The Martian Chronicles
|Cover artist||Matthew Aijala|
|Genre||Science fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, horror, dystopian fiction|
|May 4, 1950|
The Martian Chronicles is a 1950 science fiction short story fixup by Ray Bradbury that chronicles the colonization of Mars by humans fleeing from a troubled and eventually atomically devastated Earth, and the conflict between aboriginal Martians and the new colonists. The book lies somewhere in between a short story collection and an episodic novel, containing stories Bradbury originally published in the late 1940s in science fiction magazines. The stories were loosely woven together with a series of short, interstitial vignettes for publication.
- 1 Structure
- 2 Publication history
- 3 Influences
- 4 Contents
- 4.1 "Rocket Summer" (January 1999/2030)
- 4.2 "Ylla" (February 1999/2030)
- 4.3 "The Summer Night" (August 1999/2030)
- 4.4 "The Earth Men" (August 1999/2030)
- 4.5 "The Taxpayer" (March 2000/2031)
- 4.6 "The Third Expedition" (April 2000/2031)
- 4.7 "—And the Moon Be Still as Bright" (June 2001/2032)
- 4.8 "The Settlers" (August 2001/2032)
- 4.9 "The Green Morning" (December 2001/2032)
- 4.10 "The Locusts" (February 2002/2033)
- 4.11 "Night Meeting" (August 2002/2033)
- 4.12 "The Shore" (October 2002/2033)
- 4.13 "The Fire Balloons" (November 2002/2033)
- 4.14 "Interim" (February 2003/2034)
- 4.15 "The Musicians" (April 2003/2034)
- 4.16 "The Wilderness" (May 2003/2034)
- 4.17 "Way in the Middle of the Air" (June 2003/2034)
- 4.18 "The Naming of Names" (2004-05/2035-36)
- 4.19 "Usher II" (April 2005/2036)
- 4.20 "The Old Ones" (August 2005/2036)
- 4.21 "The Martian" (September 2005/2036)
- 4.22 "The Luggage Store" (November 2005/2036)
- 4.23 "The Off Season" (November 2005/2036)
- 4.24 "The Watchers" (November 2005/2036)
- 4.25 "The Silent Towns" (December 2005/2036)
- 4.26 "The Long Years" (April 2026/2057)
- 4.27 "There Will Come Soft Rains" (August 4, 2026/2057)
- 4.28 "The Million-Year Picnic" (October 2026/2057)
- 5 The Other Martian Tales
- 6 Reception
- 7 Adaptations
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The Martian Chronicles is a fixup of short stories with new text connecting them into a novel. Bradbury has credited Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio and John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath as influences on the structure of the book. He has called it a "half-cousin to a novel" and "a book of stories pretending to be a novel". As such, it is similar in structure to Bradbury's short story collection, The Illustrated Man, which also uses a thin frame story to link various unrelated short stories.
The Martian Chronicles follows a "future history" structure. The stories, complete in themselves, come together as episodes in a larger sequential narrative framework. The overall structure is in three parts, punctuated by two catastrophes: the near-extinction of the Martians and the parallel near-extinction of the human race.
The first third (set in the period from January 1999—April 2000) details the attempts of the Earthmen to reach Mars, and the various ways in which the Martians keep them from returning. In the crucial story, "—And the Moon be Still as Bright", it is revealed by the fourth exploratory expedition that the Martians have all but perished in a plague caused by germs brought by one of the previous expeditions. This unexpected development sets the stage for the second act (December 2001—November 2005), in which humans from Earth colonize the deserted planet, occasionally having contact with the few surviving Martians, but for the most part preoccupied with making Mars a second Earth. However, as war on Earth threatens, most of the settlers pack up and return home. A global nuclear war ensues, cutting off contact between Mars and Earth. The third act (December 2005—October 2026) deals with the aftermath of the war, and concludes with the prospect of the few surviving humans becoming the new Martians, a prospect already foreshadowed in "—And the Moon be Still as Bright", and which allows the book to return to its beginning.
