Friday, October 8, 2010

Reading for October

Ray Bradbury first published the short story, the Homecoming, in Mademoiselle magazine in 1946. It was about an Elliott family reunion in Illinois. The Elliott family happen to be vampires. They were an unusual family who lived in a dark, Gothic Victorian house. This fictional family became the inspiration for Charles Addams creation, the Addams family.Author Neil Gaiman credited this tale as one of the stories that inspired him to take up writing.
 Since I am an Elliott, I find the story intriguing.I was brought up watching the Addams family and the Munsters on television. In fact, my siblings and I seemed to be able to relate to these weird, yet loving families who were different by all of society's norms. We, too, felt as if society saw us as "strange". At the same time, we saw this as a good thing. We loved being the "black sheep" who loved monsters and unusual books and movies. Maybe we used our unique outlook to life as coping mechanisms. Maybe we had an artist mentality. It was probably a little of both. Yet, we were different in a good way. It became who we were.
     Bradbury seemed to be coming from the same type of mentality. He saw the world from an artistic, yet darker slant. Bradbury had an intelligent imagination. He could not only see the world in different ways, he could make the reader see it too.
     Bradbury came from Waukegan Illinois which he immortalized in a poem.  
Byzantium I come not from….
As boy
I dropped me forth in Illinois.
A name with neither love nor grace
Was Waukegan, there I came from
And not, good friends, Byzantium….
Pretending there beneath our sky
That it was Aphrodite’s thigh….

And uncles, gathered with their smokes
Emitted wisdoms masked as jokes,
And aunts as wise as Delphic maids
Dispensed prophetic lemonades
To boys knelt there as acolytes
To Grecian porch on summer nights
When he was young and had recently moved to California, Bradbury was introduced to the existence
of the “Science Fiction Society,” a local group where he met
Robert Heinlein and other writers, both established and
aspiring.  Heinlein helped Bradbury publish an early story, and
by the early 1940s the boy from Waukegan was selling material
regularly to pulp fiction periodicals.

Almost from the start, Bradbury aspired to something higher
than the formulas of genre fiction.  When his story Homecoming was turned down by Weird Tales, Bradbury
published it instead in Mademoiselle, where it was championed by
Truman Capote.  Soon afterwards, it was chosen for inclusion in
The O Henry Prize Stories of 1947.  Around this same time,
Bradbury’s work was accepted by Harper’s and The New Yorker.   
By the early 1950s, when he began publishing the novels and
short story collections for which he is best known—including
The Martian Chronicles (1950), The Illustrated Man (1951), Fahrenheit
451 (1953)—Ray Bradbury had evolved into a fantasy writer, evolving into a Science Fiction author. He had the wit of a poet and the flair of an actor who could immerse himself in the tale as if he were living it. 
Looking at his classic works, one could see how unique his slant was on reality.   Take, for example, a  passage from The Martian Chronicles.  Here any other science fiction writer of
Bradbury’s generation would have written: “The rocket ship
landed.”  Instead, this is what we get with Bradbury:

    The ship came down from space.  It came from the stars and the black velocities, and the shining movements, and the silent gulfs of space.  It was a new ship; it had fire in its body and men in its metal cells, and it moved with a clean silence, fiery and warm . . . It was a thing of beauty and strength.  It had moved in the midnight waters of space like a pale sea leviathan; it had passed the ancient moon and thrown itself onward into one nothingness following another.  (from The Martian Chronicles)

    Science did not prevail in Bradbury's Sci-fi tales. He chose to envelope the reader into another world without the nuances of technicalities.He used interpersonal relationships between the characters and their environment. He chose to delve into the underlying human and political aspects of the tale. He used common dilemmas society faced and placed them delicately into a science fiction setting.In the book Dandelion Wine, he takes the idea of a boy wanting a pair of "tennis shoes" or sneakers and makes it a wonderful thing. Here is an excerpt:

Somehow the people who made tennis shoes
knew what boys needed and wanted.  They
put marshmallows and coiled springs in the
soles and they wove the rest out of grasses
bleached and fired in the wilderness.  
Somewhere deep in the soft loam of the
shoes the thin hard sinews of the buck deer
were hidden.  The people that made the shoes
must have watched a lot of winds blow the
trees and a lot of rivers going down to the
lake. Whatever it was, it was in the shoes,
and it was summer
     When I was in high school, I was fortunate to have been offered a class in science fiction. In this class we read and discussed science fiction books. From Bradbury to Asimov, the class was propelled into a fantasy world that faced issues that were not so different to what we faced in our world. The wonderful twists of fate and ultimate ethical questions sparked my young mind. Bradbury deserves our gratitude. He gave us a way to escape the mundane while offering us an alternative view of the world in which we live. He presents us with thought provoking ideas and ideologies which, ultimately, give birth to our limitless imaginations. It is a gift we all have. How we use it is up to us.
     While your on the computer, go check out 'B.C. Brown Writes, where I am interviewed


    1 comment:

    Jennifer said...

    I just read Dandelion Wine, great book. I will have to read the rest.