I’m not sure how old I was when I read my first Ray Bradbury story, but I definitely remember which one it was. “The Veldt” made an impression on me that’s never faded, over more than thirty years of reading. It was truly frightening. Not because of the holographic lions killing and eating actual humans (I mean come on, really?) The driving force behind Bradbury’s stories were the people in them. The cold cruelty of the children when they are denied what they want, the desperation of the parents when they realize too late what they’ve created…it’s all so real.
On June 5th of this year, Mr Bradbury passed away. I was talking to a coworker who admitted he’d never read anything by Bradbury at all. I was utterly stunned. Knowing how many amazing tales he wrote, I just couldn’t fathom how anyone might have somehow missed reading any of them. I started telling my coworker about the rains on Venus and the dinosaur hunts through time and electric grandmothers. He immediately went upstairs and checked out the two Bradbury collections our library has. He showed them to me, and I pointed out story after story that I believed he had to read. So I thought today I might share my favorite Bradbury stories with you as well.
7. “The Man” Two astronauts land on a planet on which lives a peaceful and loving society. The people tell the astronauts they were taught how to love one another by a man who brought them this understanding. One of the astronauts decides to abandon his mission and stay forever, while the other insists on chasing after the man. But there’s one question he didn’t ask before he left.
6. “All Summer In A Day” Margot, who has recently arrived from Earth, tries to tell her classmates about the sun, which only makes an appearance through the thick clouds on Venus once every seven years. They refuse to believe her, and when the rain begins easing up and they have a chance to see the sun for themselves, they do something horrible to the poor young girl.
5. “The Long Rain” On Venus, it rains continually and heavily, and humans have built sun domes as shelters from the constant downpours. A group of astronauts are stranded in the wet jungle, searching for a sun dome. One by one the astronauts are driven to madness and suicide by the unrelenting rhythm of the rain. Will any of them make it to safety, or will the rain consume them all?
4. “The Fruit At The Bottom Of The Bowl” One man kills another over the love of a woman, but when his anger cools and he realizes what he has done, he frantically begins rubbing every surface in the house, hoping to remove his fingerprints, but resulting only in a perfectly polished house.
3. “Fever Dream” Charles falls ill, but the doctor doesn’t listen when Charles insists that the germs making him sick are taking over his body.
2. “Zero Hour” Kids all over have started playing a new game, called Invasion. Parents don’t pay too much attention…until it’s too late.
1. “The Illustrated Man” A carnival worker allows a tattoo artist to cover him in brilliantly-colored paintings, only to discover that two spots on his body display the future, and it’s not necessarily a future he’ll like much.
And of course, Bradbury’s novel “Something Wicked This Way Comes” was a wonderful, dark and terrifying story of the summer Will Holloway and Jim Nightshade faced the fearsome Mr Dark and his travelling Pandemonium Shadow Show, and learned the power of laughter in driving away the demons that afflict everyone as we age and take on the responsibilities of adulthood.
What are your favorite stories by fantasy’s master?