The book was published in the United Kingdom under the title The Silver Locusts (1951), with slightly different contents. In some editions the story "The Fire Balloons" was added, and the story "Usher II" was removed to make room for it. In the Spanish-language version, the stories were preceded by a prologue by Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges.
In 1979, Bantam Books published a trade paperback edition with illustrations by Ian Miller.
A 1997 edition of the book advances all the dates by 31 years (thus running from 2030 to 2057). (This change counteracts a problem common to near-future stories, where the passage of time overtakes the period in which the story is set; for a list of other works that have fallen prey to this phenomenon, see the List of stories set in a future now past.) This edition includes "The Fire Balloons", and replaces "Way in the Middle of the Air" (a story less topical in 1997 than in 1950) with the 1952 short story "The Wilderness", dated May 2034 (equivalent to May 2003 in the earlier chronology).
Edgar Rice Burroughs's works were key influences. In an article written shortly before his death, Bradbury said the John Carter of Mars books and Harold Foster's 1931 series of Tarzan Sunday comics had such an impact on his life that "The Martian Chronicles would never have happened" otherwise. In an introduction he wrote for The Martian Chronicles,[specify] Bradbury cited the Barsoom stories and Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson as literary influences.
The background of Mars shared by most of the stories, as a desert planet crisscrossed by giant canals built by an ancient civilization to bring water from the polar ice caps, is a common scenario in science fiction of the early 20th century. It stems from early telescope observations of Mars by astronomers from the 19th-century who believed they saw straight lines on the planet, the first of them being the Italian Giovanni Schiaparelli in 1877. Schiaparelli called them canali (a generic Italian term used for both natural and artificial "grooves" or "channels"), which was popularly mistranslated into English as "canals", man-made water channels. Based on this and other evidence, the idea that Mars was inhabited by intelligent life was put forward by a number of prominent scientists around the turn of the century, notably American astronomer Percival Lowell. This ignited a popular fascination with the planet which has been called "Mars fever". Planetary astronomer Carl Sagan wrote:
Mars has become a kind of mythic arena onto which we have projected our Earthly hopes and fears.
"Rocket Summer" (January 1999/2030)
First published in Planet Stories, spring 1947.
The stories of the book are arranged in chronological order, starting in January 1999, with the blasting off of the first rocket. "Rocket Summer" is a short vignette which describes Ohio's winter turning briefly into "summer" due to the extreme heat of the rocket's take-off, as well as the reaction of the citizens nearby.
"Ylla" (February 1999/2030)
First published as "I'll Not Ask for Wine" in Maclean's, January 1, 1950.
The following chapter, "Ylla", moves the story to Mars, describing the Martians as having brown skin, yellow eyes, and russet hair. Ylla, a Martian woman trapped in an unromantic marriage, dreams of the coming astronauts through telepathy. Her husband, though he pretends to deny the reality of the dreams, becomes bitterly jealous, sensing his wife's inchoate romantic feelings for one of the astronauts. After taking his gun under the pretense of hunting, he kills astronauts Nathaniel York and "Bert" as soon as they arrive.
"The Summer Night" (August 1999/2030)
First published as "The Spring Night" in The Arkham Sampler, Winter 1948.
This short vignette tells of Martians throughout Mars who, like Ylla, begin subconsciously picking up stray thoughts from the humans aboard the Second Expedition's ship. As the ship approaches their planet, the Martians begin to adopt aspects of human culture such as playing and singing American songs, without any idea where the inspirations are coming from.
"The Earth Men" (August 1999/2030)
First published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1948.
This story tells of the "Second Expedition" to Mars. The expedition is a group of four men. The astronauts arrive to find the Martians to be strangely unresponsive to their presence. The one exception to this is a group of Martians in a building who greet them with a parade. Several of the Martians in the building claim to be from Earth or from other planets of the solar system, and the captain slowly realizes that the Martian gift for telepathy allows others to view the hallucinations of the insane, and that they have been placed in an insane asylum. The Martians they have encountered all believed that their unusual appearance was a projected hallucination. Because the "hallucinations" are so detailed and the captain refuses to admit he is not from Earth, Mr. Xxx, a psychiatrist, declares him incurable and kills him. When the "imaginary" crew does not disappear as well, Mr. Xxx shoots and kills them too. Finally, as the "imaginary" rocket remains in existence, Mr. Xxx concludes that he too must be crazy and shoots himself. The ship of the Second Expedition is sold as scrap at a junkyard.
