it was actually just another piece of what I felt was the overall, underlying theme of the book: Do Not Wish You Could See Your Dead Loved Ones. Seriously. No. Because basically, on Mars, your dead loved ones appear all the time, but it’s never really them and it never ends well. I don’t know if Ray Bradbury just thought this was a cool idea or if he was trying to say something meaningful or whatever, but either way, that’s what I got from the androids and the hypnotic, hallucinogenic Martians.
I mean, there were the obvious themes, too: Who Is Really The Alien In This Situation, Go West Young Men/Humans Spread Everywhere, The Destruction Of Native Cultures, Space Makes People Crazy. But another theme I really liked in the book was the significance of memory, dreams, and perception/perspective. These are things that show up a lot in my own stories, so it was nice to know that I’m not the only one intrigued by these things, and that they don’t have to be cliche.
What was weird, though, was reading a sci-fi, spacey book from the forties. Sometimes it made me laugh– a hot dog stand? Really? And why is everyone in this book from “farm” states like Ohio (har har), Idaho, Minnesota? Not to mention: atomic wars. Also, how come no country besides America sent people to colonize Mars? Really, the Russians are atomic-warring us on Earth in this story, but they don’t have rocket ships? I guess it would have added too much complexity for there to be other Earth nations mixed in when we already had conflict between the Americans and the Martians– but then I think, when the English colonized America, there were French, Dutch, Spanish, and German people coming in, too, and somehow that is still comprehensible. So… I don’t know. Maybe Ray just figured that since the Americans in the story were all killing each other anyway, adding other Earth people would have been redundant.
“He did not turn. He felt a cold wind blowing. He was afraid to turn. He felt something on the seat behind him, something as frail as your breath on a cold morning, something as blue as hickory-wood smoke at twilight, something like old white lace, something like a snowfall, something like the icy rime of winter on the brittle sedge.
There was a sound as of a thin plate of glass broken– laughter. Then silence. He turned.”
I loved the descriptions best of all, as you can tell. The words had poetry. And pacing. And, as Bug and I would say, VIBES. Which is probably why I kept wishing I could somehow make this book into a really, really good miniseries or movie. The Martian costumes would be an absolute dream to create, silk and silver. Most of all, strangely, the scene I most want to make is Ylla cleaning the house on Mars. I imagine how the magnetic dust would look as she tossed it out of the window, toward the valley where York was supposed to land. I also would love to make the guns the Martians have: “From it hordes of golden bees could be flung out with a high shriek. Golden, horrid bees that stung, poisoned, and fell lifeless, like seeds on the sand.” I mean, that’s just… cool.
In conclusion, The Martian Chronicles is the most creative, original, intriguing, and surprising book that I’ve read in ages. It definitely gets put on the list of books that have changed (or at least moderately altered) my life.
Aaaaaand it was first published in 1945.
Also, I have realized that I’m knee-deep in sci-fi of late. This, plus watching old Star Trek episodes with Eliza and Bug, plus Poncho and I just finished watching the full fifth season of Doctor Who. ( Every single time there was a hint of aliens, Poncho said: “I bet it’s a weeping angel. Maybe it’s actually a giant angel. Wouldn’t it be awesome/funny if it was a weeping angel?”) I’ve always liked sci-fi-ish stuff (see: Lost, superheroes, The Golden Apples of the Sun), but now I am well and truly falling down the rabbit hole of no return. I’d like to make one of my new story ideas into a sci-fi, but I’m kind of afraid to take the leap. Fantasy is easy for me because you can pretty much make it up and/or manipulate the world so the weird stuff makes sense, but with science fiction I feel like I’d have to understand, say, radiation. Or, you know, technology in general.
At least I know the difference between a robot and an android. Geez.
Yours til the final frontier,