All Summer In A Day by Ray Bradbury, 1954
The magic trick:
Using science fiction conflicts to highlight very ‘earthly’ themes of childhood and socialization
Welcome to Ray Bradbury Week. We know him for his classics of science fiction and fantasy. But those genre boxes are a little misleading. Bradbury could write about seemingly anything. Not to say that we won’t be visiting Mars this week – we will – but we’ll be all over the map.
Today’s feature, “All Summer In A Day,” is a great example. Yes, the settling is Venus. And yes, the conflict involves a sun that hasn’t shone itself in nearly a decade. So it’s sci-fi, right? Kind of, but at its core, this is a simple tale of what it’s like to be ostracized at elementary school. All of the other setting elements are recognizably of Earth. The science fiction enhances consideration of the Earthly themes – not the other way around. And that’s quite a trick on Bradbury’s part.
“You’re lying, you don’t remember!” cried the children.
But she remembered and stood quietly apart from all of them and watched the patterning windows. And once, a month ago, she had refused to shower in the school shower rooms, had clutched her hands to her ears and over her head, screaming the water mustn’t touch her head. So after that, dimly, dimly, she sensed it, she was different and they knew her difference and kept away. There was talk that her father and mother were taking her back to Earth next year; it seemed vital to her that they do so, though it would mean the loss of thousands of dollars to her family. And so, the children hated her for all these reasons of big and little consequence. They hated her pale snow face, her waiting silence, her thinness, and her possible future.
“Get away !” The boy gave her another push. “What’re you waiting for?”