"The Taxpayer" (March 2000/2031)
First appeared in The Martian Chronicles.
A man insists that he has a right to be on the next rocket to Mars, because he is a taxpayer. He strongly insists on boarding the ship due to the impending nuclear war on Earth. He is not allowed on the ship and eventually gets taken away by the police.
"The Third Expedition" (April 2000/2031)
The arrival and demise of the third group of Americans to land on Mars is described by this story. This time the Martians are prepared for the Earthlings. When the crew arrives, they see an idyllic small town of the 1920s occupied by the long-lost loved ones of the astronauts. The bewildered and happy crew members ignore their captain's orders and disperse to join their supposed family members. The Martians use the memories of the astronauts to lure them into their "old" homes where they are killed in the middle of the night. The next morning, sixteen coffins are carried from sixteen houses and are buried by mourners who sometimes resemble humans and sometimes "something else".
The original short story was set in the 1960s and dealt with characters nostalgic for their childhoods in the Midwestern United States in the 1920s. In the Chronicles version, which takes place forty years later but which still relies on 1920s nostalgia, the story contains a brief paragraph about medical treatments that slow the aging process, so that the characters can be traveling to Mars in the 2000s but still remember the 1920s.
"—And the Moon Be Still as Bright" (June 2001/2032)
First published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, June 1948.
The next chapter opens with the men of the Fourth Expedition gathering firewood against the cold Martian evening. The scientists have found that all of the Martians have died of chickenpox (brought by one of the first three expeditions)—analogous to the devastation of Native American populations by smallpox. The men, except for the archaeologist Spender and Captain Wilder, become more boisterous. Spender loses his temper when one of his crew-mates starts dropping empty wine bottles into a clear blue canal and knocks him into the canal. When questioned by his captain, Spender replies, "We'll rip it up, rip the skin off, and change it to fit ourselves," and that "we Earth Men have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things," referring to Earth. He leaves the rest of the landing party to explore Martian ruins after one crew member vomits on an ancient tile mosaic.
Spender returns to the rest of the expedition. He carries a gun and, claiming to be the last Martian, shoots six of his crew-mates, including one with sympathy towards the Martians from his Cherokee ancestry. Captain Wilder approaches under a white flag and has a short discussion with Spender about how Martians were better than us. This is because the Martians knew how to combine religion and science, without criticizing and fighting as we humans do. During which, the archaeologist explains that if he manages to kill off the expedition it may delay human colonization of the planet for a few more years, possibly long enough that the expected nuclear war on Earth will protect Mars from human colonization completely. Although he opposes Spender's methods, Captain Wilder somewhat agrees with his attitude towards colonization and wishes for him a humane death. He returns to the others and joins them as they pursue Spender, and Wilder shoots Spender in the chest during the fight before he has the opportunity to be killed by anyone else. Another member of the crew named Parkhill, uses the ruined town as target practice, so Wilder knocks his teeth out.
Many of the characters of the Fourth Expedition—Parkhill, Captain Wilder, and Hathaway—re-appear in later stories. This is the first story that focuses on a central motif of The Martian Chronicles: the colonization of the Western frontier in the United States. Like Spender, Bradbury's message is that some types of colonization are right and others are wrong. Trying to recreate Earth is viewed as wrong, but an approach that respects the fallen civilization that is being replaced is right.
In some editions the two stories relating to Spender were combined as one.
"The Settlers" (August 2001/2032)
First appeared in The Martian Chronicles.
In the previously mentioned version, this short story describes the first settlers coming to Mars, the "Lonely Ones", the ones that came to start over on the planet.
"The Green Morning" (December 2001/2032)
First appeared in The Martian Chronicles.
The next several chapters describe the transformation of Mars into another Earth. Small towns similar to those on Earth begin to grow. In "The Green Morning", Benjamin Driscoll makes it his mission to plant thousands of trees on the red plains to increase oxygen levels. Due to some property of the Martian soil, the trees grow into a mighty forest overnight.
