I’ve Always Wanted to See a Martian

Posted on June 9, 2012


I’m beginning to find that it takes some compelling event to motivate me to write again, whether it was the passing of an old neighbor or changes in employment or academic studies. This time, it was the passing of Ray Bradbury (1920-2012). Most people will recognize his name as being the author of Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury’s masterpiece regarding censorship and his prediction that, one day, books would no longer be read. Bradbury contributed greatly to the Golden Age of Science Fiction in the mid-20th Century and produced numerous works. But writing oodles of science fictiony goodness wasn’t Bradbury’s contribution. His contribution was sharing what he believed mankind could accomplish. The man was so convinced that we’d reach Mars within his lifetime that he insisted on being buried there. Sadly that probably won’t happen as we’re still having trouble making sure our exploratory probes even get there. But the fact that Bradbury was sure we’d do it sometime before he passed… that’s quite a firm belief in the capability of mankind.

Ray Bradbury, circa 1975, the year my copy of Martian Chronicles was printed

My first brush with Bradbury was in elementary school. I don’t really recall it, but either my father gave me his 1975 copy of The Martian Chronicles or I nabbed it from the books he’d left at my grandmother’s house years ago. It’s an old copy, with a weakened spine and pages yellowed by age. I probably flipped through it a couple times and didn’t understand anything I was reading, so discarded it into my own book shelf.

I picked it up again in 8th grade, sometime around the start of the school year. I think I had started developing my keen interest in science fiction at that point. Or I was just bored and needed something to read. The Martian Chronicles is a collection of Mars-themed short stories that had been loosely bound together by their theme alone (as well as the cover). It includes some of Bradbury’s best work, including The Veldt, regarding the dangers of technology, and There Will Come Soft Rains, a cautionary tale against nuclear war. It promoted the strength and innovation of mankind while warning against the harms that we cause when we spread. Bradbury wanted us to reach Mars; he didn’t want us to deplete it and destroy it.

I’ve read more of his works since then- The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, etc. and even studied him to some extent during an English class dedicated to science fiction a couple years back (English 409, hell yes). I even wrote an essay examining Martian Chronicles’ cautionary themes.

I can easily say that he is one of my favorite authors, forever immortalized by his creations. Bradbury was one of those writers that published his works not to turn a dime or just tell a good story (though he certainly did both). He wanted to share his vision of what mankind could accomplish. He wanted others to share his ideas and dreams and inspire others to have their own. He wanted to warn against possible futures in which mankind failed itself, either by nuclear destruction or excessive censorship. He wanted us to succeed in our goals and reach for the stars in the most literal sense.

He was the kind of writer I want to be.

Posted in: Entertainment