A Sound of Thunder

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"A Sound of Thunder"
Author Ray Bradbury
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Science fiction short story

"A Sound of Thunder" is a science fiction short story by Ray Bradbury, first published in Collier's magazine in the June 28, 1952 issue and Playboy in June 1956.[1] As of 1984 it was the most re-published science fiction story up to the present time.[2] It is based on the idea of the butterfly effect (though the story predates that phrase).

Plot summary[edit]

The story begins in the future, in which the time machine has been invented but is still very temperamental. A hunter named Eckels pays to go traveling back into the past on a guided safari to kill a Tyrannosaurus rex. As the party waits to depart they talk about the recent presidential elections in which an apparently fascist candidate, Deutscher, has just been defeated by the more moderate Keith, to the relief of many concerned. When the party arrives in the past, Travis (the hunting guide) and Lesperance (Travis’s assistant) warn Eckels and the two other hunters, Billings and Kramer, about the necessity of minimizing the events they change before they go back, since tiny alterations to the distant past could snowball into catastrophic changes in history. The hunters must stay on a levitating path to avoid disrupting the environment and only kill animals which were going to die within minutes anyway.

Despite his earlier eagerness to begin the hunt, Eckels loses his nerve at the sight of the Tyrannosaurus. Travis tells him he cannot leave, but Eckels panics and veers off the path. The two guides kill the dinosaur, and shortly afterward the tree that would have killed the T-Rex lands on top. As soon as it is over Travis quickly finds Eckels and sees by his muddy boots that he did in fact fall off the path. Travis threatens to leave Eckels in the past unless Eckels removes the bullets from the dinosaur’s body, as they cannot be left behind.

Upon returning to the present, Eckels notices subtle changes. English words are now spelled strangely, people behave differently, and, worst of all, Deutscher has won the election instead of Keith. Looking through the mud on his boots, Eckels finds a crushed butterfly, whose death was apparently the cause of many changes. He frantically pleads with Travis to take him back into the past to undo the damage, but in reply Travis deactivates his weapon's safety, and there is only an ominous "sound of thunder", the same sound which had previously preceded the arrival of the Tyrannosaurus. It isn't stated whether Travis shoots Eckels or himself, but it can be assumed Eckels was the victim due to Travis's previous threats to kill him if the future had been changed.

Adaptations[edit]

The story was aired on The Ray Bradbury Theater on October 8, 1989.[3] In this adaptation Travis levels a pistol at Eckels' head prior to a "sound of thunder" and a quick cut to credits.[4]

The story was also parodied in the Time and Punishment section of The Simpsons episode "Treehouse of Horror V".

Franchise Pictures developed a film adaptation under the same title, which was targeted for a 2003 release but ultimately delayed until September 2005. The film continues the story beyond Bradbury's work, bringing to life how the death of a single butterfly would impact evolution and humanity's chance of survival.[5] The movie failed at the box office and received poor reviews.

A Game Boy Advance video game based on the film was also released. It was finished in time for the film's planned 2003 release, delayed along with it and ultimately released in February 2005.[6] Planned console ports were cancelled.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Willis, Jesse (30 March 2011). "A Sound Of Thunder". Radio Drama Revival: Bradbury 13. SFFaudio. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  2. ^ William G. Contento, Index to Science Fiction Anthologies and Collections, Combined Edition, January 2008
  3. ^ "The Ray Bradbury Theater - Season 4, Episode 6: A Sound of Thunder". TV.com. 2007-05-22. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 
  4. ^ "Sound of Thunder - 3 of 3". YouTube. 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 
  5. ^ "A Sound of Thunder (2005)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 
  6. ^ "A Sound of Thunder - IGN". Ca.ign.com. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 

External links[edit]