"The Locusts" (February 2002/2033)
First appeared in The Martian Chronicles.
This vignette concerns the swift colonization of Mars. The title refers to the rockets and settlers which quickly spread across all of Mars.
"Night Meeting" (August 2002/2033)
First appeared in The Martian Chronicles.
This story begins with a conversation between an old man and a young traveler, Tomás Gomez. The older man explains that he came to Mars because he appreciates the new and novel. Even everyday things have become amazing to him once again. He has returned full circle to his childhood. Later, Tomás encounters a Martian named Muhe Ca. Each can see the Mars he is accustomed to, in his own time frame, but the other person is translucent and intangible to him and has the appearance of a phantom. The young man sees ruins where the Martian sees a thriving city, while the Martian sees an ocean where Tomás sees the new Earth settlement. Neither knows if he precedes the other in time, but Bradbury makes the point that any one civilization is ultimately fleeting.
This is the only full-length story in The Martian Chronicles that had not previously appeared in another publication.
"The Shore" (October 2002/2033)
This story describes the rippling outward of colonization, the first wave being loner, pioneer types, and the second, also Americans, being from the "cabbage tenements and subways" of New York City.
"The Fire Balloons" (November 2002/2033)
First appeared as "…In This Sign" in Imagination, April 1951.
A missionary expedition of Episcopal priests from the United States anticipates sins unknown to them on Mars. Instead, they meet ethereal creatures glowing as blue flames in crystal spheres, who have left behind the material world, and thus have escaped sin.
This story appeared only in The Silver Locusts, the British edition of The Martian Chronicles, the 1974 edition from The Heritage Press, the September 1979 illustrated trade edition from Bantam Books, the "40th Anniversary Edition" from Doubleday Dell Publishing Group and in the 2001 Book-of-the-Month Club edition. It otherwise appeared in The Illustrated Man.
"Interim" (February 2003/2034)
First appeared in Weird Tales, July 1947.
This story describes the building of a Martian town by colonists and how much it was made to resemble an average Midwestern American town. The town was said to have appeared to have been swept up by a tornado on Earth, and brought to Mars.
"The Musicians" (April 2003/2034)
First appeared in The Martian Chronicles.
Several boys venture into the ruins of Martian cities. They enter houses and play with the debris, imagining that they are on Earth playing with the autumn leaves. They have fun playing "white xylophones"—Martian ribcages. They play with a sense of urgency because the Firemen are due to arrive soon, cleaning and disinfecting the ruins and destroying this source of fun.
"The Wilderness" (May 2003/2034)
First appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November 1952.
Two women, Janice Smith and Leonora Holmes, prepare to depart on a rocket to Mars, to find husbands or lovers waiting for them there. Janice muses on the terrors of space, drinks in last memories of the Earth she will soon be leaving, and compares her situation to that of the pioneer women of the 19th-century American frontier.
This story only appears in the 1974 edition of The Martian Chronicles by The Heritage Press, the 1979 Bantam Books illustrated trade edition, and the 1997 edition of The Martian Chronicles. In its original form, the story was dated 2003, and this date is consistent with the other stories. As it appears in the 1997 edition, the date (together with all the other dates) has been shifted ahead 31 years, to May 2034.
"Way in the Middle of the Air" (June 2003/2034)
First appeared in Other Worlds, July 1950.
In an unnamed Southern town, a group of white men learn that all African Americans are planning to emigrate to Mars. Samuel Teece, a racist white man, decries their departure as a flood of African Americans passes his hardware store. He tries to stop one man, Belter, from leaving due to an old debt, but others quickly take up a collection on his behalf to pay it off. Next he tries to detain Silly, a younger man who works for him, saying that he signed a contract and must honor it. As Silly protests, claiming that he never signed it, one of Teece's friends volunteers to take his place. Several of Teece's friends stand up to him and intimidate him into letting Silly depart.
