Everyone is certainly entitled to an opinion. That is the heart and soul of our most sacred freedom of expression, the very freedom championed at the core of Fahrenheit 451. But I have just read, on a well-known website, what I would call a distinctly negative and rather disturbing discussion about The Martian Chronicles, and I would very much like to see some comments from members of this board.
The article is titled: "10 Great Science Fiction Novels with Go-Back-To-Bed Depressing Endings" io9 article." I shall offer a few excerpts, followed by the full rebuttal I posted at that site:
"...another example of a dystopian future...depressing...a family of refugees from the Great War on earth comes to Mars to resettle. This isn't a particularly hopeful scene, since the reader reflects on all the horror and destruction...In the final story, the father promises to show his sons some real Martians. He takes them to the river and points to their own reflection. It is a bitter reminder of how humans destroyed all of the real Martians and even their own colonies."
"I must take issue with the distorted interpretation of the great Ray Bradbury's classic, The Martian Chronicles. In "The Million-Year Picnic", the final chapter of the book, the father encourages his children to look into the waters of the Martian canal and to see true Martians, i.e. themselves. Despite the tragedies throughout the book, is it not clear that this is a profound moment of transformation and hope -- not irony, not horror, not dread? Despite all that had happened, humanity had survived and had become Martians on Mars with a new chance. I know you might say that we must all look into those metaphorical waters and see what we choose to say. And in a sense, Bradbury might agree with that, since he denied being a science-fiction writer and claimed he had spent his career "preventing the future." But I do also know that the man himself in his heart, throughout his life to the end, saw Mars as an unambiguous symbol of redemption, hope, and new beginnings. And in fact, he was fond of declaring that he was a Martian, that he furthermore declared all us Martians, and commanded us to get ourselves to Mars!"
My question to all of you:
Do you see The Martian Chronicles as I do -- and as I believe Ray did: a collection of parables of redemption and transformation in a hard-won but ultimately hopeful future -- or as the authors of this article did: a depressing dystopian future, not particularly hopeful but rather a bitter reminder of the human capacity for destruction?This message has been edited. Last edited by: Mike Langford,
As I indicated in my reply to our other post in another thread, I see it more as the former than the latter.
There IS a dystopian element, of course, and there are certainly stories in the CHRONICLES which cannot be considered uplifting, but I wouldn't use the word "depressing".
Orwell's NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR might qualify as a depressing dystopia, because there seems to be little or no hope for Winston Smith or the civilisation he is part of.
But let's not forget that portions of CHRONICLES were written in the aftermath of Hiroshima and in the early days of the Cold War. This undoubtedly influenced Bradbury's overall position on the optimism-pessimism scale. (I presented a paper at the SFRA Conference in Detroit on Bradbury's use of atomic war in CHRONICLES and the later screenplay versions he wrote. The screenplays were written in the glory days of Mercury and Gemini, and are distinctly more optimistic than the book.)
All good points, Phil.
The ups and downs of Ray's own outlook -- as you say "on the optimism-pessimism scale" -- are not only fascinating personally but, seems to me to be a very core issue in any Bradbury scholarship. Both extremes are often seen clearly in his work. Romantic writers, including Bradbury, -- and Poe certainly also comes to mind -- seem often to bob up and down in a sea of extreme emotions and philosophies. Perhaps The Martian Chronicles itself could be read -- as you may have done in your own paper -- as a kind of allegory for these bounces between striving for utopia and descending into dystopia -- in the author's own mind, in the novel, in actual society, and even in a view of human history itself. History considered as a series of bi-polar swings.
I think what eludes some more casual readers of Bradbury, including the authors of this io9 article, is his relentless visionary zeal about space exploration. Not many authors, even in SF and fantasy, fully share that outlook with Ray. (Clarke would be one of the few.) I have grown to share that vision myself, much as a result of reading Bradbury. But I think many literati are so steeped in a steady diet of cynicism and irony that they see it everywhere in everything -- even when it isn't there.
Incidentally, concerning my rebuttal to the article in question, it has apparently been deleted from that site. But I think my points have been made. And I appreciate and agree with all your points as well, Phil. I just could not accept what seemed like an attack on Bradbury and The Martian Chronicles -- at the absolutely wrong time. So I'm glad I responded.
I hope others here, on the Ray Bradbury Board, will share their thoughts.
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