Life on Mars

Time is unkind to us all. Who is to say what names will survive into remote posterity? There are plenty of Booker Prize winners that are not read and plenty of rubbish literature that does.

I hope that the works of the short story writer Ray Bradbury survives and are enjoyed by many more generations. He died June 5 and if you’ve never spent time with his work, I suggest you do so. He’s well known for his few longer works like Fahrenheit 451 and the Martian Chronicles. Of course, both of these are threatened by the march of history. I remember spending two DAYS downloading the works of Blake for a friend’s birthday present over a 1,200 baud GVC modem. Now, it’s on one’s phone in nearly an instant.

Perhaps book burning will seem as out of date a problem as not enough horses. Maybe Fahrenheit 451 will survive as allegory.

The Martian Chronicles is being surpassed by events. NASA now has heroic little waldoes chugging over the terrain there, beaming colour photos to us. Every spring, the newspapers cheer as the wee robots chug to life well beyond their operational life expectancies. It’s a grand time to be alive and seeing this new information come in. In my boyhood, black and white film canisters needed to be transported to Barsoom and back! Mars was still relatively unknown then and so the story of Martian colonization could still be told.

I met with my mother today and, yes, the world is shit to her. She wants to good relations with everyone but reserve the rights to complain about everything,wallow in self pity and treat people as extensions of her ego.

I guess she never read Bradbury.

The Martian Chronicles isn’t a novel as such. It’s a collection of stories written over two decades. Some of the stories take place on Mars, some on Earth.

Here’s a video clip from a television adaptation of The Martian Chronicles. (It was scripted by the generally good Richard Matheson but Bradbury found the adaptation pedestrian and I tend to agree.) In it, an honest to goodness Martian who — well, I shan’t give it away — observes that the secret to life is take joy simply in the fact of being. I’m 44. My mother’s mother, while senile, is alive at 96. That means my 71-year-old bi-polar mother could also be alive when I’m hitting retirement age. I refuse to have the next thirty years of life dominated by the fact of someone else’s mental illness. Neither should you.

There’s a park next to my flat. Two weeks ago I was walking over the median in the road. The canopy of the trees was green and the sky was orange and shot through with gold. There will be perhaps a half dozen more days like that this summer.  So, I have maybe fifty of those before someone puts me in a box.

Go enjoy life.

Ray Bradbury — The Martian Chronicles book cover

Ray Bradbury — The Martian Chronicles

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