As Silly drives off, he yells to Teece, "What you goin' to do nights?" - referring to Teece's nightly activities with a gang that had terrorized and lynched blacks in the area. The enraged Teece and a friend give chase in his car, but soon find the road cluttered with the discarded belongings of the rocket passengers. After they return to the hardware store, Teece refuses to watch as the rockets lift off. Wondering how he and his friends will spend their nights from now on, he takes a small triumph in the fact that Silly always addressed him as "Mister" even as he was leaving.
"The Naming of Names" (2004-05/2035-36)
First appeared in The Martian Chronicles. Not to be confused with the short story "The Naming of Names", first published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1949, later published as "Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed".
This story is about later waves of immigrants to Mars, and how the geography of Mars is now largely named after the people from the first four expeditions (e.g., Spender Hill, Driscoll Forest) rather than after physical descriptions of the terrain.
"Usher II" (April 2005/2036)
First published as Carnival of Madness in Thrilling Wonder Stories, April 1950.
"Usher II" is about censorship. William Stendahl is a book lover who has retreated to Mars after the government confiscated and destroyed his vast collection. On Mars, he constructs his image of the perfect haunted mansion, complete with mechanical creatures, creepy soundtracks, and thousands of tons of poison to kill every living thing in the surrounding area. He is assisted by Pikes, a film aficionado and former actor whose collection was confiscated and destroyed by the government and who was subsequently banned from performing. When the "Moral Climate Monitors" come to visit, Stendahl and Pikes arrange to kill each of them in ways that allude to different horror masterpieces, culminating in the murder of Inspector Garrett in a sequence reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado". Once Stendahl's persecutors are dead, he and Pikes watch from a helicopter as the house crumbles and sinks into the lake as in Poe’s short story "The Fall of the House of Usher". At the end of this story, Poe (or Stendahl) hints that the "Moral Climate Monitors" could have avoided these deaths if they had only read the books they banned, since then they would have recognized what was happening to them.
Bradbury hints at past events on Earth, set in 1975–30 years prior to the events in "Usher II". The government sponsored a "Great Burning" of books and made them illegal, which leads to the formation of an underground society of book owners. Those found to possess books had them seized and burned by fire crews. Mars apparently emerged as a refuge from the fascist censorship laws of Earth, until the arrival of a government organization referred to only as "Moral Climates" and their enforcement divisions, the "Dismantlers" and "Burning Crew". Bradbury would reuse the concept of massive government censorship (to the point of abolishing all literature) in his book Fahrenheit 451.
"The Old Ones" (August 2005/2036)
First appeared in The Martian Chronicles.
A very brief prelude to the following story, describing the immigration of elderly people to Mars.
"The Martian" (September 2005/2036)
First published in Super Science Stories, November 1949.
LaFarge and his wife Anna have forged a new life for themselves, but they still miss their dead son Tom. A night thunderstorm startles the elderly pair, who see a figure standing outside their home in the rain.
When morning comes, "Tom" is busy helping Anna with chores. LaFarge sees that Anna is somehow unaware of Tom's death, and after speaking privately with him, LaFarge learns that "Tom" is a Martian with an empathic shapeshifting ability: the Martian appears as their dead son to them.
Later that day, Anna insists on a visit to the town. "Tom" is deathly afraid of being so close to so many people. LaFarge promises to keep him close, but at the town they become separated. While searching for "Tom", LaFarge hears that the Spaulding family in town has miraculously found their lost daughter Lavinia. Desperate to avoid a second devastating heartbreak to his wife, LaFarge stands outside Spaulding's home and finds "Tom" now masquerading as Lavinia. He is able to coax "Tom" to come back, and they run desperately back for their boat to leave town. However, everyone "Tom" passes sees someone significant to them—a lost husband, a son, a wanted criminal. The Martian, exhausted from his constant shape-changing, spasms and dies.
"The Luggage Store" (November 2005/2036)
First appeared in The Martian Chronicles.
The story of Mars and its inhabitants is continued in a discussion between a priest and a luggage storeowner. Nuclear war is imminent on Earth, and the priest predicts that most of the colonists will return to help.
"The Off Season" (November 2005/2036)
First published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1948.
