Locus Focus: Take Eighty-Seven!
Welcome to Outer Space Day!
Finally, I can make the official announcement that April's theme is . . . In Space, No One Can Hear You Blog! I will be reading, watching and thinking about a lot of space-set Science Fiction this month--and I'd like to invite you to come along for the ride. =)
For the first three weekends of April, I will be featuring settings from books; on the last week, I'll have a "movie edition"! If you'd like to write your own Locus Focus post about an outer space setting, please feel free to grab the badge on the sidebar and leave me a link to your blog in the combox so that I and others can read it, too.
Our first setting is from the very first book I thought of when I started considering this theme.
The Martian Chronicles
by Ray Bradbury
They had a house of crystal pillars on the planet Mars by the edge of an empty sea, and every morning you could see Mrs. K eating the golden fruits that grew from the crystal walls, or cleaning the house with handfuls of magnetic dust which, taking all dirt with it, blew away on the hot wind. Afternoons, when the fossil sea was warm and motionless, and the wine trees stood still in the yard and the little distant Martian bone town was all enclosed, and no one drifted out their doors, you could see Mr. K himself in his room, reading from a metal book with raised heiroglyphs over which he brushed his hand, as one might play a harp. And from the book, as his fingers stroked, a voice sang, a soft ancient voice, which told tales of when the sea was a red steam on the shore and ancient men had carried clouds of metal insects and electric spiders into battle . . .
If you went on an expedition to the planet Mars, what would you expect to see? Would it be anything like the home of the gracefully civilised, if prosaically named Mr. and Mrs. K?
There's something about a house whose crystal walls give fruit and whose fluted pillars bring mists . . . one which is open to the breezes in the daytime and which closes up like a flower in the nighttime . . . It doesn't feel like a setting in outer space, but like a dwelling in a dream. Indeed, it is in the very literal dreams of Nathaniel York, an astronaut on the First Expedition to Mars: dreams that might embarrass his rational scientist self, should he share them with anyone else upon waking.
But if so, it will only be because he, like us, has forgotten that before interplanetary travel could become a reality, it started as a dream . . . and it was romantic.
Of course, at the time Ray Bradbury was writing The Martian Chronicles, interplanetary travel had not yet crossed over into reality. Which is probably why York doesn't get to see Mr. and Mrs. K's home with conscious eyes, and why even the first successful Earth settlers can only imagine what the Martian civilisations must have been like, as they wander through the ruins of vast Martian cities.
It remains so for us today, which only enhances our experience of this book. Bradbury plays his haunting key with finely tuned prose that both gives flesh to this space fantasy and keeps it dancing elusively out of our grasp. This counterpoint runs through the entire narrative: the silent song of each wave of expeditions and settlers who come to Mars seeking something they cannot name . . . and often finding what they never would have dreamed of. Mr. and Mrs. K's home is the first Martian setting and is never seen again after the first chapter--but that fleeting glimpse of it is enough to set the tone for this entire novel.
Question of the Week: What would you expect to find on another planet?
Image Source: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury