Ray Bradbury (YGtCTO Words #96)

The Martian Chronicles

Book written by Ray Bradbury

Living in a dormitory in high school in the late 1970s, we shared a common room that housed the television as well as the soda machine and various sturdy furniture. Study hours were rigidly enforced and no real noise was allowed after 7:30 p.m. Lights out varied based on age, but we were generally exhausted from full schedules.

The only television I remember watching was on rare Saturday nights and the occasional free afternoon. Faculty members rotated nightly through each dormitory floor, overseeing the students. United petitions could, on special occasions, permit television viewing. Virtually everyone in the dorm had to agree that it was an important moment. I stumbled into the common room and watched the 1980 U.S. Olympic team victory when these circumstances all happened to converge.

One of the few movies that earned universal permission was The Exorcist for what must have been its first network broadcast. I wandered past, but like many of my brethren, quickly became too disturbed to watch the entirety. Life was filled with enough challenges living away from home and it certainly provided no comforting shoulder for anyone too frightened to sleep. In fact, we all heard the yelps when one roommate down the hall woke another with the screechy words, “I’ve got your mother in here.” Ahh, memories– good times.

Ray Bradbury

The only other time

that I remember the dorm unifying behind a viewing opportunity was The Martian Chronicles, strangely enough a television miniseries on NBC. I can only explain such a thing in those days as network executives struggling under the influence of Star Wars. As for our interest, we also probably labored under a general enthusiasm for science fiction and the author of Fahrenheit 451, standard reading for most students then and now. For that matter, Bradbury’s original book was a great summer read. Most of us had probably inherited copies from parents or siblings. I did.

Before Kurt Vonnegut became acceptable as a writer of fiction as opposed to a genre writer, Ray Bradbury had worked his way into the mainstream without changing much of what he was doing. That fascinated me then just as much as it does now. (I think it amazed fellow genre writers.) Before Ursula LeGuin and others took the road to wide acceptance through academic circles, Bradbury had somehow managed to get published in wide circulation magazines. If you were caught reading one of his books, then people responded as though it was a genre all its own. They didn’t say “Oh, you read science fiction” with that sidelong glance. Instead, they asked what you thought of Bradbury.

Of course, this led me to wild flights of fancy in which I envisioned Bradbury accomplishing his stealth infiltration by the phenomenal act of not caring so much. He just wrote so lyrically that he didn’t need to worry about what people thought. Now, all those other people that I’ve mentioned (and thousands of others) write beautifully also. They might not care too much what you or I think, but Bradbury has always felt like an entity apart. Really, his stories fit beautifully in the general history of genre fiction in many ways. But great artists, they just float a little higher and a little differently.

I lost interest in the miniseries and never made it through. I re-read the book instead.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 13 more to go.

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