On Mars, former Fourth Expedition member Sam Parkhill has opened a hot-dog stand and is expecting a huge rush of business as soon as the next wave of settlers and workers arrives from Earth. When a lone Martian walks in one night, Parkhill panics and kills him. Other Martians arrive in sand ships, prompting Parkhill and his wife to flee across the desert in their own ship. Once the Martians catch up, they surprise Parkhill by giving him ownership of half the planet. He returns to his hot-dog stand just in time to witness the start of the nuclear war on Earth, which puts an end to the settler flights and his business.
"The Watchers" (November 2005/2036)
First appeared in The Martian Chronicles.
The colonists witness a nuclear war on Earth from Mars. They immediately return out of concern for their friends and families, buying up the luggage store owner's entire inventory before they leave.
"The Silent Towns" (December 2005/2036)
First published in Charm, March 1949.
Everybody has left Mars to go to Earth, except Walter Gripp—a single miner who lives in the mountains and does not hear of the departure. At first excited by his find of an empty town, he enjoys himself with money, food, clothes, and movies. He soon realizes he misses human companionship. One night he hears a telephone ringing in someone's home, and suddenly realizes that someone else is alive on Mars. Missing the call, and several others, he sits down with a phone book of Mars and starts dialing at A.
After days of calling without answers, he starts calling hotels. After guessing where he thinks a woman would most likely spend her time, he calls the biggest beauty salon on Mars and is delighted when a woman answers. They talk, but are cut off. Overcome with romantic dreams, he drives hundreds of miles to New Texas City, only to realize that she drove to find him on a back road. He drives back to his town, and meets Genevieve Selsor as he pulls in.
Their meeting is the opposite of what he had hoped for in his dreams; she is unattractive (due to her weight and pallor), foolish, and insipid. After a sullen day, she slyly proposes marriage to him at dinner, as they believe they are the last man and the last woman on Mars. Gripp flees, driving across Mars to another tiny town to spend his life happily alone, avoiding all contact with Genevieve and ignoring any phone he hears ringing.
"The Long Years" (April 2026/2057)
First published as "Dwellers in Silence" in Maclean's, September 15, 1948.
Hathaway (the physician/archaeologist from the Fourth Expedition), now retired, is living on Mars with his wife and children in the hills above an old, abandoned settlement, vacated many years ago when everyone returned to Earth at the beginning of the war there. A gifted inventor and tinkerer, he has wired the old ghost town in the valley below so that he can make it come alive at night with lights and sounds as if it were still inhabited. One night, he sees a rocket approaching Mars and sets fire to the old town to attract the attention of those on board.
On board the rocket is his old commander, Captain Wilder (also from the earlier stories about the Fourth Expedition), returning to Mars after twenty years exploring the outer solar system. He and his crew land and are met by Hathaway, now old and suffering from heart disease. Hathaway brings the crew to his house for breakfast and introduces them to his family. Wilder, who remembers meeting Hathaway's wife many years earlier, remarks that she looks remarkably young, while Hathaway has aged considerably. Wilder pales when he and one of his crew realize that Hathaway's son, who gives his age as 23, must be at least in his forties. Wilder sends the crewmember off to the local cemetery to check the headstones. He returns to report that he has found the graves of every member of the family but Hathaway.
Wilder offers to take Hathaway back to Earth, but he declines. In the next moment, Hathaway has a heart attack and dies, begging Wilder not to call his family to his side because they "would not understand". Wilder then confirms that Hathaway's wife and children are actually androids, created by Hathaway after the originals died years ago.
As Wilder prepares to depart, one of the crew returns to the house with a pistol, thinking to put an end to the androids, whose existence seems pointless now that Hathaway is gone, but he returns shortly, having been unable to bring himself to kill the robotic family even knowing that they are not truly human. The rocket departs, and the android family continues on with its meaningless routine.
"There Will Come Soft Rains" (August 4, 2026/2057)
First published in Collier's, May 6, 1950.
The story concerns a household in Allendale, California, after the nuclear war has wiped out the population. Though the family is dead, the automated house that had taken care of the family, still functions.
