– And The Moon Be Still As Bright by Ray Bradbury, 1948
The magic trick:
Considering a possible exploration of Mars from the standpoint of a very far-left human view
There is something to be said for bringing a kind of lyrical morality to science fiction. It’s kinda Bradbury’s thing. Here, though, in what actually is one of the most well-known of the Martian Chronicles stories, it’s all just a little too lyrically moral for my tastes. Heavy-handed isn’t even the term for what is happening here. The Spender character seems to be a Bradbury surrogate, and by the time he’s waxed poetic for the third time about humanity’s evil entitlement, you’re ready to reach into the pages, grab a laser gun and put him out of his misery.
It’s not that he’s wrong, either. It’s just that his points – and therefore those of the story – are fairly obvious. The comparisons to Native America and the United States are broad to the point of being dumb. The whole tone is off. We signed up for a science fiction story, not a guest lecture from an angry college sophomore.
Even the lyrical nature of the story is questionable at best. The lovely poetry of the title is a lift.
But, look, this is not some awful story. Not at all. It’s still a space adventure on Mars with laser guns and the fate of humanity at stake mixed with some serious liberal agenda preaching in the late 1940s. That is pretty remarkable. Bradbury’s anger in the aftermath of World War II is palpable, and clearly he is not impressed with the developing baby boomer culture already springing up around him. That is an important and valuable viewpoint. And that’s quite a trick on Bradbury’s part. (I just wish he was a little more show and a little less tell, sometimes.)
“We won’t ruin Mars,” said the captain. “It’s too big and too good.”
“You think not? We Earth Men have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things. The only reason we didn’t set up hot-dog stands in the midst of the Egyptian temple of Karnak is because it was out of the way and served no large commercial purpose. And Egypt is a small part of Earth. But here, this whole thing is ancient and different, and we have to set down somewhere and start fouling it up. We’ll call the canal the Rockefeller Canal and the mountain King George Mountain and the sea the Dupont Sea, and there’ll be Roosevelt and Lincoln and Coolidge cities and it won’t ever be right, when there are proper names for these places.”
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