The reader learns a great deal about what the family was like from how the robots continue on in their functions. Breakfast is automatically made, clothes are laid out, voice reminders of daily activities are called out, but no one is there. Robotic mice vacuum the home and tidy up. As the day progresses, the rain quits, and the house prepares lunch and opens like a flower to the warm weather. A starving dog, apparently the family pet, whines at the door, is admitted and dies. Outside, a vivid image is given: the family's silhouettes were permanently burned onto the side of the house (as occurred at Hiroshima) when they were vaporized by the nuclear explosion. That night, a storm crashes a tree into the home, starting a fire that the house cannot combat, as the municipal water supply has dried up and failed. By the next morning, the entire house has collapsed except for one wall that announces the date over and over.
The title of the story comes from a randomly selected bedtime poem called "There Will Come Soft Rains", which is an actual poem by Sara Teasdale published in 1920. The theme of the poem is that nature will survive after humanity destroys itself in a war, but the story takes pains to show that this is not the case; if we were to destroy ourselves in a nuclear war we would take nature with us. In the original story in Collier's, the story takes place 35 years in the future.
"The Million-Year Picnic" (October 2026/2057)
First published in Planet Stories, summer 1946.
A family saves a rocket that the government would have used in the nuclear war and leaves Earth on a "fishing trip" to Mars. The family picks a city to live in and call home, destroying the rocket so that they cannot return to Earth. They enter and the father burns tax documents and other government papers in a campfire, explaining that he is burning a misguided way of life. A map of Earth is the last thing to be burned. Later, he offers his sons a gift in the form of their new world. He introduces them to the Martians—their own reflections in a canal.
The Other Martian Tales
The Martian Chronicles: The Complete Edition published by Subterranean Press (2010) contains The Other Martian Tales section:
- "The Lonely Ones" (Startling Stories, July 1949, reprinted in Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales)
- "The Exiles" (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Winter/Spring 1950, reprinted in The Illustrated Man)
- "The One Who Waits" (The Arkham Sampler, summer 1949, reprinted in The Machineries of Joy)
- "The Disease" (previously unpublished)
- "Dead of Summer" (previously unpublished)
- "The Martian Ghosts" (previously unpublished)
- "Jemima True" (previously unpublished)
- "They All Had Grandfathers" (previously unpublished)
- "The Strawberry Window" (Star Science Fiction Stories #3, ed. Frederik Pohl, Ballantine, 1954, reprinted in A Medicine for Melancholy)
- "Way in the Middle of the Air" (see above)
- "The Other Foot" (New Story, March 1951, reprinted in The Illustrated Man)
- "The Wheel" (previously unpublished)
- "The Love Affair" (The Love Affair, Lord John Press 1982, reprinted in The Toynbee Convector)
- "The Marriage" (previously unpublished)
- "The Visitor" (Startling Stories, November 1948, reprinted in The Illustrated Man)
- "The Lost City of Mars" (Playboy, January 1967, reprinted in I Sing the Body Electric)
- "Holiday" (The Arkham Sampler, Autumn 1949)
- "Payment in Full" (Thrilling Wonder Stories, February 1950)
- "The Messiah" (Welcome Aboard, spring 1971, reprinted in Long After Midnight)
- "Night Call, Collect" (Super Science Stories, April 1949 as "I, Mars", reprinted in I Sing the Body Electric)
- "The Blue Bottle" (Planet Stories, Fall 1950, reprinted in Long After Midnight)
- "Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed" (Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1949, reprinted in A Medicine for Melancholy)
Boucher and McComas praised Chronicles as "a poet's interpretation of future history beyond the limits of any fictional form". In his "Books" column for F&SF, Damon Knight listed The Martian Chronicles on his top-ten science fiction books of the 1950s. Algis Budrys called it "a beautiful Bradbury collection which owes part of its charm to the loose connecting passages", and an exception to the many poor-quality fixups of the 1950s. L. Sprague de Camp, however, declared that Bradbury would improve "when he escapes from the influence of Hemingway and Saroyan", placing him in "the tradition of anti-science-fiction writers [who] see no good in the machine age". Still, de Camp acknowledged that "[Bradbury's] stories have considerable emotional impact, and many will love them".
Robert Crossley (University of Massachusetts Boston) has suggested that the story "Way in the Middle of the Air" might be considered "the single most incisive episode of black and white relations in science fiction by a white author."
The theater debut of The Martian Chronicles was at the Cricket Theater (The Ritz) in Northeast Minneapolis in 1976. A musical version is being developed in New York City in 2017.
MGM bought the film rights in 1960 but no film was made.
In 1988, the Soviet Armenian studio Armenfilm produced the feature film The 13th Apostle, starring Juozas Budraitis, Donatas Banionis, Armen Dzhigarkhanyan, based on The Martian Chronicles. The film was directed by Armenian actor and screenwriter, Suren Babayan.
The Uzbek filmmaker Nozim To'laho'jayev made two films based on sections from the book: 1984's animated short There Will Come Soft Rains (Russian: Будет ласковый дождь) and 1987's full-length live action film Veld (Russian: Вельд), with one of the subplots based on The Martian.
The Martian Chronicles was adapted as a full-length contemporary opera by composer Daniel Levy and librettist Elizabeth Margid. This is the only musical adaptation authorized by Bradbury himself, who turned down Lerner and Loewe in the 1960s when they asked his permission to make a musical based on the novel. The work received its initial readings from the Harriet Lake Festival of New Plays at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater in 2006, and was presented in workshop form in the inaugural season of the Fordham University Lincoln Center Alumni Company in 2008. The NIGHT MEETING episode was presented at Cornelia Street Cafe's ENTERTAINING SCIENCE series on June 9, 2013. The entire work was presented as a staged reading with a cast of Broadway actors at Ars Nova NYC on February 11, 2015. Three scenes were presented as a workshop production with immersive staging, directed by Carlos Armesto of Theatre C and conducted by Benjamin Smoulder at Miami University, Oxford OH on September 17–19, 2015.
The Martian Chronicles was adapted for radio in the science fiction radio series Dimension X. This truncated version contained elements of the stories "Rocket Summer", "Ylla", "–and the Moon be Still as Bright", "The Settlers", "The Locusts", "The Shore", "The Off Season", "There Will Come Soft Rains", and "The Million-Year Picnic".
"—and the Moon be Still as Bright" and "There Will Come Soft Rains" were also adapted for separate episodes in the same series. The short stories "Mars Is Heaven" and "Dwellers in Silence" also appeared as episodes of Dimension X. The latter is in a very different form from the one found in The Martian Chronicles.
A very abridged spoken word reading of "There Will Come Soft Rains" and "Usher II" was made in 1975 with Leonard Nimoy as narrator.
A BBC Radio 4 adaption, produced by Andrew Mark Sewell as an hour-long programme and starring Derek Jacobi as Captain Wilder, was broadcast on 21 June 2014 as part of the Dangerous Visions series.
In 1979 NBC partnered with the BBC to commission The Martian Chronicles, a three-episode miniseries adaptation running just over four hours. It was written by Richard Matheson and was directed by Michael Anderson. Rock Hudson starred as Wilder, Darren McGavin as Parkhill, Bernadette Peters as Genevieve Selsor, Bernie Casey as Jeff Spender, Roddy McDowall as Father Stone, and Barry Morse as Hathaway, as well as Fritz Weaver. Bradbury found the miniseries "just boring".
Television adaptations of individual stories
The cable television series The Ray Bradbury Theater adapted some individual short stories from The Martian Chronicles including "Mars is Heaven", "Usher II", "And the Moon Be Still as Bright", "The Long Years" and "The Martian". Video releases of the series included a VHS tape entitled Ray Bradbury's Chronicles: The Martian Episodes with some editions with three episodes and others with five.
Several of the short stories in The Martian Chronicles were adapted into graphic novel-style stories in the EC Comics magazines, including "There Will Come Soft Rains" in Weird Fantasy #17, "The Million-Year Picnic" in Weird Fantasy #21 and "The Silent Towns" in Weird Fantasy #22.
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The company’s first show, a musical adaptation of the Ray Bradbury’s 1950s science fiction novel The Martian Chronicles, …
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